Stollen Moments

The only time I have any ideas anymore is first thing in the morning. Or second, if you count coffee. Third, if you count a little fruit bread on a white porcelain plate, absolutely still, in the diffuse morning light washing over the kitchen table. Diffuse, because the big kitchen window faces north, overlooking the backyard, under the canopy of towering maples. Still, because everything is at that hour, inside and out. Still enough for thoughts to precipitate out of suspension.

The radio whispers in the corner, on the counter, which, is a more modern kitchen, might be occupied by an appliance garage. It’s the birthday of American novelist Francine Prose, according to Garrison Keillor. A novelist named PROSE? And I think, of course, it’s April Fools’ day. But it’s no joke, and he goes on with a straight face, or straight voice anyway, and mentions her 2006 book on writing, “Reading Like a Writer,” which I’ve heard of but never read. Because why would a writer need to read it? If you’ve done any writing at all, had your stuff workshopped, critiqued the work of others, spent any amount of mental energy TRYING to write well, you already read like a writer. You can’t help it, and that can be a problem.

Because the critical faculty can cripple the creative one. What we need is a guide book titled “Reading Like a Reader,” reminding us how to appreciate the art of the written word without constantly looking for flaws and ways to improve it. No doubt it would cure many a case of writers’ block.

The challenge is to write like writers and read like readers – and that goes for reading your own stuff as well. To avoid self-censoring yourself into silence. And to allow yourself to enjoy your work and the work of others for what it is.

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