Put a Line Through It
On Mistakes, Messes, and Moving On
by Jennifer Paros
We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.
~ Carl Jung
When I was in high school, I had an English teacher with some very specific ideas of how we were to write. For a time, in fact, some of us received surprisingly poor grades, as we hadn’t yet grasped the particular form she required. Though I felt resentful of her somewhat rigid system, one rule she imposed was okay. If we made a mistake we were simply to put a line through it – one line – not a series of lines, not a scribble, not a patch of black. She just wanted a line. Of all her requirements, this was the easiest to fulfill, as well as the most liberating to apply.
I thought of my English teacher the other day while watching my son write, make a mistake, and emphatically try to scratch it out of existence. I encouraged him to just put a line through it. It is, I think, a good and logical approach to all mistakes. No making a big thing; no perseveration, no wearing ourselves out (and, potentially, the paper, our will to live, a friend, spouse, or therapist). Put a line through it and move on. There’s nothing more to be done, and if we persist, we’ll only turn a mistake into a mess. The mistake was made, but we still have more to say; and what we have to share is much more important.
In creating a story, a picture, or anything, it is almost impossible to delineate between mistakes and process. Mistakes are an integral part of the process; they’re drafts, attempts, and experiments. But in other areas of life, mistakes or “failures” seem damning. if the process of which they are a part goes unrecognized. Context is important and the context of any experience involves learning, discovery, and evolution. When a mistake is seen in its natural habitat, its value becomes apparent and its occurrence, hopefully, more easily understood, and benefited from. more...
by Cherie Tucker
Almost everyone knows the “rule” that says you must never end a sentence with a preposition. They irony is that most people who know this rule don’t know what a preposition is. And they don’t know that there are exceptions.
A preposition is the part of speech that shows the relationship of noun or pronoun to another word in a sentence. For example, you could be in the house. The word in tells the reader (or listener) where you are in relation to the house. You are in it. Or beside it. Or under it.
As to that ending-a-sentence-with-a-preposition business, it is sometimes fine to end with one. For example, you would never say: For what is this? In everyday conversation we just say, What’s this for? The informal style allows for the preposition at the sentence’s end.
In formal writing, however, you must follow the rule.
Informal: They couldn’t determine the make of the car he was riding in.
Formal: They couldn’t determine the make of the car in which he was riding.
Informal: The person they gave the money to was surprised. more...
The Wheelchair Woman
by Noelle Sterne
The whole thing lasted no more than ten seconds. I’d stopped at the supermarket for a few necessities before rushing home for an important client call. Throwing my groceries on the counter, I paced back and forth, almost hopping, sandwiched between the customers behind and ahead of me.
The cashier, with only time to consume until she could punch out, waited for each of my items on the conveyer belt to reach her and scanned them with perfect lethargy. When the customer ahead of me left, I stepped to the end of the counter, grabbed two plastic bags and started packing, hopefully telegraphing to the cashier to hurry it up. Finally paying, I flung my bags into the cart and started to the exit.
That’s when I saw her. She sat in her wheelchair near the end of the checkout counter, her aide mumbling and fussing with a sweater behind her. She looked to be about my age, with faded brown hair in haphazard curls around her face, her skin gray and drawn. Her left arm lay crumpled and awkward against her side. Her legs, obviously useless, were hidden under a cloth blanket.
Our eyes met and locked.
Out the door, I careened my cart toward the parking lot. Her face lingered in my mind’s eye. My immediate reaction was to pity her, but she probably got a lot of that. What if, though, she was glad to be alive at all, still able to sit up, get out, feel the sun, and see other people? Who was to say, whatever the appearance, that she wasn’t satisfied with her life? more...