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Some time ago, marypearson — amazing writer and generous friend — recommended a book by Dennis Palumbo called Writing from the Inside Out. This morning, I pulled it out and came across a passage that speaks to where I am right now.

In it, Palumbo writes about counseling a writer who was writing a novel that was bigger and bolder than anything she’d done before. She was frustrated, she said, because she didn’t have enough perspective on it. Was she doing a good job? Could she pull the book off? She was too close to the work to tell.

That’s how it goes, Palumbo said — to break new ground, you have to be willing to be out there in the woods, mucking about tree by tree. Only when you’re all the way through those woods do you get to turn around and say, “Hey! Look at that forest.”

As they talked, the writer realized her yearning for perspective was in large part a yearning for control: wanting to know that she would succeed, that the gamble would pay off, that good things would come of her risk-taking.

Oh, how I know that feeling.

But we can’t go beyond ourselves if we always stick to the safe path. No, we have to go into the woods, tree by tree, and blaze a new trail. And part of the energy of what we write comes from not knowing whether or not we can pull it all off.

(But as Palumbo and the author concluded: Thank goodness for rewrites.)

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