Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Delicate Revision

Today is the birthday of the poet Billy Collins, the Writers Almanac informs me, and in the brief bio it supplied, I learn that Collins approaches revision carefully. "Revision can grind a good impulse to dust," he says.

Collins is not one of my faves, but he's right about this. How often have I taken a halfway decent idea and beaten the life out of it. Not because I want to, but because I can't move forward. It's easier to futz around with the words already on the page than to plow ahead and add some new ones.

It's in part to sidestep this tendency that I started A Walker in the Suburbs. Jot an idea down quickly, first thing in the morning, then leave it alone. Tomorrow, get up and do the same thing. In time there will be a little ouevre of sorts, a bunch of new shoots green and growing.

Of course, I break this rule all the time. But I break it less here than I do otherwise. So here's to delicate revision – and the restraint it takes to practice it!


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