February 5, 2020 Brian Allain

In Praise of Revision

Every writer I know who’s worth a damn spends way more time “losing” than “winning” – if success means typing a polished page that lands in print as is. Scriveners tend to arrive at good work through revision. Look at Yeat’s chopped-up fixes in facsimile form, or Ezra Pound’s swashbuckling edits of Eliot’s Waste Land. Without radical overhaul, those works might have sunk like stones.

 

In fact, after a lifetime of hounding authors for advice, I’ve heard three truths from every mouth: (1) Writing is painful – it’s “fun” only for novices, the very young, and hacks; (2) other than a few instances of luck, good work only comes through revision; (3) the best revisers often have reading habits that stretch back before the current age, which lends them a sense of history and raises their standards for quality.

 

– from “The Art of Memoir” by Mary Karr