On Revision and Throwing Out Pages

A month ago I wrote what I thought was this really witty, insightful essay about the creative class in Asheville. I read it again last night, and the whole thing was just phony except for this one sentence at the end. There was something deeply personal and horrifying underneath that sentence. I kept it.

I threw out the other 25 pages and re-wrote the entire thing in a few hours, and when I was done it was 2 a.m. and all the cards were laid out in this piece and I was on the verge of tears from exhaustion and grief.

It was real work. And it was only 25 pages.

I started thinking about how much we are capable of when we get past the necessity to have others point out the truths in our work, when we can finally see those single sentences for ourselves and we're not afraid of them or afraid to build more of them.

I don't think they can teach you this in school.

You can't just have someone else say, "Kill your darlings" and you can say, "Sure, let me get right on that."

It's not something you can plan or schedule yourself to do.

It's in the moment when you know your work is phony & not only do you have the courage to throw it out right then and there, you also have the willpower to sit for hours writing what you really wanted to say in the first place. If we can do that every time we write, that's even better. But it's really hard. I'm surprised not more of us have gone mad writing the truth.