Revision

sunsetwatchers sunsetwatchers2

Photos: Sunset Watchers and Sunset, A-Bay, Big Island, Hawaii

I love The Sun (http://thesunmagazine.org/). The founding editor Sy Safransky often offers a glimpse into his personal notebook. He has compiled these notebook entries; I read the most recent installment, Many Alarm Clocks, in small selections on an irregular basis. When I do so, I am looking for inspiration for my own writing—and human—practice. The good news: his wisdom suffices for both goals.

In his entry titled, “Three Days in the Wilderness,” he reflects on revision:

Readers sometimes ask how much I edit my own writing. I edit until each paragraph has lost the ten pounds it gained over the winter. I edit until each sentence can survive three days in the wilderness on its own. My father taught me to look at a sentence and, if it didn’t deserve to live, shoot it between the eyes. Ignore the pleas of the women and children. Take no prisoners, he said.

I think about my own quiet father and how he offered no specific advice for a sentence, but what he taught me as he showed me how to break and train a horse, patch a pipeline, or use a sluice box was really about writing, made me ready to revise.

 

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