Wednesday, February 24, 2010

on working the soul in revision

One of my most splendid and brilliant writing teachers was a man named Jim Heynan. He taught me, by way of an exercise, that being creative and prolific often happens when you're busy living, rather than retreating from, your life.

I was thrilled to see a recent essay of his in Brevity on the soul work of revision. Read it--especially if you didn't catch the "Lincoln" piece in the January 2009 New Yorker. The difference in the two drafts of Lincoln's second inaugural address are profound.

As for Heynan, as usual, his insight is one I take with me for ever more, as he counsels: "Even in the honing and pruning stage, when you spot language that doesn’t measure up to the sentiment you intended, don’t desert the sentiment too quickly in pursuit of fashion or conformity; stay with the sentiment until you find the words that are both true to the sentiment and satisfying for you."

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