To revise is to converse. Revising a work means conversing with the work. No longer is the relationship between the writer and his work a one-way journey from heart to hand to keyboard or pen. On the contrary, we’re moving from writer to word, which now has an identity all its own, and back to where we started (except that our initial place no longer feels or looks the same). The work now dwells in and speaks from its own country.
Writing and editing are equally creative processes. And they will remain so for as long as we—writers, editors—remain engaged in some form of relationship: with our natural and our manmade environments, with other human beings, with our past, with our story, with our own adopted or begotten sense of purpose: with… always with.
Every personal experience is a spoke in a wheel of experiences. One departure becomes a sibling of other partings; one apple turns into the promise of a fall harvest or the frustration of an empty cart. No element in our writing is to be seen alone; it cannot be plucked or tasted alone. So, too, we do not revise or edit alone.
Editing is not possible without thinking, sensing, or imagining beyond ourselves. When editing a manuscript, I often look for the way the work opens up, the way it might relate to characters outside the book. When editing, one must always ask one’s self if the work has a life beyond its narrative thread, and—if not—how it can be given than life.
When we read a book, we want its author to be a credible witness, a trustworthy narrator, a conscious human being with more than one individual narrative in his heart and in his mind. Good writing feeds our hunger for life, for greater life, and it never satiates. Paradoxically, if the work is good, this hunger is both met and then invariably enlarged.