I just finished a new essay, my eleventh, and though I say this about every essay or story, it was a devil from the beginning. This one concerned matters of faith, sticky moments, and my father’s death. Any one of these subjects is hell for an essay and I had tripled up my misery.
I worked on it for a few weeks, off and on. I let some time slide and came back again to look. I thought it was done and was feeling pretty good about it. But I was wrong. An editor cut it to pieces. Eight pages left from eighteen, or so.
I decided that I hated the essay and abandoned it for a couple of months. When I went back, it was so obvious. Everything that hit the floor deserved to go. The essay meandered, with side issues taken up and the main story lost in the clutter. Eliminate the superfluous matter, and the story crystallized.
Shorter, faster, tighter, brighter—words to live by.
Also, blessings on all my editors’ heads.
UPDATE: This essay, “For the Birds,” is forthcoming, early 2011, in Lalitambra Mandiram.