I have rewritten—often several times—every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers.
In graduate school, I once submitted a workshop story that nobody liked, not one person. I remember one woman: she dangled my work in front of her and said, her lips curling in distaste, “I don’t understand why this story even exists!” As I walked home that night—dejected and furious—I could still tell that her comment, though poorly worded, had something in it I needed to hear. It has stayed with me throughout the years, and now, when I’m at the final stage of revision, it’s her question I hear in my head: Why does this essay exist? I go back to work.
At this stage in the writing process, ...