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June 14, 2007

What Piece of Writing in All the World Do You Most Want to Read?

When I think about practicing revision and creation—the thread for this month—I think of it as having 2 parts---

1. Revision: Looking again at some pages you’ve already written
2. Creation: Deciding what you want to create out of what you’ve already written. (For instance: A poem? A letter? A short story? A story for your grandchildren? A journal that you can look back at later? Something else?)

The following passage speaks to the second task: Creation.
(And, paradoxically, sometimes it’s helpful to have some idea about the second task—some image for what you want to create—before you take on the first task of looking again.)

Back in February, I wrote a bit about a memo that Seymour Glass, the central character in Salinger’s Seymour, An Introduction, writes to his brother Buddy. Here is more advice from that same memo.

If only you’d remember before you ever sit down to write that you’ve been a reader long before you were ever a writer. You simply fix that fact in your mind, then sit very still and ask yourself, as a reader, what piece of writing in all the world [you] would most want to read if [you] had [your] heart’s choice. The next step is terrible, but so simple I can hardly believe it as I write it. You just sit down shamelessly and write the thing yourself.