Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I was at the Morgan Library last week peering at one of Queen Elizabeth's letters (nice handwriting,)a letter from Galileo declaring his innocence (if ever a letter needed to be written, this was it) and a sheet from Pope's "Essay on Man," showing his numerous revisions. Samuel Johnson's comment on seeing these revisions was that one could trace Pope's mind from the first ideas to the last.

I had written a thesis on Pope's work for an English honors program, but honestly had no idea of the labor that went into it, the original being unavailable to me fifty years ago. Finished products, the books we have on our night stands or read on Kindles, are error free and look effortless.

So I sit here in the new year staring at the manuscripts I have yet to revise...again. Is the world really waiting for my work? For me, that's the question.


  1. I don't look at my writing in terms of "the world waiting for it." I see writing as something I both need and want to do. If the world sees my words, fine with me, but I'll continue even if it doesn't.

  2. I agree 100% with Gale. I don't write so someone else can/will read my work. I write because I have to.

  3. RE Eminent writers' manuscripts at the Morgan -

    I think being able to see the work of famous authors in process, so to speak, and to see how they worked at changes and developing their language, focus and plot is invaluable. I am often reminded of a story that introduced the art of writing in one of my elementary school books. The person commenting had received a book from an author. In the front was a perfectly worded dedication to this recipient. Wow, the recipient thought, how beautifully and effortlessly she writes. Then he found a paper left in the book with the dedication written and changed numerous times until it became the perfect tribute.

    Actually, this memory haunts me - and inspires me - whenever I look at my manuscripts that need revising! I do like revising - but it is work!