Apr 18, 2005

the instinct to discard.

Courtesy of rodcorp.typepad.com, an excerpt from the 1993 Paris Review interview with Don DeLillo.  It's so nice to see this online (thanks, Bryan, for the pointer); I have a copy of the issue in a box somewhere.  This graf about his editing process has stuck with me for years...

Discarded pages mark the physical dimensions of a writer's labor--you know, how many shots it took to get a certain paragraph right. Or the awesome accumulation, the gross tonnage, of first draft pages. ... I find I'm more ready to discard pages than I used to be. I used to look for things to keep. I used to find ways to save a paragraph of sentence, maybe by relocating it. Now I look for ways to discard things. If I discard a sentence I like, it's almost as satisfying as keeping a sentence I like. I don't think I've become ruthless or perverse--just a bit more willing to believe that nature will restore itself. The instinct to discard is finally a kind of faith. It tells me there's a better way to do this page even though the evidence is not accessible at the present time.

Emphasis mine.