I like this so much, I’m going to copy and paste it wholesale. David Mitchell on self-editing,
A consolation: as you perform the necessary editing, it really hurts. “I love that line, its such a neat bit, its brilliant!” Brilliant isn’t actually enough–its got to be brilliant, and have a place there. And oddly enough, you cut it, but in a weird way, its still there. It’s gone but it hasn’t actually gone. It’s still there in your denser, and your richer and your better text. It’s in the texture. Books are palimpsests of your earlier drafts. So don’t be too disheartened because its gone, because it isn’t really. Or to give you some Confucianism: what the pruning shears remove remains on the tree in its enhanced vigour. A good rule of thumb: if you have to think more than five seconds about whether or not a thing should be cut, that means do it. In the age of word processors, I’ve got a file called “may be useful one day,” where I put things that are great and that I can’t bear to lose. I cut and paste and put it in the file, so at least its there in case I ever want to go back and retrieve it. How often do I go back and retrieve it? Never. Not once. Which I feel proves my point. link
I too have a “where are they now?” file and I’ve never once looked in it to retrieve those chopped gems. To take his analogy a little further, you could (almost) say the file acts as a kinda compost. This is, I think, the second quote of Mitchell’s I’ve found myself nodding to. Here is the other one,
I was standing on a busy interjunction in New Delhi with the traffic and the din and the scooters and the bikes and the elephants and the cows, and I remember thinking: These people have got something that we’ve lost. Our traffic rules and sanitation and systems make life easier and more convenient, ensure longer lifespans and perhaps a fairer society. But these things come at a cost, and the cost is what I felt there. There’s a velocity and density of life there that you don’t get in the West, and that I found oxygenating. link
A lot to agree with. And, I’ve never read any of his books.
Photo by me, taken in Hà Nội.