There’s that famous quote from Michelangelo to the effect of he simply looks at a block of marble, sees what doesn’t belong, and chips it away.
For a long time I thought that was fluffy inspirational nonsense. And besides, he was a genius. I’m just an ordinary person, it has nothing to do with me.
But it turned out that I simply hadn’t had the experience before.
The revelation came with a particularly difficult story. I lost count of my revisions. But one day I reached a zenlike state where I suddenly was able to freely cut this line, delete that whole paragraph, ruthlessly prune a meaningful conversation. Previous stumbling blocks resolved themselves quietly.
It was because, as Chekhov put it, “everything suddenly became clear” to me and I knew exactly what the story needed.
I wonder how long it takes to get there, with every individual story. Can one reach it by grace, by luck, by experience, or does every piece extract a price? I suppose I will let you know in many more years.