Years and years ago, when I was in college—and already determined to be a writer—I had a number of vital mentors. ( If you are a young writer and you have a mentor who takes you seriously, you have a very great gift.) In any case, one of my mentors was a singer by the name of Lee Hays, the baritone for the popular singing group The Weavers. He was also a writer. A family friend who lived in the neighborhood, he took an interest in me and my writing. One day I came back from college and (unabashedly) handed him a pile of my writing and asked him to critique it. He requested that I come back in a week. Which I did.
“Well, Lee,” I said, “what do you think?”
“Well Avi,” he rumbled in his wonderful, deep Arkansas accent, “It takes a heap of manure to make a flower grow.”
I have never forgotten that remark, not just because it was wonderful, funny, and apt, but because it also has never ceased to be true. What the writer writes, for the most part, is bad. Poor. Inept.
Good writing is all about rewriting. The hardest part of writing for me, is not the act of creation, per se, it is that I know what I am writing is bad stuff. But you have to have the bad to get to the good.
Stuck to my writing computer is a small fossil fern. I know it took millions and millions of years to create. That’s a lot of manure. But . . . it’s very beautiful now. It’s there because I am trying to write something that will be good. In time . . .