On how edits ruin great work

Edits can make great work. But I have wanted to append more words onto each thing I have written here today. For example, on “On the loneliness of motherhood” I just realized I wanted to - and for political correctness - I should add “By the way, I am not a mother and know nothing of it. I am not even a father.” But this thought occurred to me in a different moment - twenty minutes later, several essays later, so I fear I would take away from the work to add to it.


Indeed, a reader may find it disjoint. Why? Well, I am in a different state of mind. And I imagine close readers will observe the difference in tone, and maybe even in spirit and voice, as I may not have just a different mood from one moment to the next, but I may actually have learned or grown or regressed, and be a different person.

The best editing can make good work great, but it can also make great work typical, and that is a tragedy disguised as an improvement, rationalized by expertise and the time spent on it, rather than the true outcome and impact of art.

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