The sour cherry tree behind our old house must be full of fruit just now, and it will be time for picking. For my husband, the process was always a blustery event, a mad plucking of any reasonably ripe-looking cherry, then I would inspect every single one for even the smallest hint of insect life. (“Is that a worm? Honey, I think that’s a worm.”) It is not so different in our kitchen: he is the wild, carefree chef, slinging onion peels and spraying pepper, while I tidily chop garlic on a miniature cutting board and neatly deposit my ingredients into little bowls.
Revising a manuscript is not so different. There is a time for cutting with abandon (Kill your darlings, the phrase all writers know and take great comfort in sometimes) and a time for mincing with a finer blade, or in the case of cherry-picking, filling your container with anything remotely ripe, then sorting through your bounty with a more critical eye towards the sour cherry coffee cake you plan to end up with.
I find both methods to be satisfying, if not at times, challenging, and even downright frightening. After many years of revisions, I have come to understand the process and even find peace in the devil I now (think) I know. I often equate it to taking apart an engine (and I am sure I am the millionth person to make this analogy): You start with something assembled, then you disassemble it and even though you know the pieces on the worktable in front of you WILL go back together and WILL result in a working engine, you can’t help but feel that panic of HOW to get them back together now that they sit apart.
So take comfort, rest assured, they will go back together and, best of all, the engine will perform better.
Especially after a slice of sour cherry coffee cake.