Amiri Baraka on revision


Some things you know absolutely what you’re saying, you’re absolutely clear. Bang, it’s an idea you want to express. Sometimes though you can’t limit your mind by what you know. You have to always figure that you can hold on and you just open your mind to where it wants to go to, which you don’t know at the time, but if it’s legitimate, you’ll find out what you’re saying.


Practice. Practice. Practice. I think that’s the only thing you can do. Like my grandmother said, practice makes perfect. To do anything you have to practice. You have to do it. If you don’t do it, you won’t do it. You can’t be a writer in your head, just like you can’t play the piano in your head. I’m the meanest piano player I know--in my head. I can play some piano in my head, it’s just when I get to the piano it gets difficult. You have to work at it.


How would you practice writing? Read and write. Read and write. Write what? Whatever comes into your head. Whatever. But also have projects. Things that you want to do. I have projects lined up into 27A.D. that I want to do. A lot of which are done but not done. The reason projects are important is because that’s something you can apply yourself to. How do you do it? You have to do it. You have to write and correct it. You have to write and look at it. I’m not a big one for rewriting. I’m not a big rewrite fan. My rewrite is choome, into the trash can. I don’t mess with it. If it looks like it’s not going to hang out, I’ll throw it away. I’m not going to torture it. Why? That’s arrogance.