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A Good One to Keep in Mind

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The mornings are jacket-cool now, the early fog like a layer of smoke in the valley below the pasture, the sickliest of the soft maples already starting their slow turn. Apples falling everywhere. Later, in the afternoon, it is warm-verging-on-hot, and the sky is startlingly, surreally clear in the late summer light, the edges of everything a little sharper than seems normal, the colors a little deeper.

I heard something on the radio news and I thought to comment on it here, but of course I did not, and now I can’t even remember what it was, though I do remember that it made me a just little sad for just a little while, at least until I went into the woods to cut the last of the season’s firewood. Late, I know, so I split it small. It’ll dry, and if it doesn’t, I’ll burn it anyway.

I spent a little time over the past few weeks culling posts from the archives of this site, not so much because I minded having them published, but because it seemed as if it might be a valuable exercise for me to see what felt worthy of keeping. Which, frankly, wasn’t a whole heck of a lot. But then, I think I once estimated that maybe 10% of what I’ve written here was of decent quality, and that’s almost exactly the percentage that made the cut.

The culling process reminded me of a writing truism: There are no good writers, only good rewriters. For those of you inclined to play with the written word, it’s a good one to keep in mind.

22 thoughts on “A Good One to Keep in Mind”

  1. Greetings from another Vermonter. Good to see your post! I will read whatever you write Ben. I’m really appreciating this beautiful rain we had during the night and early morning. Hope you and your family are well.

  2. I agree! I never heard it put that way but when I decided to start writing I read something somewhere that said about the same thing and it gave me hope that some day I could write something worthy. I like to write but I love to re-write even more. For some weird reason I find it fun. Hope all is going well with you and your family! We’re feeling the turning of the seasons, too, but it still was 107 a couple days ago and relative humidity only 26%. No rain on the horizon.

  3. After they’d tricked Maurizio Cattelan into answering questions they asked what was his favorite piece he’d created and he answered “the next one”.

  4. I am very lucky because I have hundreds of your posts in my archives and WOO HOO! I have about 80 that I haven’t even read yet. So I am reading them sparingly so that, in my world at least, there are new posts from you!
    There hasn’t been a post yet that I haven’t enjoyed.

  5. I never read anything of yours that was no good. Okay, we get moods. Okay, they can show up in prose writing, especially with the “personal journalism” kind of thing you do — but that makes it genuine. Re-writes can be like too much hairspray. Like some expensive garment that’s been to the dry cleaners too many times. Rewrite might seem trim and lean, but they’re real dead. Personally, I’d sooner have a funny aftertaste than that stiff, snotty perfect smell. If someone wants perfect, they probably know where to find it. Don’t cut yourself down — lol, let it all hang out . . .

  6. Culling is both tough and important. It forces critical assessment and encourages improvement. GREAT to hear your voice again Ben. Thanks!

  7. ill miss some archives especially, and one that is really just another pry into your writing,.. you did mention once that sometime..youd tell us more about M..was it? you hayed with her and there were stories to be held im sure, so even on hiatus and being private, let us (me) have this one, if only for the excuse (nosyness on my part) to write elegantly and honestly of her and another small peek of vermont summers that truly can make a soul understand what it takes..and who it takes to bring it forth..( and by forth i mean on!)

  8. Ah, y’all farmers so good at culling. I hope the post about knives stayed, I wanted to look some things up. But I totally agree with Mr. J the Cartoon Man above. Best of luck with whatever it involves, culling, digging, building, chopping, or planting. Or forgetting the sad radio shows. I am very happy to see a post again.

  9. I can’t imagine anything posted here that wouldn’t be worth saving but I understand the need to “clean house” every now and then. Though, I wonder if it’s not a bit like feelings I have had about a journal or diary. Going back to read something from the past may make you cringe but if it was written honestly at the time, it has value if only because it captures how you really felt at that moment. At any rate, it is SO good to see a post from you and a Penny photo (I assume.) Hope all is well with your tribe! Thank you!

  10. Culling raises the overall quality, that’s agreed. You can definitely project that lesson to all aspects of life, culling activities that aren’t productive to make more time for the important things. We are currently in the middle of one of your books, our children take turns reading it out loud during our ‘school day’. That is definitely a moment of our day that I would not cull. Thanks for publishing.

  11. This may sound a little odd, but I cull all the time (and feel just a little strange about it every time I do–like I’m somehow removing a bit of integrity from my blog). Your post about it lifted the strange feeling, reminding me that it’s editing (just at a larger scale) and that editing is about quality, after all. (How could I forget that? UHG!)

    Thanks!

  12. What an accomplishment! Most folks would have had their firewood delivered in a year of moving, building barns and homes, etc… That’s an investment that’ll pay guaranteed dividends way beyond that of any stock portfolio. Here’s hoping you enjoyed a brewsky or two with good friends and lovely wife in celebration…

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