In her excellent essay “On Wildness, Cracked Worlds, Monsters, and the Odd Nature of the Short Story,” Newbery medalist Kelly Barnhill discusses the advice given to her by one of her mentors in the Park Service, Vic Stanculescu. She writes:
I haven’t seen Vic in years, but I think of him often. He was a good teacher. “Here’s my theory on trail maintenance,” he said to us over and over again. “You take the worst stretch of trail, and you turn it into the best.”
She reminds us near the end of the essay that what’s good for trail maintenance is also good for revision.
When I encountered this stretch of trail yesterday afternoon on a hike with my family, I thought of that advice.
I’ve been revising lately, and this is an apt metaphor for too many of those revisions. Too often, I haven’t made the worst bits of the manuscript into the best, I’ve just repaired that little section and kept the bad bits further apart.
It’s time to do some real trail maintenance.