Donald M. Murray
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1924, Donald M. Murray taught writing for many years at the University of New Hampshire, his alma mater. He has served as an editor at Time magazine, and he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1954 for editorials that appeared in the Boston Globe. Murray’s published works include novels, short stories, poetry, and sourcebooks for teachers of writing, like A Writer Teaches Writing (1968), The Craft of Revision (1991), and Learning by Teaching (1982), in which he explores aspects of the writing process. Write to Learn, (6th ed,. 1998), a textbook for college composition courses, is based on Murray’s belief that writers learn to write by writing, by taking a piece of writing through the whole process, from invention to revision. In the following essay, first published in the Writer in October 1973 and later revised for this text, Murray discusses the importance of revision to the work of the writer. Most professional writers live by the maxim that “writing is rewriting.” And to rewrite or revise effectively, we need to become better readers of our own work, open to discovering new meanings, and sensitive to our use of language. Murray draws on the experiences of many writers to make a compelling argument for careful revising and editing.
themselves from their own pages so that they can apply both their caring and their craft to their own work.
Such detachment is not easy. Science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury supposedly puts each manuscript away for a year to the day and then rereads it as a stranger. Not many writers have the discipline or the time to do this. We must read when our judgment may be at its worst, when we are close to the euphoric moment of creation. Then the writer, counsels novelist Nancy Hale, “should be critical of everything that seems to him most delightful in his style. He should excise what he most admires, because he wouldn’t thus admire it if he