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It’s not too often we get to hear a singer/songwriter’s process of development.

A few days ago, I posted video of Joni Mitchell’s classic song, All I Want. Today I stumbled on this fascinating live video of Joni Mitchell singing a very early version of the same song—or is it? Although you can still hear phrases that ended up in the final version, and that mountain dulcimer is playing the same riff throughout, the specific words, and the entire theme of the song, are very different. If you get a few minutes, maybe you could compare the two versions for yourself before you read on.

While this early version is certainly less polished, there’s something very raw and moving to me about it. It seems a shame to me that some of the strongest aspects of this song have been revised out of it.

Is that inevitable? With the need to straighten and tidy up, will an artist inevitably lose some of the initial raw power? I hope not. Lately I have been creeping like a baby to the bath with each revision of my novel. I’m not sure I want to clean off. I am reluctant with every new change. What if, what if, I cut out the guts of it? It will be prettier and tidier and more presentable, but will I have made a terrible mistake?