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Revision: The Writers’ Lost Art

Writers must possess the ability to see. Revision is the window for seeing possibilities in your work.

A quick browse on the Internet, and you’ll find countless writing prompts. Bookstores display books with offering you 101 Things to Write about. But little attention is given to revising. And, I would argue that it’s the most important part of the writing process, yet possibly the most neglected and least understood.

Revise derives from the Latin word, revisere, which means to look back. When I think about looking back, I picture stepping out of a moment and turning my body to face that moment head on. The distance grants me the ability to see completely and objectively.

As writers, we must finish a draft of our work and then step away. There’s not a golden time frame. Twenty four hours is a good starting place. When you look again, see it as an observer rather than as the author. Ponder how form would change the piece? The point of view? The tone? The verb tense?

Then, create a variation of the original with one of those changes and see what works better for the piece. Too often, writers are too connected to their original creation. We must have the humility and patience to see our work again. 

One of the definitions of revision is to look again “for the purpose of … improving.” Revision leads to better writing. I would argue that it’s wiser to spend more time revising than creating. 

If you want to learn more about the revision process, hang out with me this month to learn more. 

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The Invitation of Rejection

beautiful pink lotus in lotus swamp at “Talay-Noi” Pattalung province ,Thaialnd

Last month, I received an email that a poem I had submitted to a literary journal was not accepted. They admired my writing but felt it wasn’t a fit for their publication “at this time.” As a creative, hearing ‘no’ is a familiar tune. Rejection can be a bear to tussle with, especially if you have any amount of childhood trauma or have experienced rejection.

When I read the email, I was initially disappointed. But then, I considered how I could revise the poem and make it better. And lo & behold, I found a typo. I saw several lines that could be moved around to improve clarity. I also saw a handful of words that could be trimmed. Rather than viewing it as rejection, I viewed it as an invitation. An invitation to look at my work more closely and with greater wonder.

What if I changed the form? What if I moved a repeating line to a different place? Could I remove personal pronouns? As I pondered these questions, the idea came to me to further explore the poems I have written about my grandfathers and see if there is new content there. What started as a downer soon became a seed for creativity. The next time you hear ‘no’ or ‘not yet,’ see what it is inviting you to. Where is it beckoning you go?

If you view it as rejection, you’ll be paralyzed. You’ll stop. You’ll quit and we can’t have that. We need your voice. Your art in this world. So dust yourself off and get back to creating. Accept the invitation.