The Art of Revision

Writing to me has been cathartic, throughout my entire life. There has never been a time when I wasn’t writing. I would write a poem, short story, or similar, and then hide it away from the world because I was afraid of people seeing who I really am. Or I would let my friends see my writing, but of course, their biased opinions never helped me grow. As I got older, I realized that writing is more than therapy for me, I enjoyed it for the artistic process, and I loved entertaining people in my own way.

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As such, revision was never part of my process before. It never occurred to me that what I wrote should be polished, fine-tuned like a piano, to be something better than what I puked on the page. One of my fears when I first started this program last year was that I wouldn’t be able to take constructive criticism. But as I sat and critiqued others in workshops, and had them critique me, I realized that the only way I could be the best writer I am capable of being is to be open to it all.

What’s great about our workshops is that sometimes you’ll get feedback from someone about a plot point or characterization, and you think to yourself, “that’s ridiculous. It’s right there on the page!” Those, I tend to acknowledge politely, but never incorporate because I don’t want anyone to be prescriptive to my work. That’s why I never pursued journalism. Everything I ever submitted for the school paper was changed in such a way that it didn’t sound like me anymore. I wanted full control of whatever my name was slapped on. I saw that creative writing would be the best way to do that, and still allow my demons to be expelled from my brain.

I think the most difficult thing about revision is finding the time to do it. When I get my critiques back from a workshop, I put it aside in the closet. I don’t even want to see it right away. I like to let the verbal and written criticisms percolate for as long as possible. When I do block the time to revise, it’s because I’ve stepped away from it long enough to see it with brand new eyes, or I shared it with someone who gave me excellent criticism that I’m eager to incorporate into the work while keeping my voice.

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