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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Real Revision


I just re-read my last post and I think I should have made this clearer: don’t resist revising; good writing comes from rewriting.

The self-imposed demand to churn out one or two posts a week means I don’t always give myself enough time to see the connections I’m failing to make. Of course, I can write another post, like this one, to explain a previous post, but I make an effort to avoid this because it’s not respectful of your time. It’s my responsibility to revise before publishing a post. Because I was in a hurry, I couldn’t see what you probably saw; I saw what I thought you’d see, what I wanted you to see.

That’s why it’s called revision; because it requires vision. As I suggested in my previous post (or at least thought I was suggesting), you can’t revise your writing and begin to see new possibilities for what the piece can become until you see and accept what the piece currently is. You have to see what’s really there before you can change what’s there. And seeing what’s really there is the hard part.

As I’m demonstrating here, (yeah, that’s what I was doing, creating a “teachable moment,” intentionally making a mistake so you can learn from it, yeah, that’s it) time gives you perspective.

The day you finish a new piece, it looks perfectly clear, concise and maybe even cleverly humorous or particularly insightful (if it didn’t, you wouldn’t think it was complete). When you’ve just finished, you see in the writing what you intended to put in writing. But a day or two later, you’ve forgotten what you intended and this allows you to see your writing as a reader, not the writer. You can see that there’s something missing or something you’ve over explained or something that can be tweaked.

If the passage of time doesn’t help us see the warts on our darlings and we think the darling piece is ready for the world, we need outside help. We need readers who are kind enough to both appreciate what’s good in the writing and help us see what’s not working for them. These readers are the friends who don’t let us go out in public with spinach between our teeth.

Being able to shift perspective to see your writing as a reader sees it is the essence of rewriting. Re-vision is seeing through someone else’s eyes.

I think this is clearer now, but if not, please let me know that I’ve still got spinach between my teeth. Thanks.

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