second chances

Like some of my classmates have expressed, I never appreciated revision until college. In high school, my classes mainly required in-class writing, and time constraints, convenient rubrics letting me know exactly what I needed for an A, even boredom led to my “one and done” philosophy towards writing. I wasn’t pushed until freshman year to actually, you know, think about the words I’d put to paper. Now I find the whole process weirdly calming. I’m a big backspacer and re-reader as I go, but even that isn’t enough to save me from the awkwardness of initial thoughts all running into and around and between each other. Somehow I’ve grown to enjoy stepping back and trying to see my writing from a different lens.

That said, I’m no stranger to those awful hours staring at the same page, rearranging paragraphs and words and commas hoping everything will somehow fit together, until finally reality sets in and I admit (sometimes only a temporary) defeat. The opportunity to revise, both directly in this class and just the practice of turning in multiple drafts by hard deadlines, has made me realize the amount of work that really goes into writing that we just don’t see. I think I tend to glaze over the actual painstaking effort of my favorite books and assume their authors just sat down and came up with genius on the first try (this theory is most definitely supported by the whole “one day JK Rowling sat down in a coffeeshop and wrote Harry Potter on a napkin” story). Of course I don’t know anyone’s writing process but my own, but I probably discredit the amount of hard work, not just talent, that goes into really great writing.

Revision: A Necessary Evil

I’ve never liked revising my work. When I spend a long time on a paper and turn it in thinking it’s perfect, I don’t like somebody telling me all the things I could improve. This is especially true when there is no incentive for revision, like a better grade. I always think, “Why cause myself stress about what I’ve done wrong, when nothing good will come out of changing it?”

But then I think about my experiences at my high school newspaper. When I started sophomore year I was given no training on writing news articles. I would spend days writing one short article, get it back covered in purple pen marks, revise it, turn it in, get it back, revise it, again and again and again. I would re-write every article at least 4 or 5 times. It was exhausting. But by my senior year, I hardly needed to make any changes. I had come a long way, and had learned a lot about writing journalistically.

I notice the same things in Writing 220. With each draft my writing improves and my argument strengthens. Revision was especially important with the Why I Write paper. I spent a long time on my first draft and did not want to make any changes. I thought “revision” would mean writing the whole paper over again. But, my peer group was able to show me where my writing was not clear, where I had made connections between points in my life they did not have enough information to understand. In the second draft, I knew to provide more details and explanations so the reader did not have to guess the significance of each point.

What I’m trying to say is, I have a love/hate relationship with revision. Though I don’t like my hard work being criticized and critiqued, paying attention to my teachers, my peers, and my readers is the best way I’ve found to improve my writing.