Revisiting Challenge Journals, Part 1/2

I wanted to revisit two of my previous journal entries, and comment more specifically on the textual evidence on which each was based. While I referenced specific writing pieces within both journal entry, I neglected to cite specific blocks of texts. After re-visiting those specific writing pieces this week, I believe I can provide further elaboration in my entries with direct quotes of the text!

And with that, let’s go back to my first challenge journal entry…


Challenge Journal 1: What is the most productive way to revise?

Do you save the majority of revision for the end of the writing process? Or do you revise as you go?

These were questions I began to consider while in English 325, particularly during the course of workshops. The two weeks of workshops sessions would yield fantastic advice, and provided motivation to make changes more regularly, rather than at the end of the workshop period. As I mentioned in my journal entry (read here), “with each day of helpful workshop insight, there would be one day less to write, revise, and submit my final essay.”

The excerpt below is from my second essay of English 325, in which I wrote about a family tradition of going to my grandparents’ home for the Christmas holiday each year. In the text selections below, I describe the physical setting of my grandparents’ living room, decorated each year in the most enchanting way.

Below is the excerpt, before any revision.

The warm light peeking through the small archway at the back of the room, however, was the greeting my sister and I would anticipate . . . We’d slip by chairs and stumble around counters to sneak toward the archway, stepping through the passage and into the living room. The interior, in our eyes, was pure magic. Full, lush garland trimmed the tops of the walls, wrapping around the room and tucking into the back of the large chest that sat in the corner, adorned with twisting red ribbons and delicate red bows. Light from the television—most likely playing whatever Christmas film was showing on cable—pulsed in the opposite corner, and the small lamps scattered on either side of the couch filling the room with a soft glow. Our eyes floated around the room and finally locked on the Christmas tree in the far corner, admiring how the illuminated branches cast dancing shadows along the wall and up toward the ceiling.

And then came workshop sessions. In reviewing my classmates essays and listening to others’ feedback, I acknowledged the importance of variation of syntax, actionable language, explicit commentary on significance, and more. I decided to apply the tips given to others as I heard them in workshop, rather than waiting until the end, and hoping my memory served me well. The above excerpt went through about 3-4, short, revision “check-in” periods during the course of workshop sessions to reach is final format, which is included below.

The warm light peeking through the small archway toward the back of the kitchen, however, was the greeting Kristen and I anticipated each year . . . We slipped by the chairs and stumbled around the countertop, stepping through the passage and into the living room. Our eyes traced up toward the ceiling, along the walls, and down to the floor, attempting to take everything in.

The interior was enchanting.

Full, lush garland wrapped around the room, trimming the tops of the walls. Small lamps adorned with red bows filled the room with a soft glow. Our eyes danced with the light around the room before locking on the Christmas tree in the far corner, its brightened branches casting shadows that danced on the walls and extended to the ceiling.

It was often my grandma’s work, the interior decoration. I remember coming each Christmas season, anxious to see the house transformed into a beautiful, intimate sanctuary from the cold December air. I would never come to witness my Grandma decorating the house, though the process was never a concern until later. As a child, I was content to imagine the garland and string lights appearing by magic.

The above excerpt, in my opinion, greatly benefitted from the “check-ins,” mentioned in my original journal entry. I was able to more effectively integrate the feedback I heard in workshop, without taking up too much extra time.


2 thoughts to “Revisiting Challenge Journals, Part 1/2”

  1. Hi Lindsay,

    I agree that the writing classes I have taken over the years at this school have forced me to revise much earlier in the writing process than I would have chosen to do on my own. I think it’s a really helpful tactic to revise as you go because it’s much easier to make changes before you have everything written and start to feel overwhelmed and unwilling to make changes. That being said, I always find myself revising at the very end. I think that your second excerpt is definitely better, with more breaks and variation that make it fun to read. I would love to say I’ll take your advice and revise while I go, but unfortunately the need to make things easier and my self-destructive game of procrastination always seem to clash and procrastination tends to come out on top.


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