Friday, August 1, 2008

Revision is a Beautiful Thing

For the first 12 years of my education, I missed a concept that is so crucial to writing, revision. For 12 years I thought that there were only two ways to write a paper-the rough draft and the final copy. The rough draft was usually some handwritten piece that didn’t really show any radical transformation in the form of a final copy. In fact, oftentimes a rough draft was optional, something that students did if they felt inspired or had a balding teacher, on the verge of retirement breathing down the back of their neck. For 12 years this is how I thought successful writers functioned, then I went to college.

 In college, I learned, the hard way, that revision is the stuff writing is made of. My revision virginity was lost in Introduction to Women’s Studies to Lucy, a randomly selected peer editor. Lucy was from a small private school in Connecticut, the label on her jeans and the advertisement plastered on her shirt told me more about her economic background than her bank statement probably could have; she was not hurting for any Benjamins. She had a ponytail, daintily placed on top of her head adorned with a ridiculous pink bow, a skin color that screamed “fake ‘n’ bake,” and an attitude that was worse than my grandma’s when she hasn’t gotten her morning cigarette. Lucy’s feedback almost killed my writing dreams.

 “Contractions are a red flag in a college paper, You use the comma incorrectly throughout this entire thing and way too much, this sentence doesn’t even make sense here….” I could keep going, but why relive this painful occurrence? Lucy almost shot down my hopes and dreams of becoming a writing major, almost. I found a way to come back from it all, I humbled myself and started at the beginning, with an Introduction to Writing seminar class. I built my skills from the bottom up and always kept Lucy in the back of my mind for motivation. I learned how to take feedback like a champ and Lucy taught me exactly how to not provide feedback to a fellow writer.

 I took so many writing classes that it’s a wonder I don’t have carpal tunnel syndrome from all of the typing. I didn’t just learn how to write, I learned how to rewrite, how to revise; I learned that as a writer, your work is never done. I learned that revision and feedback are the only ways to improve upon the skills you already have. As a writer, you can’t think you know it all, because if you do, chances for success will be slimmer than the supermodels gracing the catwalk these days.

 Feedback can be extremely hard to swallow. After spending hours perfecting a paper, a story, a poem, the last thing the writer usually wants is someone breaking their writing apart and telling them how to put it back together again. The best thing about feedback is that at the end of the day, it’s still your story and you, as the writer, get to decide what suggestions you want to take and what ones you want to throw away, that’s the writer’s prerogative. In a writer’s world, there’s always going to be at least one Lucy, all that matters is how you choose to handle her.