Posted in Personal Stories

On Revision

Every writer has her own unique process of putting their thoughts out there. Some are pantsers – they “fly by the seat of their pants,”  putting down words as they tumble along the way. Others would be more deliberate about the process of writing – carefully listing out ideas and key messages and then drafting out the story. For both forms of writing, there is a part where you are spontaneously jotting down whatever comes to your mind, which I would call the “Writing phase”.  And then you later go in and revise what you’ve written to publish or ship it out to the world. This is what is typically called the “Revision phase” of writing.

On my laptop, you would find scores of spontaneous drafts which have been untouched and never graduated to the stage of getting published. That, I’m afraid, is a discomfort with the revisions  – my least favorite part of the writing process. 

Writing the first draft is like falling in love. You have discovered a new idea, you are exploring it, there are more connections and concepts spawning in your head which you rush to compose. It is heady , reckless and also liberating in a certain measure to be able to conjure up and give life to ideas out of nothing. Along the way,  you also realize that some of them need improvement, and a few could be gems, but you don’t judge them as they arrive. You just keep writing and documenting, and your heart glows with pride as the page fills up with words that are your own creation.

The “Revision phase” gives you the exact opposite feeling. You now have to judge the words you’ve written, and realize that the message that you sought to convey is somehow not there. The flaws are slowly getting revealed, and the feeling is of languidly falling out of love, or  being in a marriage.

You have to “kill your darlings” and judge ruthlessly. What is especially painful is culling pieces that you thought were very cleverly written and get attached to, but now seem like clumsy appendages which do not fit in the overall story.   

But if you keep going and survive this phase, you would realize that eventually – in the process of revision – you compromise and find a deeper, more long lasting love.  

As I now analyze this writing process, what is increasingly becoming clear to me is that the root cause of my lack of fondness for the “Revision phase”  is the fear that what I’ve written might not be good enough. 

Somewhere in our subconscious self, we are reassured by the thought of being a brilliant work-in progress than a confirmed failure I think. 

Alright. The first step to solving a problem is recognizing that it exists.

Fear of failure is normal. If you are worried about failing, then that is a good sign – you will do your best to succeed. Not committing or finishing because of the fear of failure is a problem.

Overcome the fear of revision to powerfully close your story. Diagnosing your own work, uncovering flaws and correcting them is the first step to clarity — and eventual success!

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

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