On Revision

Writing for writing’s sake is marvelous so long as the writer isn’t in denial about his or her dreams. Most writers, whether we admit it or not, want our creations to be recognizably dynamic, in the private sphere as well as for a broader readership. We write because we want to communicate. When fear of playing to an audience or facing an audience upon completion keeps us from ever developing our work, everyone loses. The writer never experiences the wild ride of revision, nor receives revision’s gifts. No readers benefit. Aborted projects may lead to energizing new projects, but aborted creativity serves no one.

Besides, we can reap the benefits of revision and still choose to keep our work private.

Revision’s bad reputation is based on stereotypes and misunderstanding. As soon as we pen a thought, we’ve already revised an invisible, intangible wisp inside our head into visible, tangible print. Something changes. Like any creative act, writing creates simultaneously inside and outside the creator. Writing helps us receive what experiences have made of us and make something of these experiences, which is how the Jungian Ann Belford Ulanov describes the source of all aliveness. Revision brings us and our work to life. Isn’t this why we initially fell in love with writing? Writing moved us and what we wrote moved others. Writing revised our world.

When we segregate revision from idea generation or journal writing or drafting—when we assume revision is for the professionals, and especially when we imagine revision to be devoid of exploration and surprise—we do a disservice to the creative process. Revision—reseeing—begins when we pen our first thought and continues through the drafting and development of a work, into and beyond publication. Revision is the dynamic, relational work of creating and being created. Isn’t this also the work of love? 


– by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew – from “Living Revision”