“the table is set and our glasses are full
though pieces go missing, may we still feel whole
we’ll build new traditions in place of the old
‘cause life without revision will silence our souls”
–lyrics from song by Sleeping at Last, “Snow”
I’m in love with these beautifully wise lyrics. Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m all about souls. I think a lot about the deepest parts of people–their souls. When a young person recently asked me how I could know that God exists, it didn’t take me long to answer. “It’s the souls. I believe in science–it is amazing. But for me, science cannot explain the beauty and individuality of souls. Souls are God’s house.”
All of this is to explain that it pains me to think of a life (without revision) that would “silence our souls.” I actually believe that a lot of the pain in our world is caused when someone tries to silence their own soul–or someone else’s.
So we must revise. We must edit. We must not only endure, but also INVITE change.
Abridged. Adjusted. Re-framed. Corrected. Condensed.
Improved. Polished. Modified. Reworked.
It has happened. Things have changed. They have changed again and again and again. It is said that the only things that you can count on in life are death, taxes, and CHANGE.
Now you may be thinking: Wait. Just. One. Minute.
I like things the way they are.
I hear you. Me too. Alas, here is a message for you and for me:
Get over it.
A big amount of change is happening right now with editing my manuscript. Editing is a gigantic part of writing. I remembered reading this quote somewhere:
“There is no such thing as writing, only good rewriting.”
The funny thing is, when I went to look up the source of this wise advice, I found that it has been attributed to more than one person. So far, I’ve found Hemingway, Capote, Dahl, Graves, King, Brandeis, and White. It’s pretty clear that revising is the only way to write and, I must add, to live.
It is not easy. When I first have an idea for a book, poem, or essay, it spills out onto the page in a rush. It just has to get out. In my mind, it’s fantastic. I scribble thoughts down on paper (old school) or rush to the keyboard so that my 46-year-old brain won’t forget.
When I get the draft out and read it for myself, maybe I’ll change a few things–gently though–so as not to hurt my own feelings. Change is fine when it’s what we WANT, right? It’s like saying, “Sure. I’ll go on a diet. As long as I can have potatoes. And candy. And bread. Also, I don’t really care for salad. Or vegetables. But other than that…I’m in!”
The thing about breaking into the “business” of writing is this: other people are gonna read your stuff. I first got a taste of this in a writing class I took at the Mark Twain House a couple of years ago. I learned a ton of useful information in the class about genres of children’s books, industry standards, working with words, and most importantly for me–accepting feedback. We would bring several copies of our manuscripts to class and take turns receiving the input of our classmates.
I’m not gonna lie. It’s a little bit of a naked-on-stage or was-that-my-pants-I-heard-ripping? feeling when you read the words aloud to others for the first time. You just don’t know what’s going to happen next. It was all well and good when people made small suggestions. That I liked. And agreed with.
But then there was the really useful stuff that makes a writer itchy:
–I can’t tell what’s happening in this paragraph.
–You lost me on page 5.
–This is too wordy. It get’s boring.
–Something’s gotta change at the end.
*Cracks knuckles, hitches up britches, slowly draws pistol as whistling western shoot-out music plays in the background*
But most of the time, they were right. And when I
allowed forced myself to be humble and pay attention, the changes turned out to be what made the story so much better. Richer. More readable.
So I’m working with an editor as I prepare to share my manuscript with agents and publishers. I expected her to suggest changes, and boy, does she. I’m ok with it. I welcome it. My ideas are good, but I’m learning the truth about revision. In my writing, and in my life, it is essential.
Therefore, bring it on, benevolent Backspace! Deliver me, Delete key!
Detour me, Destiny!
Let the editing begin.