Monday, August 5, 2013

Lessons From the Revision Desk

Part 1: Loving Something Doesn't Make it Good

This is probably the hardest lesson a writer has to learn when it comes to making a piece shine. As we go along, typing that first draft, we'll fall in love with certain paragraphs or scenes. We'll snicker as we re-read those beloved lines, proud of our wit.

These words may make us feel good about our skill. They may make us believe in ourselves even when the hard pushes come, even when it feels like we'll never put another productive word on the page.

Then the revision stage arrives.

We take out the red pen, put on our ruthless hats, and get to work.

And, in the light of a new day, our favorite scene doesn't seem so shiny anymore. The jokes that made us giggle and bolstered our spirits seem trite and unoriginal. The cute interaction between characters does nothing to drive the story. Witty sentences become awkward to the point we forgot what their purpose was.

So they have to go...because they're hurting the piece.

The same could be said of things we're clinging to outside our writing.

Trips to the coffee shop that result in more pastry than productivity. Friends who demand more of us than is healthy to give. Lovers who expect much and give little. Online interactions that steal our energy and depress us. Pretty shoes that pinch or harm our muscles.

In the end, we have to think about us first, about our needs.

Don't mistake me. I'm not talking about neglecting a friend to indulge a pleasurable pursuit. I'm not talking about ignoring a responsibility in favor of a fleeting fancy. I'm not talking about sacrificing family for unnecessary monetary gains.

I'm talking about removing people from our lives who refuse to respect our boundaries, who refuse to value our time. I'm talking about axing the things from our lives that make it harder for us to be happy and healthy. I'm talking about fulfilling the parts of ourselves that need nurturing.

This means coming to an understanding of what we each really need. It means understanding who we are as individuals. It means allowing ourselves to be different. It means looking inside ourselves and using the cave drawings there to tell us what we really need, what desires would make us happy.

And doing so can be hard work, just like cutting up something we spent months creating.

But it will be worth the struggle.

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