On Revision

I had the rather meta idea while doing this to “word vomit” and publish, just to make a point about how important revision is. I wound up being unwilling to risk my grade for such a point, but as I revise this very piece, I am reminded yet again of just how much revision means to me.

As someone who writes both academically and creatively, I am a firm believer that just as much–if not more–writing is done in revision as is done in a first draft. The first thing I do when writing is make an outline. That may not seem like a part of the revision process (perhaps the prevision process, if anything), but it is hugely crucial to my writing, for it allows me to revise even as I am writing a first draft. Are the sources I’ve listed in my outline actually helpful, or do they drag down my paper? I can fix that here. Do I actually need to make this point, or is it too similar to a point I made earlier? I might decide either way. Should I use my meta idea about not revising this post as a final thought, as I originally intended, or should I use it as a lead, instead? It was while writing the first draft of this post that I made that choice.

Once I’ve written my draft, I will start truly revising. These revisions don’t feel very formal to me, as I don’t usually save drafts in their entirety or do it in a methodical way. Instead, I’ll begin by reading over a paragraph and then, when I feel there’s something I could fix, I’ll rewrite it. Then I’ll rewrite the idea immediately following it. Then I’ll keep rewriting, pushing the original text further and further down the page. Sometimes, if I remember phrasing something really well the first time around, I’ll copy that in and pick up where the good section leaves off, but often I’ll just keep writing, not even looking at what I’ve written earlier. And then, when I’ve finished the new paragraph, I’ll cut and paste the old one at the bottom of the document, so it is there to refer to if I need it.¬†And this continues until I have a finished work.

However, if there is one thing writing this post has taught me, it’s that I don’t always do things the same way. This being a shorter piece, I didn’t do as extensive an outline. I also found myself very motivated to write; much of my original writing wasn’t that bad, so I didn’t rewrite as much and instead focused more on tweaking, as I might do in the final stages of a large paper. Ultimately, however, if there is one constant across all of my writing, it is that I do revise, no matter how much or little. And when I don’t, I tend to wish I had. Once, I sent an email to a former teacher. Instead of revising, I convinced myself to trust in my own ability to write and understand grammar rules. Turns out, I had misplaced three commas and written “two” instead of “to.” I pride myself in being a very good writer and grammarian, but I know I would be nowhere without revision.

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