Revision–The Literary Double Take

My ideal mindset on revision would be exactly what it sounds like: envisioning something for the umpteenth time since its initial creation, with a fresh set of eyes ready to see the flaws, or simply how that first vision has changed over time. To be frank, this is not how I actually look at this term when I see it day-to-day. When the words “Revision Due” or “Peer Editing Day” stare up at me from a class syllabus, my first thoughts are usually pretty negative. I am a list maker by nature: the idea of finishing a project, and being able to obliterate it from my endless list of to-do’s, provides a rush the likes of which would make a drug addict swoon. The finality of handing in a job well done, and knowing I don’t have to touch it again, gives me leave to relax for a minute before moving on to the next thing I have to do. The idea of having to absorb feedback, and keep chipping away at something I was so glad to be done with, always makes me feel exhausted like some literary Sisyphus whose work is never done.

If my calendar were not such a looming presence, I am certain the concept of revision would be aligned with my initial, idealistic version. I am reminded of a phrase coined by my 10th-grade English teacher, which kept sentinel over unimpressed and fearful sophomores on the blackboard every day: “We are made to think deeply, and hard work is the reward.” While daunting, this idea of thinking and working as an enjoyable, lifelong activity is incredibly exciting. It makes every day, and every work produced, seem thrillingly impermanent and imperfect, showcasing that people and the pieces they produce are always waiting to be improved and altered by future thinkers and their dialogue. This inner drive toward perfection within myself and all humans certainly shows in writings as mundane as Facebook posts, where I aspire to sound as effortlessly witty and earnest as possible to friends, family, and the public.

It strikes me that revision really is a balancing act. You are exhausted by the thought of never stopping the process of work, but excited to see where it leads. You are required to be humble enough to take critique and change work you have already become attached to, yet vain enough to think you can make it better. You relish the thought of never having to set your eyes on a piece of writing again: yet, simultaneously, the yearning to see what that fresh set of eyes will reveal beckons, and you become certain that the only way worth looking at anything is, truly, through re-vision.

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