Reduce, Revise, and Recycle

Revision is something I struggle with. I find I have vastly different approaches to revision depending on the type of writing I’m doing, as well as vastly different areas of success.

Part of my problem with the idea of revision is that I am an over-planner when it comes to writing. Not always, of course. When I used to be in time constrained situations for writing essays, I could just jump out the gate with nary a plan in my back pocket and it always seemed to magically come together. But when left to my own devices, I tend to not write until I have a clear path as to where I’m going. That’s the way I write everything, from essays to creative works to emails. Instead of revising later I tend to just think think think until I have something to put down. I find this makes the revision process shorter because I already made revisions in my mind before actually putting anything down on paper.

After everything is written, if I am not mentally exhausted with the work and if I have time, I will go back and edit. The easiest revision for me is getting rid of things. I suffer from overwriting, so I often find myself crossing out superfluous language or entire sentences that are just restated thoughts from a previous sentence. Accidental repetitiveness the one thing that my over planning, all in one shot strategy of writing adds to.

The harder revision is when you have to restructure an entire argument. Sometimes after writing, you realize all the ideas are there but they’re not presented in a way that flows and develops your argument well. Normally I make a copy of the paper and chop it up so that I can compare the two after the restructuring and still be able to return to the original in case the new structure¬†is worse.

The only type of revision I am truly terrible at is grammar revision. I can stare at a paper forward, backward, and sideways and still miss a grammar mistake that will only become painfully clear after I have handed in the paper. I agonize over professional emails because I know that somehow I will make an error that will ruin the serious nature of the correspondence. For an example of my incompetence: I once tweeted that anyone who treated a dog poorly was a “peace of garbage” and only noticed three months later that I had used the wrong word. I don’t know how that happened.

Normally with school work, I accept that revisions can only be done so many times. With creative works, I find myself constantly fixing the things I’ve written, sometimes completely changing their original meaning, sometimes recycling one line in a completely different piece of writing. Unlike with school where a deadline and a grade often feels like a closing note on how good something I’ve written can be, I find myself making revisions to my creative pieces years after I thought I had left them in a google doc to rust.

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