Writing (and Understanding) Through Revisions

Since last winter I was tossing around the idea of starting a blog. I spoke with some friends about it, but I was worried that I couldn’t come up with a topic original enough. I wanted the blog to be focused, provide value, and not be another shout into the void. One of my friends kept pushing me to do it, even though she knew I didn’t have the details worked out. She told me once I started writing, it would fall together.

I don’t ever trust for things to “fall together,” but soon I found myself on WordPress customizing a theme and jotting down ideas in my Bullet Journal. I even started drafting some pieces, mostly about travel, but at the last minute I scrapped all of that. Changes started to take effect in my life. I made the decision to move away from my home city for the first time. I was at peace and in a heightened state of anxiety about this decision, and didn’t know what to do to keep myself busy. I did what I always did: I wrote.

Then I called Alexa—a friend from college, a fellow South Philly girl, but most importantly an excellent writer. She was not only somewhat familiar with my writing style and literary studies (we attended each other’s senior project presentations, which is a big deal in the Drexel realm), but she knew about my struggle with anxiety and depression, she knew my reluctance to openly share, she knew the doubts I had about shouting into the void. The beautiful thing about our relationship (as Alexa noted to me in the comments) is that we trust each other–as friends and as writers. Our friendship serves as the base of our working relationship, but it does not impede the work itself.

I still have my notes from our first conversation about my blog. The “topic” started to solidify around the idea of personal well-being and being present. Of course, this is broad enough that I can write about anything that pops into my head, or even any of the ideas that she gives me. One of her ideas from our earliest conversation is my writing process. After posting a handful of pieces, I think this is a good time to reflect on what this process entails.

Step 1: Come up with an idea.
Step 2: Consider that no one cares about anything I write. That this particular idea is the worst I had. Try to think of a new idea.
Step 3: Write about the idea generated in Step 1 despite thoughts in Step 2.
Step 4: Edit until I’m confident Alexa won’t completely doubt my abilities as a writer.
Step 5: Send to Alexa. Include a message of self doubt.
Step 6: Receive edits from Alexa. Smile at her positivity.
Step 7: Revise and send back to Alexa again.
Step 8: Repeat Steps 6 and 7 until satisfied.
Step 9: Post for the world to read and cross your fingers for no actual reason because you’re not actually hoping to get anything out of this.

You may be chuckling, but this is pretty accurate. The ideas are typically based on what’s happening in my life at the moment, or maybe a thought I can’t shake. Writing what is on my mind is a way for me to get through whatever is going on. I don’t always write or share what’s going on. Sometimes it’s too difficult, too personal, or it could cause someone to engage me in a conversation I don’t want to have. But once I do write, it’s relieving, like exhaling after holding your breath for too long.

The most crucial aspect to this process is revising. When I look at a piece with fresh eyes, I’m more critical. I have to ask myself: is the tone right; did I chose the right words; did I paint a picture for the reader? But most importantly, why am I sharing this? That last question helps me to fill in any missing pieces and ensure I’ve developed a piece well enough to convey my point.

Often times I write a piece with a weak or missing conclusion. As I’m writing this draft, I’m considering stopping now and getting feedback from Alexa before I add the conclusion. Input from another person, hearing what she thinks I’m trying to convey, is a great way for me to holistically look at the piece and go, “This right is here what I’m trying to say.” Or sometimes I’ve completely missed my entire mark and I need to make major revisions.

When I was in middle and high school, I didn’t particularly like to revise my work. I did it, but I didn’t see the joy in it that I do now. I never revised my personal writings either. Even to this day I hardly touch a poem or piece of prose once it’s done–although that means it’s technically not “complete.” Until I took Drexel’s Writing 210 and all the writing turned personal, forcing me to confront a number of life’s aspects in my writing, then share it openly with a room full of strangers, and then revise it.

It’s typically through this revisions that I find the point, even though it’s usually staring me in the face the whole time–with my blog it is always the title. Academic papers I never titled until the end. Personal writings I never title at all, only add dates to the top header. Yet, these blog posts are titled almost immediately and seem to encapsulate all 600 or so words into so few. The revising process is not any easier than creating the first draft. A piece can be completely transformed from when I first wrote it verse when you, the reader, sees it. My takeaway from WRIT 210 was that the process of revising, questioning your writing decisions, and deconstructing a piece, can tell you more about the topic and yourself, than any final draft ever could. Writing is a laborious task. But it can be the most rewarding experience if you allow yourself to give in to it.

3 thoughts on “Writing (and Understanding) Through Revisions

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