Sunday, May 2, 2010

Revision as a pleasure, not a burden

This is a busy time of year for me. A portion of the editing work I do is on doctoral dissertations and this is high season as graduation draws near. Some of my clients are amazed when their documents come back to them full of things for them to fix and clarify. Even if I send a "clean" copy, one in which my editing marks have been accepted, there are inevitably comments and questions that need to be dealt with.

One client called Friday and wanted to know what I wanted her to do with the comments. I patiently explained that I had fixed as many things as I could but that in some cases, I didn't know what she meant or didn't have the necessary knowledge to do the clarification. She was, in fact, the author of the document and she needed to address the issues. "But that will mess up the text," she said. She went on to explain that she had expected a perfect document from me. And I realized it had never occurred to her that anything might need rewriting or that anything might be missing or unclear. So, although she has written a book-length document, she is not a writer.

Writers learn early to embrace revision, and some of us enjoy it thoroughly. It may not carry the same high as drafting your argument or your plot or generating that gorgeous turn of phrase. But the polish, the clarity, the honed nature of well revised writing is a joy in itself. I know I'm working with a writer when they tell me this is draft five or six and they're ready for someone else to take a stab at it, instead of being offended that anyone would question their words.

1 comment:

  1. I love revising and rereading and editing. But find I don't take the time to do it. It's a pleasure I don't give myself. I used to pour over my work, filling the pages with notes. And then go back and edit and plunder those sentences I once thought beautiful and pristine works of art. Now, it's tough to find that "feeling" after hours at a job I can't stand. It's hard to get into the groove. But when I do get back to my work, I feel something welling up and spilling over. why do we forget how good writing and revising make us feel? Why don't we allow ourselves to go there?