A couple months after starting college I began writing a book- a book I told no one about because it is, at present, a sorry seven pages of rubbish. I had just enrolled in a creative writing class when I wrote those seven pages and little did I know I would end up telling that same story in a one line poem, a five page short fiction, a single act play, and ultimately a thirty page compilation to be turned in for credit.
You see, that seven page book I started to compose had already been drafted dozens of times and continued to be reworked until I was forced to end my war with it and accept the constraints of a deadline. I am still working (and will probably work perpetually) on getting that story “right.” However, the principal lesson I learned from class was not about writing the perfect story, but rewriting a perfect revision.
I had never intentionally revised a piece before, so the thought of taking a lengthy story I felt was complete and smushing it into a tiny poem or scraping out the dialogue for a play not only seemed impossible, but flat out wrong. I was “married to my piece” as the professor put it. I didn’t want to change the rhymes in my poems or the characters in my short story because they were fine the way I had originally written them. Or so I thought.
The greatest thing I could have done for myself as a writer was open myself to genre fluidity. Pieces that I categorized as “fine” were just that: fine. They weren’t conveying the right emotion. They weren’t putting the emphasis on the right syllable. In the middle of writing this post I examined my seven pages of rubbish and exhumed from it a gem of a poem that I think is much more interesting than anything I wrote in those other paragraphs. Would I have found it if I didn’t revisit the story? If I didn’t allow my draft to be rewritten into a more satisfying morsel? No. Which is exactly why I now accept revision as part of the natural writing process and maybe even the most exciting part. It is like trying a mystery food with a blindfold on. You are convinced it it one taste, but then you open your eyes to find out its not what you expected. And maybe it’s your new favorite food.
So next time you feel like your draft is garbage or simply fine the way it is , think about how many forms it could possibly take, what flavors it could be, how it might surprise you if you gave it a chance. Then write, and rewrite, and rewrite.