Saturday afternoon I received a text message from a friend who wanted to know how to subscribe to my blog. I had a few subscribers so it never occurred to me there was a problem. I pulled up the blog in order to give her instructions, but I couldn’t figure how to do it. I discovered the theme I selected wasn’t enabled for side widgets. I saw the warning when I first set up the blog, but I didn’t know what a widget was or that it had any relevance to my particular blog.
I figured one of the two engineers I live with would be able to fix it. My son, a junior at Michigan State in electrical engineering, took a quick look, concluded it was easy fix if I knew how to write code (which I don’t), and then went off to lunch with his brother. My husband, a civil engineer, proceeded to search for another way to solve the problem. (He doesn’t know how to write code either.) As I watched him try various settings, it occurred to me that if I was willing to revise the whole blog, I could alleviate the problem. Simple enough, right? No, not really.
I face revision with a sense of dread. I don’t like pulling things apart and venturing into the unknown. I don’t want to give up control. It reminds me too much of life. Just when you think you’ve got it all together, something happens that forces you to examine your life and make changes.
Last year’s move from Chicago to Atlanta was a big revision for me. I thought I knew where my life was headed. I had returned to graduate school to pursue a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. My reasoning for the degree was to be able to teach Creative Writing instead of Composition. Though in my heart, I really wanted my writing to move from avocation to a vocation. I thought I was on the right track.
The move threw me into unknown territory. I had to change the way I lived my life. I didn’t have a community of friends to depend on or a job to fill my time. And let me tell you, I had some really difficult moments. I cried daily. But in the midst of it all I also wrote. And more importantly I learned to depend more heavily on the Lord.
. . .refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. (Zechariah 13:9 ESV)
It was only through the revision of my life that I was able to become what I truly wanted to be — a writer. Revision is a reality of life. We don’t revise because we got something wrong. We revise because we have new information that requires us to make alterations. Revision expands our thinking and broadens our possibilities. In short, not only does it makes us better writers, it makes us better people.
So how do we get through revision as a confident writer? First, we honesty evaluate our writing. Is there a clear vision for the work? If not, then we have to spend some time clarifying our thoughts. I do this by free-writing in my journal. Essentially I write about the writing. What is the piece trying to say? Do the ideas work together? Does it communicate the intended message?
Another important step in the revision process is openness to the opinions of others. If my friend hadn’t questioned my blog, I wouldn’t have known there was a problem. I can’t help but wonder how many other people tried to subscribe and gave up. We have to give the reader enough information. You can’t expect them to spend time or patience trying to figure things out. This is true whether you are writing a business proposal or novel.
It helps to have another set of eyes read your work. I highly recommend joining a writer’s group. The process of reading and discussing one another’s work will make you a better writer. You develop an eye for what works and what doesn’t work. There is one caveat, though. You have to be the master of your own work. Don’t take the suggestions of others as law. Use it as a sounding board to test your own thoughts.
We can’t avoid revision in writing anymore than we can in life. Things change and we have to change with them. I hope the revisions I made to my blog makes it easier to subscribe and comment. If not, let me know. I’ll make another revision.
Until next time,
The Confident Writer.