I've been thinking a lot about revision recently.
Now, I'm pretty much always thinking about revision in one way or another. But there's just something about workshopping NEEDS A BETTER CODE NAME in two workshops simultaneously (one in a classroom, one "extracurricular," if you can really call it that) that has brought revisions into the forefront of my mind.
Writing is difficult. Revision is sometimes even more so. But something occurred to me during a workshop I did yesterday. It's always difficult to be workshopped. At best, workshopping can shine all sorts of light on issues in your work that you never even thought about before, as well as provide possibilities for change that get the creative juices flowing again. But at worst, workshopping can be brutal. I like to think that I'm pretty good at not taking it personally--at reminding myself that everyone in the workshop is invested in making my work as good as it possibly can be, and that's a good thing, right?--but that doesn't mean that it's always a walk in the park.
Anyway, yesterday we were workshopping a piece by a friend of mine. And we ripped into it pretty darn well. Not that what was already there was bad, or that the message was "This sucks, change it or else!" Everyone there was absolutely invested in making her work as good as it could be, and absolutely invested in coming up with ideas for how it could be changed to fulfill its purpose in a more efficient manner. But all that put together meant that by the end of the session, we'd suggested cutting most of the first chapter and merging it with the events of the second and third. For those of you not particularly familiar with the writing world, this is a major revision.
When I think about her work now, I think that I would love to be digging into her work. I am so excited about where it's going, and what her revision is going to look like. But if those suggestions had been made about my work, I'm pretty sure that I would be having a panic attack. Because it's always easier to think about changing someone else's work. Not your own.
I've been writing for a while. I like to think I've developed a fairly thick skin. But when it comes to my writing, I freeze up so easily when thinking about making changes--or even trying to think about what changes could be made. When we talked about my friend's piece, I could so easily picture what could be different, and how those changes would affect the story. But when it came to mine, I was resistant.
Why is that? I think it's because even with the amount of experience I have and the efforts I make to do otherwise, I still suffer from special baby syndrome. Even though I've tried to divorce myself from emotional attachment to particular words/phrases/characters/scenes, it's still so easy to get set in the existing tracks. So easy to forget that once upon a time, those tracks didn't even exist. It's almost the opposite of the blank page syndrome. I've tried to counteract this, but at some level it may always be true.
And now, back to prepping for the next workshop...