Edit Mode: Three Essays and Revision as Self Discovery

Those who’ve known me for the last 10 years or so, know that I’ve had a non-fiction book idea that I’ve been working on off and on the whole time.  Part of the issue is I don’t like my prose style and I don’t write very fast.  In the past year, I’ve done a couple of things to fix those issues.  One is blogging, which I do to work on speed.  My posts are supposed to be a few hundred words written quickly.  I think for a short time and then write.  That process has helped me write quicker and freer that I have in a long time.  The other is writing some “practice” essays.  I say practice only because they are building up to the technical level and voice I want to have for the book.  I have about 150,000 words of raw material, long passages I’ve worked on during the baby hiatus years.  Shaping that into the book will take a more focused style than what I’ve worked with in prose.

My poem are written pretty freely, and the process for them has been set for a few years now.  I spend a few days, or sometimes even months, thinking about the idea of the poem.  Then I “write” the first few lines in my head, often revising or rewriting them a few times, before I commit them to paper or screen.  For the Ridgeline and 30/30 Project challenges, I sped up some of this process but also worked from a list of ideas that I had floating around for a while as well.

The three essays I’m working on are currently undergoing a rapid revision process.  Over nine days, each will be read three times.  What comes out of this is a mystery to me, but it is pretty exciting.  I’m in the middle of the nine days now, having read two essays twice and one once.  The essays all feature a lot of short sentences and simple words in English.  Because two take place in Japan and one is about martial arts, there are a lot of non-English words and jargon to deal with.  For my book idea, this is also an issue, which is why the essays’ subjects were chosen.  Each presents different problems.  One has required a great deal of rearrangement.  One was compiled from the book raw materials and the language needed to be made consistent since it was written in three parts and with different tones.  The last is the newest and written in one quick spurt.  This is the only one that feels like a “normal” revision.

Three different kinds of revisions, and this is why I love revision even though I have a harder time getting into it.  Revision is often more challenging and more surprising than creation.  Creation is free and wild, a dance when no one is looking.  Revision is a conversation with the piece and with yourself.  I learn more about language through revision, but I learn a lot more about my real views and opinions.  Sometimes I like what I find and sometimes I don’t, but there is always something to find.

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