The luxury of revision?

There are many arts and crafts where it is not possible to go wrong.

A sculptor hacks his way through a lump of stone to find the work he knows is hidden inside, but lops off too large a piece and the nose of his pharoah is gone. A stonemason crafts an epitaph on a tombstone, only to discover that he has misspelled the name of the deceased. I paint on silk and anything I put on the fabric has to become an intrinsic part of my design. There is no room for error. Many civilisations and religious groups have considered the likelihood of mishaps and built that into their work. Often Kelims contain a deliberate mistake for only Allah can produce something flawless. The Amish sew beautiful quilts, but each one contains that same deliberate mistake for only God is perfect. To err is human, and all that.

As writers, we have a luxury: our work is not written in stone. Not only does nobody die if we get it wrong, they need never know. Whatever we choose to scribble as our first draft, second draft, twenty-seventh re-write, it does not have to be shown to a single soul. We can edit, hone, perfect and still decide it is not fit for public consumption.

Many writers view revision and editing as a chore, but we shouldn’t. This is the point in our work where we have an opportunity to get it right. We should see this as a luxury, a magnificent chance to make it exactly the way we want it to be. From the moment when we glimpse our piece of fiction at the end of the tunnel, to the stage when it  stands fully formed before us, there can be any amount of changes.

We determine when it is finished and suitable for viewing. And if pharaoh’s nose is knocked off, we can stick it back on and no one will ever notice.

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6 responses to “The luxury of revision?

  1. Great post, enjoyed reading it; still perfection, in this case, is subjective.

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