In her book, Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life, Dani Shapiro describes her approach to writing and revising. She writes about four meticulous, impeccable pages a day. After drafting, she reads over her work. Then, she prunes, corrects grammatical errors and ensures the style is cohesive. Following this, she takes a step back and looks at the big picture. She asks herself, Are any questions left unanswered? Does the structure make sense? Do ideas and sentences flow? Is everything clearly explained? Are the facts accurate and the references correct? Shapiro doesn’t move on to the next page until all the answers to these questions are satisfactory. She calls this practicing.
“There is no difference,” she says, “between practice and art. The practice is the art.” So, by the end of the day not only has she practiced, she’s created art, and can look ahead to tomorrow’s pages.
I’d never thought about writing a few pages at a time. Much less about taking the time to refine each one individually. Many times when I write, I just rush through it wanting to get it done. As a result, I make more work for myself and my reader. I get my papers back with lots of red marks. They make corrections I could’ve easily made myself.
When I don’t revise carefully, I don’t do my ideas, my audience, and my potential as a writer any justice. Thus, I try to take revising seriously now. I am not an expert, but like Shapiro suggested, I’m practicing. Revising used to be an overwhelming and cumbersome process I tried to avoid at all cost. Now, I practice it a little at a time, or rather, one page at a time.
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