Most mornings in this current phase of revision, I climb to the room at the top of the house and write at my portable table. I sit on the floor and face the skylight window. When rain lashes the window pane and the sky is a stubborn grey, I feel a cosy insulation that supports my task.
Revision. Re-vision. Seeing again. Seeing anew. Making the words sharper, the images more potent, the underlying themes more coherent to the whole. This is what I engage in as I ward off the usual questions: Is it any good? Does it have heft? Will anyone care?
There are no clear answers, but the richness of the process wins out. George Saunders describes it thus: “Revising…is a form of increasing the ambient intelligence of a piece of writing.”
He is clear about his intention: “As text is revised, it becomes more specific and embodied in the particular. It becomes more sane. It becomes less hyperbolic, sentimental, and misleading. It loses its ability to create a propagandist fog. Falsehoods get squeezed out of it, lazy assertions stand up, naked and blushing, and rush out of the room.”
Thank you, George. You have elevated revision, afforded it dignity, revealed its value for writer and reader alike.
Now that the sun has come to our small island, the process of revision rubs up against a stifling room, a hard glare, a hammock calling. Different motivations.