Lois Paige Simenson: Fear of Revision

I was intrigued with Deb Vanasse’s recent post, The Writer’s Dilemma and her suggestion to …keep a diary of your writing activities: creation, revision, reflection, immersion, community, money stuff. Then tally up the time spent in each area, and compare it against how you’d like to be spending your writing time.
I took Deb’s advice and began a writers’ diary. I was curious how I was dividing my writing time. I didn’t have to do it for two weeks. Right away I saw that I wasn’t spending my time the way I wanted, on the writing process—first draft to completion. As a creative writing neophyte, I stumbled over myself in the seduction to be published. I was spending too much time online, researching writing sites, and looking for places to submit my work. 
After the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference, I morphed into a frenzied writing maniac. I cranked out short stories and blog posts, like my plane was going down. Consequently, I was caught up in the post-conference inspirational mode, without taking the requisite time to quadruple-check my work before hitting the ‘Submit’ button.  I was free-writing my blog, without much revision. I developed bad habits; not revising or proofreading as I should, before posting online and submitting stories for publication. 
I learned my lesson, when The Anchorage Press accepted a lengthy fire story I submitted earlier this month. I was horrified to find glaring errors after submitting my story. This was my first paying gig as a writer, so naturally, I freaked out. I typed so fast, my keyboard smoked and screamed in protest, as I dashed off my embarrassing email correction to The Press editor. I didn’t take enough time to fact-check, or proofread the piece one more time before submitting.
I was so excited The Press was publishing my story, I rushed through my process. Why I thought I had to complete my revisions in five seconds or less, I have no idea. I was giddy with the prospect of having a story published. I couldn’t stop dancing around long enough to plop my butt back in the chair to give the story another read. It’s no excuse, but I’ve learned my lesson: Take the extra time to proofread and revise! 
Admittedly, we writers must be multi-faceted; developing ‘fan bases,’ author platforms, reader-audiences, social media pages, tracking submissions, and all the rest. I became a multi-tasking fanatic, tense, stressed out, and not spending my time on writing. No wonder I was crabby. It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out I was doing too much at once and burning my candle five ways. The bottom line is, I’d rather be writing, and yes, revising.
Stop, breathe, slow down, and back up the trolley. 
I slowed my writing frenzy, to see how I want to spend my time. I found I was avoiding the elephant-in-the-room, or rather, the elephant-in-my-computer: Revision of my 85,000 word novel. I was avoiding revision, intimidated by the work, afraid I would lose my narrative voice. I want to finish this book. I’ve prioritized the revision of my novel and I’ve stopped obsessing about narrative voice.
I made a list of writing goals and priorities. I’ve placed myself on a revision schedule, and work on other things when I can. Revising is hard work and not as much fun as free-writing the first draft. I’ve changed my perspective on revision; to view it as a necessary and enjoyable part of the writing process, not a tedious, ominous workload. 
I tell myself: Breathe. One word at a time…Bird by Bird, as Anne Lamott gently advises. Stay the course, write with passion, and revise with equal passion. Keep the energy and excitement of the first draft in your second and third drafts…and readers will respond to this energy. After all, isn’t that why we do this?
Lois Paige Simenson lives in Eagle River, Alaska. She writes for newspapers and magazines, is a playwright, and has a blog, The Alaska Philosophaster, at Alaskazanylips.com. She is working on her debut novel, The Butte Girls Club. Her writing has recently appeared in The Anchorage Press, Memoirabilia Magazine, and online at Erma Bombeck Humor Writers.org.
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