The Power of Revision – 5 Sep 2021
I attended a keynote by Prof Stephen Krashen in a webinar hosted by Chulalongkorn University Language Institute on 27 Aug 2021. He shared his insights on the crucial role of revisions on one’s writing, which I find very interesting.
We all know that writing involves a lot of revisions. Indeed, some people have even suggested that writing is revising. The revision can range from making minor tweaks of our first draft or more often than not, completely discarding or abandoning what we wrote earlier.
Ernest Hemingway famously said that our first draft stinks (he actually used a four-letter word that begins with the letter S); our second and subsequent drafts, while not perfect yet, are usually better. They are much more polished in terms of contents, flow, style, clarity, flow etc.
Prof Krashen and other top scholars would also say the same thing. They keep revising until they see a polished piece of work. Now even this polished work is not perfect, because a few months later we may find that what we had written earlier was either partially or worse, completely wrong. Then another round of revision or rewriting begins.
In his keynote, Prof Krashen also shared an important insight about writing blocks, which all writers experience. The best thing to do, he said, is to not continue writing because doing this will just exacerbate the problem.
Stop writing, he says, and consider doing something completely unrelated to the writing task (e.g., washing the dishes, jogging). Let our mind work behind the scene as we wash the dishes or do other trivial things. Incubation, he points out, is the secret of overcoming writers’ blocks.
Another important insight that he shared was that established writers have developed a daily routine of writing. Some do it in the morning, some in the afternoon and others in the wee hour of the night. Some spend 2 hours writing, while others 3 hours or more.
But the key point here is that they write every day, every single day. This is how they maintain and extend their writing skills. This is how they improve on their writing.
Novice writers can learn from the experience of expert writers. The road to becoming a good writer is long and winding, but if we persevere and keep doing it regularly, we too will gradually find writing to be an enjoyable and rewarding activity.
Related article: The joy of writing