Two Kinds of Revision

by Kori Linn, WITS intern

The semester – and likewise my three awesome WITS classes at Ballard – will soon draw to a close. The end of a writing class almost always means only one thing. We’ve done free writes, learned tactics, shared ideas, and generated work. We’ve seen students open, some slowly like flowers and others in a lightning flash moment. We’ve watched them find their voices, some in the structure of rhythm and rhyme and others in a voiced-up frenzy akin to performance art. We’ve seen smiles of recognition and been called the “writing ladies.”

And so, that brings us to what I truly believe is the hardest tool of the trade: revision. After doing all that work and breaking through to the voice and trusting a piece of paper with word-shaped bits of one’s soul, then we demand even more. Cut it. Change it. Make it better.

Better? But how can it get any better? This is my soul here, you know. Clearly it’s the best thing ever, duh.

Duh, indeed.

However, revision does offer a gift of sorts. In the first place, it offers the chance to write anything you want, because you can always revise it later. Then it offers a chance to play with what you’ve already made, arranging and rearranging the piece to see how they work or what different things you can make them do. Much like apprentices learn how things work by taking them apart and examining their parts, so, too, does revision offer this opportunity.

It also offers the chance to see something with new eyes, possibly with eyes you didn’t even have when the thing first came into being. Which brings me to the other kind of revision, the root of the word, the concept of second sight or seeing again. As my time with this set of students – my first WITS classes – draws to a close, I am not just helping them look back at their own work, I am looking back at my own work and the work of the lovely Rachel Kessler.

Despite only seeing these kids once a week, they’ve left their mark on me. In many ways they’ve probably impacted my writing as much I’ve impacted theirs. And now it’s almost time to let them go.

I’d like to be devastated by this. I’d like to lament and pout and refuse to get out of bed. I’d like to resist this necessary closure, but I can’t. I’m too busy. I’m too busy laughing (out loud no less) at their hilarious poems, too busy reading their riddles to friends and MFA classmates, too busy trying to formulate articulate responses to their questions, comments, and expressions of angst. In short, I am too busy having fun with them to mourn what I know is inevitable.

And so what if it’s inevitable. I might have to let these students go, but the past few months have given me something else, something that the end of the semester can’t take away.

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