Monday, October 8, 2012

Revision in Everyday Life

One of my Instagram shots.
the author of this flyer didn't bother to proof read the headline.
It always surprises me how often I will come across writing in the professional and academic world that has not been thoroughly revised. I recall when I was in high school and college I had peers who were all about the one-and-done mentality, first draft purists, if you will, acting as if a second draft was infringing on their creative freedom and raw genius. I knew a girl who wrote poetry in high school, who would write poems on random sheets of paper in rough form and just leave them around the house to find and read at another time. I suggested to her that she collect the poems into a book and develop them – no, that would have ruined her creative process, I was told in some roundabout way.

A few weeks ago, I found myself explaining to my daughter, now in eighth grade, the importance of revision while helping her with homework. It’s a funny thing with her, she has raw writing talent, it appeared at a very young age, but she refuses to believe she is good at it and voices how she “hates it.” Thing is, after walking her through a few revision steps to help her with some creative and essay writing assignments for which revision was required, she was excited about the work she produced. She loved it as she read it aloud to my wife and me! Then she quickly moved on to some other non-related topic as thirteen-year-olds often do. I look forward to the day when she realizes her intrinsic talent in this area and enjoys it.

I’m not one to preach, but I will share this advice with anyone willing to listen. Revision is a strong tool not to be ignored, even if you are writing an email at work. Ever notice some emails from co-workers are written so well that they are short and to the point, you understand what the sender is communicating without effort and even feel that person’s mood come through? It’s a beautiful thing; anyone can pull it off with the slightest effort. Unfortunately, what I see more often than not are messages typed in a hurry filled with misspellings, texting-style shortcuts and ambiguity, sometimes responding with a single word answer to a series of questions with no clarity as to which question has been answered. This of course necessitates follow-up questions and turns into a lot of wasted back-and-forth time that could have been prevented by sending a clear message in the first place. The key: proofread what you wrote and revise as necessary, it doesn’t take long to do. And the larger scale the communication, the more critical this step becomes.

I know old habits dies hard, people are stuck in their ways. I get all that. But consider the simple tool of revision in your daily life as a way to help you get ahead and not waste your valuable time.