Look Again

I only revise minor detail. If I get to page three or four and the material hasn't shown me the way, I don't revise, I throw it out.

—Ann Beattie

I don't recognize any process called revision. Such is based on the notion that the inspired product is the real poem and that revision is when the conscious mind tinkers with it. Except in the smallest ways, revision doesn't exist. I simply work on poems a long time.

—Robert Hass

Not all writers perform extensive revision, as the quotes above suggest. Some craft their sentences so carefully during the writing process that they are essentially revising as they write. However, Robert Hass reveals that the entire process, writing and revising, is creation. If you resist the idea of revision, perhaps it is because you are attached to the idea that the initial act of writing is inspired. As inspired material, it takes on a kind of sacred-ness that rewriting seems to question. But if you think of writing and revising as part of the same process, you begin to realize that revision does not debase the initial work. Revision means exactly what it seems to mean, seeing again. To revise is to write more than once, to see your work through more than one lens.

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