Possibilities

Keep your mind open to the possibilities revision offers and take those possibilities from critiques you receive. Remember that as wonderful as you might think your first draft is, there is always another way to see it. Long ago, a professor outlawed explanations in a workshop I attended. If a writer tried to defend a technique or explain a plot twist, he would immediately cut them off. "You can't follow your manuscript out into the world, explaining it. The work has to speak for it-self."

This is what revision offers: the possibility that your intended story will go out into the world without your defenses or explanations. Readers will always rewrite our stories, finally. The reader has as much to do with what a story means as the writer does. But you control the process that precedes reading. Revision ensures that you write the story that you want to tell.

A fellow student in a writing workshop once expounded on the baptismal scenes in a story I had written. While the story had a character named Jesus, I had not intentionally written about baptism. Once I heard his comments though, I saw the elaborate symbolism throughout the story. Language works subconsciously. We are constantly reordering our relationship to meaning through language.

I was not raised with any real religious education. Growing up in Utah, I was something of an anomoly in that regard. Certainly, I knew about the Bible and the Book of Mormon and various stories from each. When I used the imagery in my story that my colleague identified as baptismal, I was not calling on language I had learned in seminary or Sunday school. But the imagery was unmistakably baptismal. And while I may not have been thinking of a Christian baptism, the scene is a depiction of conversion.

What does all this mean? That I would not have realized my own subconscious linguistic tendencies had I not participated in that workshop. The workshop experience is certainly an important element of revision. Obviously, it's a way of re-seeing your work through other readers. Stay open to the insights that others have to offer about your work. Some may be difficult to hear but if you realize that you are not being insulted, you might learn from the critique.

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