In a break from our series, Dispatches in the Field, we bring you this brief article from Michael Horvich, in response to a recent article about writer John Updike. Enjoy!
By Michael Horvich
This activity was motivated by an article in The New York Times on Monday, June 21, 2010 entitled “John Updike at Work: Revising ‘Rabbit at Rest’”
1) Why is it that almost every time I reread something I have written, I revise it? I have a tendency to repeat, to repeat too many times, and to prefer repetitions of three with a comma before the “and.” How is it that I will skirt around and around an issue rather than approaching it directly head on? I find that in my writing I will use many more words than I really need to when communicating an idea to my reader. These are some of the lessons that I need to keep in mind and to remind myself of every time I sit down to write and to revise. These are some of the reasons I am constantly revising my work.
2) Almost every time I reread something I have written, I revise it. I tend to repeat my thoughts in series of three, necessary or not. Rather than approaching issues head on, I skirt them. Using more words than necessary does not make my meaning any clearer. These are some of the reminders I use to help myself become a better writer.
3) Almost every time I reread something I have written, I revise it using fewer, more carefully chosen words. This helps me to improve my writing.
Fun to play with. It is in the revising that true writing reveals itself. It would be nice to fantasize about words arriving on the page in exactly the right way. We all know they do not. The written word can always be made better. We also know that at some point one must STOP obsessing and changing. Careful revision helps on that path to clarity as well as with knowing when to stop. I wonder if the Ten Commandments went through many revisions. “Well, maybe an Eleventh? No, let's stick to Ten.”