My Writing Life/My Revision Life

My writing life has changed once more and so have my revision strategies. No longer a student with 15- to 20-page papers to write, I have lovingly put the anthologies and literature on the bookshelf. I have the backup for my thesis safely stored both in hardcopies and on a flash drive. I can’t say I miss the rigors of graduate school, yet I don’t want to fade as a writer.

For now, besides a personal journal that I don’t revise at all (that is the glorious freedom of journal writing) and some stories I’m capturing about my ancestors (who will have to trust me to revise their lives honestly and fairly), I mostly write professionally. My professional writing time is occupied by work emails with publishers, lesson plans for classes or workshops, PowerPoint presentations for conferences, online chats with student writers at the Center for Writing Excellence, and this blog.

I find that these seemingly “simple” documents actually require as much thought towards revision as the long academic essay, if not more. In the fifteen-page research paper, there is time to explain, explain more, and explain further. In the email that requests an image from a museum or a rewrite from an author, clarity, directness, exact requests, and deadlines take on great importance. Subject lines, contact information, details, and attachments can make the difference between getting the information/action needed versus having to send a volley of emails with no, or slow, results. Or, gasp, picking up the phone!

Time is also of the essence when communicating with students. At the CWE, online sessions only last 25 minutes, just like the face-to-face sessions. Questions in the chat box or in the students’ text must be concise and thought provoking in order to encourage them to expand on their ideas and prove their arguments. In class, a lesson plan really can’t stretch on longer than class time, and often should only be a portion of the class with time allotted for student questions, discussions, group work, and freewrite responses. Likewise, conference presentations are constricted not by ideas or the knowledge you want to share, but by time. PowerPoint slides or a lively Prezi usually last only fifteen to twenty minutes in order to leave time for audience questions. Below are my messy notes for the 4Cs (Conference on College Composition and Communication) PowerPoint presentation. You can see that I even rip them up after typing and revising the important points I need to convey during my presentation.

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All of these business and classroom applications of writing demand revision strategies that are merciless to yourself as a writer, but helpful to your audience (and to your success in your position or presentation). Words carry great weight in any professional field—they reflect on your intelligence, sincerity, and ability to communicate with others. The words in my daily professional life aren’t as treasured as the ones in the novels, poems, and collections of essays on my bookshelf, but they are just as important to me.

For now, this professional writing is interesting and challenging—not as crafting a claim about older women characters in Toni Morrison’s Sula or comparing two Victorian poems—but certainly worth the time and effort to communicate well to other writers and professionals.

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