Is the Muse Blowing Kisses on Your Pencil?

“I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.” ~ Truman Capote

(Posted, recently, on the Facebook page of writer and craft guru, Dinty W. Moore.)

Hello again, readers! Just thought I might share a new “Manuscript Monday,” and post a little of what’s been happening offline with my work.

When I was young, I hated revision. I thought that the more “meddling” was done to a piece of writing, the worse it became. With time I learned to embrace revision. I still don’t enjoy it, but I respect it, because what makes writing better, and revision better, is practice.

What does not improve my writing is waiting for September’s muse to blow kisses on my pencil.

revision craft writing Truman Capote quote

I recently finished a brutal revision on an essay that took a very long time. I removed, rearranged, and rewrote entire sections. It was an expanded version of one I had written over a year ago, entwined with two related pieces, and a copious amount of notes scribbled during a recent road trip. I shaped the work into a form I thought more suitable for the content.

The scissors hacked pieces of lovely prose, and sections that last year I would have deemed untouchable. When I was done butchering my piece, I had what felt like a disjointed and misshapen mess. I thought that I had lost the aesthetic during renovation.

But I let it breathe again, before bringing it out to re-read. I was grateful to realize that the scissors did what they needed to do, and the piece turned out as I hoped.

Maybe, for me, learning revision has been like learning to cut into a folded piece of paper as a child: each time the cuts are more precise, the edges balanced, and creative nuances begin to show in the shape of the cuts, the location of the nicks; and each time, the paper is unfolded to reveal a fully formed snowflake.

Or maybe after all that, I’ll learn it’s still just a chopped up piece of paper, unfolded to reveal a big square dud with a bunch of clawmarks. Maybe September’s muse needs to pucker up…


Writers, are you fond of revision? What’s your process?

6 thoughts on “Is the Muse Blowing Kisses on Your Pencil?

  1. I guess revising something you’ve written is just like anything else. When I am finished with a project, and have put so much blood, sweat, and tears into it; it really takes a lot of intestinal fortitude to listen to someone ask if this or that could be changed to make it “better”! I used to find myself arguing points just for the sake of pride! Even harder still was admitting, after having made the changes, that the project really was better because of those changes! Can’t imagine how difficult it must be to try to “become that outsider” suggesting change to something you have written yourself!!

    1. Becoming the outsider really is the most difficult part. I think that’s why most writing professors, mentors, coaches, etc., recommend time/distance. It’s the best thing for objectivity. Of course, making yourself shelve a piece for later review, just after the excitement of finishing it, is really difficult.

  2. Thanks guys. Sorry, I didn’t mean scissors literally. I just meant it in terms of cutting sections.
    I LOVE posty notes and flags, Pierr. That’s awesome.

  3. Way 2 go, Marla!! I never understood what revision meant really, so I can’t say I ever did it. I tried scissors once in another life and it worked well for a picture book manuscript. But I have to confess my revision process – up until recently – consisted of striking a word or a sentence and then putting the piece away for a few years. Now I’m into it, revising a novel, and having fun…like working a really big jigsaw puzzle. My process? Posty notes.

  4. I don’t write now but remember doing the scissor revision on essays and research papers when I was young.
    BTW, we went to the Country Junction yesterday and saw Bro Jeff having breakfast with his buddies including Uncle Jack.

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