This Wednesday morning at my daughter’s elementary school, the littlest ones – the kindergarteners and first graders – shared some of their work. Their teacher had encouraged the kids to work on revision, with a method I found so familiar I might have written it myself: be specific, persevere, don’t be mean. The children showed their school – fifty students and a handful of teachers and parents – a science experiment, snowflakes they made, a girl’s story she had written four times. Excited about the holidays, the little girls wore sparkly dresses.
I didn’t encounter the revision word until high school. Revision was a hated word, a punishment, a sign of slacking or incompetence. Not until I hit the second half of college did revision become deeply engrained in me.
In graduate school, I had a professor who told me, Revision is our life. Widen your lens: re-envision. Perhaps that’s why I found this morning so particularly interesting: at such a young age to begin looking at your doings, not in a spirit of despair or judgement, but in creativeness openness. That may be a long stretch for a five-or-six-year-old kid, but good habits took me an embarrassingly long period to learn.
For what it’s worth, Shelagh Shapiro (author of a fine Vermont novel The Shape of the Sky) interviewed me for her Write The Book Radio program (listen here). Listening to the podcast driving home last night, I thought, Slow learner. Which, perhaps, was why I enjoyed the little kids this morning. And the young authoress today did her own illustrations, as well.
Revision is one of the exquisite pleasures of writing.
– Bernard Malamud