December 10, 2012

Revisions Suck Because You've Got Good Taste

Beloved Husband, the recording engineer, is fond of saying, "I don't finish projects, I only abandon them."

I can totally relate. Revisions are really hard. It's hard to pick apart my work, ferret out the flaws, and delete my darlings. Every time I think I'm done with a piece of writing, I'll pick it up a week, or a month, or a year later and find something else wrong with it. It's maddening, but it's also a sign of growth.

I posted this quote from Ira Glass about a year ago, but I thought it was especially relevant as I begin revising my work from NaNo, and I wanted to share it again.
“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste.

But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit.

Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.

Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
This is a paraphrased quote by Ira Glass (I got it here), the host and producer of the radio show, This American Life on Public Radio. Mr. Glass's words cut right to the heart of what it means to embark on a creative endeavor - of any kind.

Stick with it. Don't quit. Do the work.

Here's the whole video in case you are interested.

Hang in there, my friends. Have you started your NaNo revisions? How long do you wait before revising something you've written?


  1. I love this quote. I regularly listen to it, especially when the crows are circling. It's normal to take a while. For the first time ever, I'm normal :D (textytext video, same quote)

  2. I personally love revisions, but I know what you mean about it being maddening to realise you'll never really be done. Even the really successful published authors will often have typos in their published works.

    We just have to do what we can though :)

  3. Such a great post! And very, very true. It's so hard to match what's in our minds, and only words-on-page (volume) will get us near to that.

  4. I abandoned my first few novels. I saw too much work to be done and thought it'd be better to just scrap it :) Lately I've at least gotten to the point where I feel like edits are worth it!

  5. Well you chose something from Ira Glass, so clearly you have good taste. ; ) I have trouble with revisions as well. I butt heads with my manuscript quite often and a lot of the times wish I could just throw the papers out and walk away. Luckily, I never do and keep on. But there are several novels tucked away waiting to have their revisions finished one day.

  6. thanks for sharing. I've been struggling because I feel like I'm missing that something in my writing. i just have to keep on going and some day I'll figure out what it is.

  7. I quit once. Silliest thing I ever did. I won't quit again. Besides, I love writing too much.

  8. First drafts are the catepillar and the finished novel is the butterfly. The molting stages (there are more than one) are a necessary evil (although some like that stage) and need to be accepted as just part of the process. It's the only way to keep going....and remain sane! :)


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