Revision Disturbs our Emotional Core

Guest post by Carrie A. Pearson

To research this post, I Googled “revision in writing” which generated about 50,600,000 results in 0.36 seconds.

Really? 50,600,000 results on this topic in less than a second?

Why is everyone interested in revision?

I have an answer: because it is so darn hard.

But why? Is it because we believe we’ve already (painstakingly) chosen the best words that could possibly exist? Because we can’t imagine it differently? Because we don’t want to do the work? (I doubt that; writers are some of the most diligent people I know.)

One theory on why revision is difficult is really deep so hang in there with me. . .

Every piece we write is generated from the emotional core of who we are, what we feel, and how we operate in the world. The words come from the center of us. It’s a place we can’t touch but we can feel — a network that neuroscientists call our “emotional system.” My smarty-pants friend, Phyllis Stien, MS in psychiatric nursing and co-author of a recognized neuroscience textbook, says this about our emotional system and writing:

“Authors may not recognize that their emotional systems organize and direct their thinking. Who they really are at their core is reflected in their writing. That’s why there are emotional themes or connections in finished books the author may not know existed until the book is dissected.”

(Isn’t that cool?)

But when we are asked to change our writing, to revise, it is unsettling to our emotional system, to say the least. We feel a discord and because of this, we resist.

The problem is revision is a necessity for writers, and like teeth cleanings, we really should learn to appreciate it or at least not hate it.

What can we do to revise better?

Picture a puppy resisting a forward tug on a leash. Sometimes it takes reframing (or treats!) to change how we view the new direction. When I’m feeling off kilter and resistant, I go back to my intention for the piece and remind myself what I hoped to communicate. It wasn’t wrong the way it was originally – it just began from a different point in my emotional center. Stepping back in there allows me to reframe it and find my footing again — even if I have to take 50,600,000 tiny baby steps to get there.

More from Carrie A Pearson

Carrie is currently on a blog tour for her new book, A Warm Winter Tail. Make the rounds for her blog tour and comment on each blog–and you could be the lucky winner of an autographed book and plush animal.

Carrie A. Pearson is the author of A Warm Winter Tail, a lyrical picture book about animal adaptations illustrated by Christina Wald and published by Sylvan Dell Publishing debuting this fall. She recently completed a MG historical novel, Chasing Home, requiring a lot of revisions, which she is querying now.

4 thoughts on “0

  1. I have so much trouble fighting with myself to do revision. I love doing grammatical, sentence structure revisions, and have even been known to slice a scene once or twice, but doing a specific, structure- and plot-related rewrite completely devastates me. It makes me feel wounded.

    I liked your idea about discovering a new emotional core for the revision process. To become emotionally attached, not to the story you have written, but to the story that needs to be rewritten. To become invested in the revision, despite the sacrifices necessary.

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