Friday, June 18, 2010

Spilling Ink: Day 18

"Let's talk about revision." The words don't even finish rolling off of your tongue before the grunting, groaning, and eyeball rolling begin.  This is by far the hardest part of the writing process.  Most kids have put their blood, sweat and tears onto the paper and it hurts their hearts, not to mention their hands, when we tell them they need to revise. 

As teachers, we possess the power to change our students' attitudes about anything, including revising.  If we treat it as "an elaborate, interactive puzzle," rearranging some pieces, tossing some away, and adding new ones, it becomes much more intriguing.  

All kids want to be heard.  We can encourage them to be heard through their written words.  We can teach them that the more powerful their words are, the more carefully crafted they are, the more likely readers will want to read more of them.  That's the power of revision.
In Section 18 of Spilling Ink, there is a sweet analogy for revision.  Ellen Potter tells a story about grooming her horse, who was in dire need of a make-over.  The horse's mane was a tangled mess of burrs and mud.  As she began detangling, her neighbor dropped by and joined her in the job. Ellen marveled at her neighbor's patience and asked her if she found it to be frustrating.  She said she got kind of "into it" after a while and that the horse was going to be beautiful when they were done.  (I've paraphrased here, just like I've done in every other post.  The story is much more well-written by Ellen Potter.) 

She says that is the way writers should approach revision.  Yes, it's difficult.  Yes, it works better if we take our time.  Yes, it is sometimes painful.  But the beauty we find afterwards is well worth it.

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