In the process of revision, I discover things. – Rita Dove

In my capacity as an editor, I cannot count the number of times I’ve expected an author or illustrator to revise their work. The expectation for revision comes with every manuscript draft and with every batch of sketches. Revision is an integral and organic part of the writing and illustrating process. And with revision comes a final piece of writing or artwork that is as strong, as compelling, as meaningful, and as true as it can possibly be.

And so it is in life. Revision is an integral and organic part of the growing up process, the becoming-who-we-are process. Revising a manuscript or artwork can be frustrating and time-consuming. You just want to get it done already and isn’t it just fine as it is?! Revising oneself is just as frustrating and time-consuming, if not infinitely more so. To reconsider oneself, to make adjustments to oneself – surely that sort of self-examination is the hardest form of revision there is. And it can be the most empowering and ennobling form of revision there is. For don’t we want to be the strongest, most compelling, most meaningful, and most true people we can possibly be?

We don’t always recognize the opportunities life gives us in which to revise ourselves – the person who says, why don’t you just try it!, the conversation with a stranger on a plane that inspires a new idea, the chance meeting with someone whom we haven’t seen for many years, the unexpected loss of a job that forces us to think about what it is we really want to be, an illness that challenges us to pay attention to our bodily and spiritual health, the loss of a loved one that opens our eyes to how precious our time is here.

At first glance, we see so much of what life throws at us as either unimportant–trivial, silly, boring, nothing at all–or terrible–endless, hopeless, too hard, unfair. Much of my own world this year has spun off of its axis; such a tempest has made me aware of my own need to reconsider, modify, adjust. To revise myself in order to become whole and true. And I have to believe that in the process of finding my whole, true self that all that seems unimportant or terrible is, in fact, a necessary part of how we become who we are meant to be. Because it’s not enough to be done already nor are we supposed to be just fine. With revision comes revelation.

(c) emma d dryden, drydenbks LLC


  1. Amen. I've been revised many times, and each revision makes me a little stronger, a little smarter, (okay, a little older, but hey, it's better than the alternative!), and a little more sure of the person I was meant to become. Love this post.

  2. Wonderful post, Emma! I, too, have had to revise myself this year. Thankfully, I am one of those who LOVE the revision process in writing. I can't wait to finish my current WIP and get to revision... Thanks for great thoughts.

  3. Anonymous1/16/2010

    I agree with Ellen. Love this post. Two years ago, when my world was thrown off its axis, I was in a state of internal panic. I teach. What else can I do? I could not see beyond the box I had placed myself. The limitations I had imposed on my abilities. Nor did I believe in the successful fostering of any other of my potential dreams. I spent the better part of five months incapacitated mentally, stewing about my unforeseeable future. Though I'd done what I had to do, I'd committed 'career genocide' in the process, according to all my colleagues still operating inside the box. Unemployable now, throughout the entire province, since I had spoken out on the parliamentary level. Then, a newspaper reporter, who had come to know me, while delicately helping me to blow the whistle on the corrupt practises of my school board (employer), who were knowingly endangering the health and welfare of children and teachers in their charge, turned to me and said, "If anyone can re-invent themselves, you can." She said it with such certainty, such conviction it shocked me. I laughed out loud, thinking "Me? You must be mistaken." She continued, stating though she'd only known me for a small amount of time, she knew at the core of my being I had what it would take to bounce back from this adversity." After that I believed I did too. And yes, editing and revising my skill base was a challenge, and editing and revising my faith in my own ability was a challenge but, I like you, believe that through the process I have enjoyed the rare human opportunity to discover and "become whole and true" to myself. What a great blessing, eh!

    Oh, and I forgot, I'm still revising and editing daily, commiserating over (my new life goals and) my manuscripts, on a quest to make them "whole and true," and loving every moment of it! LOL

    Thanks Emma...I so love reading your insightful blogs...that pull heartfelt responses out of me!


  4. Ah, redefining normal daily. I love the revision quote: Revision is the opportunity to turn spilled milk into ice cream. It applies to our humanity as well!

  5. Linda Hayward1/27/2010

    In the same way a writer needs an editor (to get to that revision),a liver of life needs those losses and illnesses, as well as other persons, to get to that revised life. Thanks for your insights, Emma!