Stuck in Revision

Well, here we are: we’re getting down to the last few days before our portfolio is due. Ever the procrastinator, I have (naturally) left my biggest problem pieces for the final two days; I keep hoping that maybe if I wait another day, my Poetry Brain will be more awake/better/have a sudden flash of genius that will allow me to get some significant work done on these pieces. Of course, that isn’t how it’s going. I’m so stuck. I’ve been sitting & staring at a blinking cursor for cumulative hours at this point. Revision is such a tricky little mistress; sometimes, it flows so easily that I almost wonder why I didn’t put this into a poem in the first place. But sometimes, I wonder how I even got to the draft that I have. I do have a few tricks for when I’m really, well-&-truly stuck. First, the obvious: I think I’ve memorized some of the comments on my poems from re-reading them so much. Sometimes, I do an exercise to push past the block:  I take the last line as it is & write something new out of that. I completely un-break the poem, edit to make it do what I want without the benefit of line breaks or white space, and then re-break it.  Or, I step entirely away from the piece: do other homework, make dinner, go for a walk, waste some time on the internet for a bit. So far, all my usual tricks are coming up dry. I’m sure I’m not the only one in this slump right now, so I figured we may as well try to get an “anti-writers-block list” going, because we’re all on a deadline now. What do you all do when you have a horrifically stubborn poem, or when your brain seems to actually shut itself off but you have so much left to do?

3 Replies to “Stuck in Revision”

  1. Sarah,
    My thoughts exactly. The revision struggle is so real right now. I find that a lot of the time, the issues in my poems are certain images that are either too abstract or just aren’t working. So here’s what I do to try and break the block: I take another piece of paper and do a kind of free-association thing where I write any words that come to my mind that could possibly be associated with what I’m trying to convey. I try to think of words with all sorts of tones–from silly and light to dark and violent. I then see what words may go together to form a unique yet affective image. This may sound crazy, but it really does help me! Maybe it’s something you could try to get some new ideas for revision.

  2. Margot is so right, the struggle is real and I am in denial.

    When my brain stuffs itself off, I fall into a state where all of my revisions are done. I am happy and I am calm. And then I fall back into reality and I realize that I have done absolutely nothing. Then I start panicking and I try to calm myself down, but that doesn’t work. After that I try calculating how much I can revise and still pass the class, and I start calming down. But then I’m so calm that I forget to do any work. Then I really realize the amount of work I have to do and I force myself to do work.

    That’s basically how I do it. It’s been my go to problem solving method for years.

  3. Revision always gets tricky for me because I have trouble parting ways with little things that I get too initially attached to, and then I get stuck trying to shift things around and truly make drastic changes. Part of the reason why my revision process is so hard/takes so long is because I get too caught up in the details and being super nit-picky can hinder any real revision to get done.

    However, something I’ve tried a few times before is getting rid of every other line of a poem I have already written and then filling in every other line with a new line and sometimes this changes the flavor just enough to take it to where you want it to be.

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