I have been writing poetry since before I even knew what it was or what it meant. It is something that has always come naturally to me, something that has always been important to me, and something I’ve never really known how to stop doing. However, something that was new to me when I began taking college workshops was the concept of revision. In my high school creative writing classes, the concept was certainly introduced, but after submitting our work, we got our assignments back, got the grade, and never had to revise. Revision was entirely left in our hands. And quite honestly, it was something that I never did. I felt that once my piece was written, with the exception of an occasional word change or line break change, it was usually complete.
When I got to Geneseo, my 201 workshop introduced me to the idea that revision was absolutely necessary in order to make the piece as effective as possible. After all, what is the purpose of a workshop if not to revise a piece and utilize the feedback being provided by other writers? We were not only introduced to the importance of the revision process, but also required to submit a revised version of our original workshop piece for a second “revision workshop”. When I revised this piece, I no longer felt like it was my own. I felt as though I took far too many suggestions, I drastically changed the structure and lots of other aspects of the poem until it no longer felt like my poem at all. This was no one’s fault but my own: but it made me even more afraid of revision than I had ever been. How to reconcile my preconceived idea that a poem was done once it was complete with the concept of workshop, something I’d be participating in for the next four years of my college education and my Creative Writing degree?
When I sat down with Lytton in office hours, my first question was how to begin reconciling this struggle of mine. This is my third semester at Geneseo, my second as a Creative Writing major. It’s my second time taking poetry, and for some reason, now more than ever, the feedback I am receiving is overwhelming me. My conversation during office hours reminded me of something important: everyone’s process is different, and also everyone’s process is valid. The idea that I have of my first thought being the most honest and real version of what I’m trying to say is valid, and revision isn’t about pleasing readers or changing your work to the point where it doesn’t feel like yours anymore. It’s about clarifying, using words that may make the piece make more sense, may remove readings from the room that you’re not okay with people having, and most of all, allow the poem to live up to its full potential.