An Online Writing Retreat
Welcome to the final part of this online writing retreat! Per usual, remember to get grounded, situated, and prepared before moving forward. And, again, remember to revisit your articulated intentions. If they remain accurate, wonderful. Keep them nearby and at the back of your mind. If they have somehow shifted, then edit them to more accurately reflect where you are in the retreat process today.
For this last hour, we are going to build on all of the material and reflections from the three previous parts and delve even deeper into your writing. For Part 4, we will spend the hour:
- Reflecting on the writing generated during the retreat
- Revisiting your work with an eye toward revising and editing
- Creating a plan for your writing practice moving forward
Alrighty then, let's do this!
Revisit and Revise
For some writers, revision can be a scary idea. After all, there are no specific guidelines or instructions. There is no “map” to direct you. It is during revision that you rely on your internal compass to guide the process, which requires delving into the unknown to see where you may end up or where the piece takes you.
Keep in mind, though, that once you become comfortable with the revision process and gain some confidence, you will likely find that you will enjoy it. Many writers find that it is their favorite part of the process during which the creative juices are at work shaping and developing a piece of writing.
To further dispel any fear or apprehension about revising, it is helpful to have an understanding of exactly what it is and the difference between revising and editing.
I like to think of revising a written work as a process of going deeper—an opportunity to get back into it, feel it, and take it further. Editing, on the other hand, I see as much more of a “thinking” process about addressing typos, punctuation, and grammar issues. Confusing these two processes often leads people to experience writer’s block, or somehow gets in the way of writing.
For more information about writing process, I invite you to review a brief tutorial I created called “The Process of Writing: Seven steps to help you avoid writer’s block and create polished, professional prose.” Although this tutorial is not about creative writing specifically, the information about revising and editing still applies!
My primary suggestion for engaging a revision process—of any genre—is to read the words aloud. Often, we can sense the parts that don’t “feel” right, or that don’t express exactly what you want it to express. I encourage you to read it over and over again, each version multiple times. Dive in, feel around the world you are creating in the poem and see where it takes you. Trust your gut. Stay open to discovery.
Learning from How Others Revise
When reflecting on your own writing, it can be helpful to understand how other writer’s engage revision by not only seeing their written revisions visually on the page, but also in their expressed reflection on how they go about it.
Consider this New York Times piece "Poetry in Action." After reviewing these revisions from 6 contemporary poets, was there anything you noticed about the revisions that stands out to you as particularly useful? How do they compare to your own work with revision?
In this brief video, poet Chase Twichell offers her thoughts on first drafts and revisions. What do you think of her perspective on first drafts? How does her approach align with or differ from yours? What feels right to you?
For this writing exercise, you will select a piece of writing to revise. Spend 5-10 minutes looking through your work and select one that feels particularly alive for you right now, or one that you think is particularly strong and evocative. Begin by reading the work aloud in its entirety and as you do so, underline or highlight the passages that you want to revisit or that do not feel exactly right to you. Try to re-enter the sensory world of the writing. If you are having any difficulty doing so, try closing your eyes, taking a few good deep breaths, and visualize the world of the work you have chosen to revise. Make changes as you see fit and follow your intuition! Set your timer for 30 minutes and work on the piece of writing for the entire time or you feel you have finished with it for now. You can always come back to it.
Take a 10-minute break before moving on.
Moving Forward with Your Writing Practice
Now that we are approaching the end of the retreat, it is time to do two things: make a plan for your writing practice moving forward, and reflecting on your experience of this retreat. But first, I want you take a look at the intentions you set for yourself for this dedicated creative time. How did your intentions change for this time, if at all? Did you achieve your articulated intention? Do you have a sense that you now have different intentions for your writing practice? Set your timer for 10 minutes, and free write about how your intentions have changed and what your new ones might be. How will you go about achieving your writing goals? Will it require writing every day or just a few days a week? How much time are you able to dedicate to it? Reflect on these questions as you set your intention and make your writing plan.
E. Annie Proulx was recently awarded a lifetime achievement award from the National Book Award Foundation. In her acceptance speech, she shared a powerful reminder: "Although this award is for lifetime achievement, I didn’t start writing until I was 58, so if you’ve been thinking about it and putting it off, well…" Her opening comment stopped me in my tracks and caused me to think about how I, and innumerable others, procrastinate working on our writing projects for many reasons--perfectionism, fear, self-doubt, inner criticism, whatever it may be. But, as corny as it sounds, all it takes is for you to one day make the decision to commit time and energy and passion to your writing, even if it's just a few minutes each day or each week. And, it's never too late to nurture the writer inside.
In this vein, I have one last writing prompt for you to close out this online writing retreat. Set your timer for 20 minutes and free write in response to this question:
If you only had one more day to write, what would you write?
Reflecting on SPARK!
Take a few moments to reflect on your overall experience with this tutorial. Were there some exercises that worked for you and other that did not? Do you have any questions for me? Is there anything about your experience that you would like to share? I invite you to contact me with any thoughts, suggestions, questions, or ideas at email@example.com!
I look forward to hearing from you!
Liz Burke-Cravens, Ed.D.