Revision, rewriting, editing … stop me when you’ve heard enough

Coming up on six months into this project, I’ve been revisiting some of my earliest posts. This kind of retrospection is always a little scary for us perfectionists. I tend to do it with only one eye open, stealing a quick glance and then looking away, my heart beating faster, trying to ignore the gall-like taste of humiliation in my mouth. (Yeah, OK: too melodramatic. That’s what perfectionism is all about.)

I’m surprised, actually, that I don’t completely hate every haiku I wrote six months ago. My very first post, in fact? I have a secret fondness for it. I keep looking at it trying to figure out how I would change it, but I keep coming up empty. It works for me, if not for anybody else. Beginner’s luck, I guess.

Things go downhill from there for a while, unfortunately. Reading through the month of May, I kept squirming, going, “That’s not the way you do it! I could do it better than that now!” Okay, not much better, necessarily, but … anyway, the temptation became irresistible. I started to rewrite. Not every haiku, just the ones I really couldn’t bear to let stand as they were, and had some clue what to do to make them better.

Then I started to post the rewrites below the originals. I haven’t gotten very far yet. I’d like to work my way along through the months, slowly, leaving a trail of shattered dreams and broken hearts — I mean, revised haiku — in my wake. I’ll update you, every now and then, on what I’ve done.

For right now, these are the posts that have revisions attached to them. Feel free to let me know whether you think I’ve made them any better, or just botched them up irrevocably, or whether they were beyond redemption anyhow. You can tell me how you would change them too, if you want. I’m interested. This haiku stuff has kind of gotten to me…


May 1: 2 (Seven Eggs Today)

May 1: 3-4 (Two Spring Haiku)

May 3: 2 (Tea Cooling)

6 thoughts on “Revision, rewriting, editing … stop me when you’ve heard enough

  1. Tea cooling is much much better. Way to go. You are an example for all of us to keep the pencil sharp and a critical eye. I enjoy the blog.


  2. i like your chickadee in the mailbox haiku.

    yeah, i like the tea cooling revision too.

    it’s another learning curve to this revisioning stuff, yes?

    every so often when i look back at work something surprises me and i wonder how i could have done that then when i cant seem to do anything even close to it now.

    looking at work after a time helps me to see the major flaws with less attachment to the work… so actually i have to say, cool on revising. sometimes.

    sometimes, however… after hours of revising, i realize as flawed as one is… it’s the best it’s going to be for a while. sheesh.

    fun to look through them tho, and if i actually use one for something other than simply writing them because i like creating them… then i give a more critical look (that’s where you raise one eyebrow and squint, right?) – and hope i dont mess it up more (which i know i have done thinking it’s better when in fact… yeah… uh-oh why the heck did i do that?) …so yeah, i keep the original version along with the updated one.

    cool on your blog.
    cool on revisioning.
    cool on haiku.
    oh, look
    haiku on cool too:

    this cool rain
    above the damp ground
    leaves tremble

    • Yeah, that’s often what I mean when I say I can’t think of a way to make something better … not that it’s perfect but that I, myself, can’t come up with a way to improve it, because I am a limited human being. πŸ™‚ Also, sometimes I just get really attached to things that I write, for personal reasons, or because I have weird taste πŸ™‚ , and I don’t really care if no one else likes them. That’s why I go back and forth on the whole getting-published thing all the time. I just have a really strong sense of what I like to read and what I like to write, which is not usually very close to what anybody else likes to read and write. In any genre. πŸ™‚ And even though I can see vast universes of room for improvement in my writing, I’m not sure they are necessarily the universes that most editors would prefer I traverse. πŸ™‚

      Sometimes I think I’m just being a spoiled brat and refusing to take advice from those older and wiser than I. Then I just read a great essay on Susan Antolin’s site (Artichoke Season, it’s in my blogroll — she is an AMAZING haiku poet and haibun writer — she was at Mineral Point) quoting Rilke to the effect that you can’t look outside yourself to figure out how to write, you can only look inside yourself. That’s where the stuff you need to write is.

      I keep reading. I keep writing. I keep changing stuff. Maybe sometimes it’s better and maybe it’s not. I do want to hear what other people have to say about it, but I try not to rely too heavily on anyone else’s advice or opinion. Although I have had some pretty spectacular advice given to me here, probably more than I deserve. πŸ™‚

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