When I was writing my last post, I saw an interesting little tracking tool in my WordPress navigation bar: “Revisions.” A week or two before, I’d commented on another blogger’s post that I, like her, was a first-draft gal—I wrote the first thing that came to mind and pretty much left it at that. I might tweak it slightly, to correct little misspellings, etc. But that was it.
Interesting how perception and reality don’t live in the same universe.
Because I love facts, I checked the revision counts for all my posts. This is only my 13th, so it didn’t take that long. On average I revise these conglomerations of words 41 times.
The fewest number of revisions came in at 13, with the most at 84.
That seems a little nuts to me. How about you?
My husband (who is an artist/illustrator) and I have had many conversations about our paralyzing inability to let our pieces go. We have the worst time calling things “finished.”
In my defense, I used to work as a copy editor so the need to tweak is part of me now and not something I can just toss aside.
Also in my defense, I’ve been the victim of NSS (not saving syndrome) and have lost some important words. So I probably over save. Never mind that WordPress has built-in autosave. Still doesn’t feel like enough for me (even though it’s every two minutes).
I think the reason I’m so revision-spastic is it’s important to me to get it right, whatever ‘it’ may be at a given moment. I think it’s also because I’ve made enough mistakes to realize that the first round of anything is mostly crap. Actually it’s crap with sprinkles—makes it a little more palatable.
In a recent blog post, I talked about the thousands of seemingly inconsequential decisions we make in a given day and their unforeseen consequences.
Those aren’t the decisions that get me worked up though. I mean, we can’t really be held responsible for those finger-snap decisions. Especially when you consider that we spend 95 to 99% of our life working from the programming in our subconscious mind. It’s a wonder how we accomplish anything purposeful.
I’m talking about the conscious choices we make. And more importantly the do-overs we beg the universe for because we want one more chance to make it right.
I feel pretty lucky. I don’t have a ton of mistakes I wish I could go back and fix. But what I lack in quantity, I make up for in quality—I’m talking putrid boils of mistakes.
Even if I could fix those carbuncles, I wonder, how many times would it take me to get it right? And what might I screw up by “fixing” them?
My husband and I recently watched the movie About Time, starring Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams and Bill Nighy. The main character Tim finds out on his 21st birthday that he, like every male in his family, has the ability to travel back in time. Basically, he has nearly unlimited do-overs. He uses them to find the love of his life, which of course takes multiple revisions to get right.
Before Tim’s father dies, he tells him that the secret formula for happiness is to live each day twice.
The first time, live it ordinary, like everyone else.
The second time, live it just like the first, but this time notice all the sweetness in life that gets choked out by tension and worry.
Tim does just that, for a while.
Eventually, he realizes his need for do-overs, his need to revise his life, wasn’t necessary at all.
The truth is, I now don’t travel back at all. Not even for the day. I just try to live every day as if I’ve deliberately come back to this one day to enjoy it as if it was the full final day of my extraordinary, ordinary life.
That’s an awesome philosophy, and one that I promise myself to practice every day.
But that doesn’t mean I’ll stop revising the hell out of my blog posts or other pieces of writing.
So, what does this mean for my current work-in-progress? If it takes me an average of 41 times to revise an 800-word blog post, then I’m on track for about 3,600 revisions of my 70,000-word YA novel. Which means it will be in publishable shape about 50 years after my death.
Better go revise my What Kelly’s Working On page (for the 15th time).
So what about you? Are you revision-spastic like me or are you a first-draft girl, no matter what you’re working on? What would you do if you had the ability to travel back in time? What one wrong move would you change? And what’s an acceptable (i.e. normal) amount of times to revise a blog post??