Our souls, our buildings, and our manuscripts all benefit from revision. The most important of these commodities, our inner selves, arrive on Earth from the Realm of Perfection, become flawed, and then get subjected to treatments that put them back together. The most tacit of these commodities, our buildings, get erected as sound structures, but require regular renovations to keep them aesthetically appealing as well as right and proper for use. Finally, the most symbol-rich of these commodities, our writings, necessarily get repeatedly adjusted so that the bridges they build among our referents, references, and subjects are enhanced.
Presently, during these Yomim Noraim, these Days of Awe, these ten portions of twenty-four hours, which traverse the span from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, we focus on transfiguring our souls. We ask Hashem to modify our lives, to convert our transgressions into deeds of loving kindness in the World to Come, and in the World that Is. We pray for help with metamorphosing our commonplace goings and comings so that we, in turn, can metamorphosize our spirituality.
Additionally, we ask The Boss to rethink His judgment. We ask for compassionate, not severe, decrees and ask that all that we have enacted, spoken, or conceived of is evaluated only after it has been edited. We ask for a suspended appraisal, i.e. for a period of probation as human normal needs days, if not decades, to make over character traits.
Analogously, seasonally, we transform the second of these commodities, our homes. It’s standard to have to repaint the interior and exterior of our buildings. It’s customary to wash our windows, to swap out our old or broken appliances, and to update our decorations. What’s more, we anticipate: weeding our gardens, replacing our light bulbs, patching our screens, cleaning our gutters, mowing our lawns, washing our floors, raking our leaves, vacuuming our carpets, and so on
Functional homes are dynamic places. Hence, we anticipate having to upgrade them. After all, homes that are not maintained, repaired, reconditioned, or otherwise recurrently improved, in the least, lose resale value and become locations that few families or friends want to visit, and, at worst, garner fines for their owners for being fire hazards, being eyesores, or shy of compliance with neighborhood ordinances.
Whereas neglecting our dwellings, unlike neglecting our souls, does not fetter our eternal journeys, doing so limits our worldly pleasures. Being punished for material negligence costs us in resources. Reworking, it follows, is necessary to landlording.
Beyond altering our character traits and our homes, we also alter the third type of aforementioned commodities, our compositions. We manipulate the communications we record. Our reexamination of our labors is integral to removing their faults.
No matter if we revisit a piece a few times or a few dozen times, it’s tough not to appreciate the immeasurable nature of reconsideration. Indisputably, wordies must equally be readers, idea generators, and, in this contemporary market, roadmen. Yet, the main difference between having our deliberations rejected and having them published continues to be the degree to which we endeavor to redo.
Unquestionably, we are obliged to be readers. Reading provides context and concepts. More exactly, reading increases vocabulary, creates new synaptic connections, i.e. expands mental facility, and teaches many other indispensable qualities of discourse. Yet, reading is passive and as such doesn’t aid the treatment of a manuscript in the same way as does recasting.
Equally true, word players are compelled to be inventors. Generating, organizing, and developing our understandings, that is, formulating items for consumption, enables us to move our positions from amorphic to defined, makes possible our installing of patternings particular to given audiences (e.g. the use of active versus passive voice and the use versus the avoidance of enthymematic reasoning have varied over the centuries), and facilitates our satisfactorily substantiating our pages. Yet, inspiration and reasoning, either alone, or together, don’t aid the treatment of a document in the same way as does retooling.
Third, in the last half of this decade, advertising has necessary become part of fashioning verbal art. At this time, folk, who publish with one of the few remaining big houses, folk, who publish with an indie house, and folk, who self-publish, all are supposed to (help) engineer their texts’ promotions. We are expected to: host launch parties, participate in interviews, and more. Persons of letters with book-length publications, likewise, have to be active on social media. On balance, campaigning is occasionally superfluous since campaigning props up, but does not improve, products in the way that rehashing does.
Last, scribes should seek feedback. Savvy scribblers look for constructive criticism, especially if it contains suggested changes more than they look for immediate acceptance. Unlike immediate acceptances, assembled pointers are gifts that help authors grow. Sadly, not all people are sagacious and not all publications offer fee free comments. Accordingly, like reading, creating, and marketing, receiving feedback is less valuable than are self-powered amendments.
In short, to yield fruitful, effective writing, we must check over our exertions again and again. Overhauling our literature is more valuable than is wallpapering our homes, but less imperative than actualizing teshuva. In the process of tightening our materials, we can match our diction to our audiences, situations, and purposes. We can fiddle with spelling, grammar and punctuation and replace paragraphs whose content is erroneously crafted; extraneous notions can get cut, and half-finished notions can get completed.
Akin to regulating our hidden domains and caring for our homes, shifting our manuscripts costs us. Although software can help us with grammar and spelling’s minutia, programs are not entirely reliable (think of the problems that occur when homonyms are overcorrected or when specialized vocabulary is spot on, but marked as flawed since it’s not listed in existent, finite, electronic dictionaries.) Fine-tuning our stories, essays, and poems, moreover, involves inspecting relationships among macroscopic impressions. We have to apply ourselves to insure that the order of our thoughts (whether arranged chronologically, casually or via some other system) makes sense.
Interestingly, redrafting does not end when a work is published. Consider narratives that were once freestanding entities, but became anthologized. Consider segments of longer bodies that were repurposed as standalone briefs. Consider invited reprints that were tweaked to better conform to their new secondary, tertiary and quaternary audiences. Even after being broadcast, objects d'art can and are supposed to be repolished to make them suitable to their surroundings.
Too often, wannabes offer up insufficiently finessed submissions. In making haste to claim the prize of a(n electronic) byline, people cheat themselves. There’s little advantage in tendering our less than best efforts. True, most verbiage gets quickly scanned and quickly tossed. Nonetheless, some elements have a significant shelf life. The goods of persons who habitually tidy up usually enjoy great longevity than the goods of persons who don’t.
Just as we continuously improve our souls so that we might live healthy and happy lives, and just as we continuously improve our homes so that our domiciles retain their value and comfort, we ought to continuously improve our writing so that it achieves high rhetorical proficiency, provides, nuanced meaning, and yields inspiration. During this season of revision, we could gain from the habit of revision.