A Word on Revision and Smugness

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My older girls have learned some valuable lessons this year on the importance of the rewriting process. They’ve also learned some hard ones in the form of less-than-stellar grades on projects turned in that should have received a second pass through the editing machine before submission.

I’ve learned a couple of those same lessons this year. The one from the summer doesn’t sting anymore, but I will never forget it. More recently, I turned in a biography project last week that just didn’t cut the mustard. It came back to me with suggestions for revision.

Nobody likes to be told her work doesn’t meet the expectation, but you know what? Mine didn’t. And had I given it the time it needed and a more thoughtful second glance, I would have known this before I hit “submit.” As it is, I’m thankful for an editor who is gracious enough to return it and say, “Hey, nice try, but please do this again.” He also suggested I take a break from it for a couple of days before taking my second stab.

So yesterday I sewed.

But today I tried again. Both Maddie and Chloe came to me at different times to see what I was doing and I told each of them that I had turned in a writing project that didn’t receive a passing grade and I was being given the opportunity to try again. They both knew exactly what I was talking about as they gave me knowing smiles and quietly left the room so I could work.

When I was in college I took Freshman Composition and aced it with very little effort. The notes from my TA glowed and I wrongly assumed I didn’t need to put much effort into Comp 2. Guess what happened to my grade in Comp 2? Yep. I was too smug to put in the work, which was reflected on my grade report in May.

Two points here: 1) Nobody is above the need for an editor and a second draft. Smugness is never our friend when it comes to writing. 2) Our kids need to see us flub up from time to time so they know it’s normal. They also need to see us revise our work without complaining. This is part of the writing process and a skill that they will need their whole lives.

Oh, and a third: Surrounding yourself with good writers and careful editors is golden. It especially helps if you marry one.


One thought on “A Word on Revision and Smugness

  1. sandy dolan says:

    Thank you so much for this! I tell parents (of my middle school students) all the time that one of the most useful things they can do for their kids is to let the kids watch while they do something difficult. It’s especially useful if they can relate it to their own lives.
    School can be hard, and our kids need good models of how to handle the inevitable bad grade or *request* for revision. Your girls are so blessed!


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