I attended a poetry reading by Li Young-Lee last night. He read three poems he said he is ‘working on’. In fact, after the first, he said, “I need to change one word in that one. Next time.” I smiled and thought to myself, “No writing is finished, merely abandoned.”
I can’t remember who said that to me. And maybe they didn’t even say it to me. But it has stuck with me. In fact, I said that phrase to many students who wanted their writing to be ‘just perfect’ before handing it in. I don’t think it’s possible for writing to be ‘perfect’. Revision is always possible. We can always ‘change one word’ or one phrase. We can always have a better introduction, a better conclusion. We can always find a way to say something differently or better.
Also last night, a young writer sent me an essay she just received back from her teacher. I had ‘helped’ her with her process and she had received a 69/100. Ouch. The marks all over her paper were valid. Of course there is room for improvement. She is revising at this moment.
Revision. I do love revision. But it’s so hard! In order to revise we sometimes have to delete our creation! We have to cut out words that were so difficult to find in the first place. We have to make decisions about which of our thoughts get to stay and which have to go. It takes time. And thought. It’s agonizing.
And ultimately, we have to decide that enough is enough. We have labored so long on one piece, revised ad nauseum, and we can’t stand to work on it any more. So, we ‘abandon’ it. We submit it ‘as is’. It’s ‘good enough’. We did all that we could do.
We are not perfect. We cannot produce perfect work. It’s impossible.
Yet in our imperfection, we are not abandoned.
Do you remember the t-shirts from back in the day that said, “Be patient with me, God is not finished with me yet”? Cheesy, yes, but true. We are works in progress. The Creator continues to make revisions, shaping and molding us. He can visualize the finished product, and guys, we will eventually arrive there!
We will not be abandoned. The Creator does not tire of working with us. He doesn’t wad us up and toss us in the general direction of the trash can.
He cradles us in the palm of His hand, gently caressing and reshaping us. He conforms us to His image. And one day….
He who began a good work in you
will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
We, my friends, will not be abandoned. We will be completed.