Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Return Visit

by Lisa Bullard

1_14GooglyEyesSan Fran­cis­co has an eerie qual­i­ty of rein­ven­tion that is unique to that city for me. When I make return vis­its to oth­er des­ti­na­tions, the visu­al “pieces” from each trip start to fit togeth­er like giant jig­saw puz­zles, and even­tu­al­ly I form an inte­grat­ed pic­ture of the whole place.

But despite the num­ber of times I’ve vis­it­ed San Fran­cis­co, each new vis­it feels as if I’m see­ing some­place new: the city feels com­plete­ly remade to me. It’s as if, between my vis­its, the cur­tain goes down and they replace the stage set.

If only I could bot­tle it, this San Fran­cis­co syn­drome would be enor­mous­ly use­ful to writ­ers. The abil­i­ty to suc­cess­ful­ly revise requires the abil­i­ty to return to a work-in-progress as if you’ve nev­er seen it before. But this can be incred­i­bly dif­fi­cult. We become attached to the work as it is already wri‚tten and, when we revis­it it, we notice only how eas­i­ly it fits togeth­er, instead of being able to tru­ly “re-vision” it.

Some­times, how­ev­er, all it takes is time away. One of the best tac­tics I’ve found to aid a fresh look is some­thing I call “putting it in the draw­er.” If I set a piece aside com­plete­ly, ignor­ing it for sev­er­al weeks, I often find that dur­ing my absence from it the set chang­ers of my imag­i­na­tion go to work. When I return to the piece, I’m able to tack­le the revis­ing task with far greater objec­tiv­i­ty and skill.

I know from expe­ri­ence how reluc­tant stu­dents usu­al­ly are to revise their writ­ing. Why not try my sim­ple San Fran­cis­co trick? Ask them to set the work aside for a week or more. When they final­ly come back to it, they are more like­ly to return with a fresh set of eyes.

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