Every fall, my mom and I load my nephews and niece into the car for one of my favorite meanders: a visit to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. In the years it has taken for the oldest of the kids to go from babies to texting teenagers, we have perfected the art of stretching the Arboretum’s Three-Mile Drive into a several hours’ ramble.
There are yearly rituals: a stop to see if the kids can still squeeze themselves inside the little houses, a good long roll down the big green hill. But our leisurely pace also affords us the time to notice something new each visit: the texture of this particular tree trunk, the fire captured in that individual autumn leaf. The vista of the distant barn crowning the treetops.
This taking-a-deep-breath journey allows me the chance to notice the way the teenaged nephew who Grandma once carried across this same parking lot, now leans down to protectively offer Grandma his arm.
Sometimes writing, particularly in the revision stage, requires that we slow ourselves way down. It is not always possible to hurry and still do it right, but given enough time, we have the opportunity to notice the texture of the words, to ask ourselves if the piece’s fire burns brightly enough.
The next time you challenge your students to revise, encourage them to notice each individual word. Ask them to focus on the discoveries they are making, rather than on the destination of a due date or a grade.
Sometimes moseying makes for better writing.