My dad has a passionate hatred of olives on, in, or even in the general vicinity of his food. He’s convinced their mere presence contaminates anything else on his plate. So when he eats at his favorite small-town diner, he’s always careful to tell the server that he wants his dinner salad without the black olives they usually include. Except this time the brand-new teenage server plopped it down in front of him complete with a generous helping of his much-loathed food.
“I’m sorry,” he said, “I asked for the salad without olives.”
She thought a moment, said, “No problem,” reached out to scoop the olives out with her bare hand, and walked away holding them.
Here are the answers to the three questions you’re now asking: No, he didn’t eat the salad.
No, we haven’t stopped laughing yet.
No, he didn’t call over the manager to rat her out. But the next time he went in, he pulled aside one of the more seasoned servers and asked her to make sure the young woman understood there might be a different way to handle the situation.
There are different ways to handle a writing revision as well. Revision is the least favorite part of the writing process for most young writers. So having different approaches on hand is a good way to keep students coming back to this all-important process.
The common approach is to simply work one’s way through the ﬁrst draft, making corrections and taking out the “olives” as you go. But this isn’t always the best tactic. Some seasoned writers recommend that for a second draft, you go back and start fresh, rather than merely ﬁx what’s already on paper. It sounds counter-intuitive—don’t you lose what was good about the original, along with what wasn’t working? But the truth is, this more radical approach can give young writers permission to “color outside the lines” of their original drafts. Having written the ﬁrst draft still informs the new version in an important way, but it doesn’t limit it. Sometimes this approach can elevate the writing to a whole new level.
As my dad might say, once his food has been touched by olives (not to mention someone else’s ﬁngers), he simply can’t eat it. The only answer is to start with a whole new salad.