How to revise a story after a long time away from it.
A story becomes real because of what you put into it when you write it. You breathe life into it with your care and attention. That’s what makes it feel alive.
When you write with presence, your story becomes true, regardless of how much time has passed since you wrote it.
Your writing doesn’t have an expiration date. The stuff in your notebook doesn’t care what day, month, or year it is. You can jot down a note today about the way sunlight shines into your glass of ice water, and that detail might not show up in a story until five years from now.
Something you thought was a whole story last year might be character development for a new chapter you are going to write next year.
Embrace this vexing uncertainty, know that your story doesn’t work on a linear time continuum, and use this to your advantage.
A story is not a static object – it’s an evolving entity that is a reflection of your own energy.
When you come to a story after time away from it, ask yourself: where can I find the truth in this story now? What does this story mean to me today?
Many things might have changed in your life since you first wrote it. You may be a different writer now. This happens when you’re submitting stories to journals. A story comes back to you after 8 months away with a rejection letter attached to it. It’s hard to remember what you were trying to do when you wrote it the first time!
If you try to go back and write the story according to what you thought it was before, you might miss what is real about the story for you right now.
And if you abandon it because you feel like you don’t know it anymore, you might also miss the gift it is offering you.
Because you wrote it with presence, your old story is still alive.
Go forward into your revision with curiosity. It wants to tell you something about who and where you are at this very moment.
Your story is smarter than you are. If you treat your story with respect as you rewrite it, will offer you insight.
Anything you choose to write is worth pursuing, if and when you decide to pursue it.
The important thing is that you write your story with presence – the actual content comes second, believe it or not.
Photo credit: Jana Sabeth on Unsplash
Thanks, Sarah. It was the perfect time for me to read this and take it in. I've just returned to a short story, written at the early onset of Covid, that now reads like an historical text! I'm reworking it but was having trouble moving past that original context. The story did feel static, frozen in place. I've decided to leave that draft intact, for the archives, and move on with an untethered version, one that hopefully will find a new way.
You are AMAZING, Sarah!!!
Canot thank you enough for
your insightful comments. You
Invite us to rise up to deserve
the crown you invite us to assume.
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