When I view the steps of the writing process–understanding there is purpose and delight in every part–I know I have appreciated most the process of revision. Some writers have a once-and-done approach, and maybe some can claim to getting the writing right on the first try. But, I have found that there is greater freedom of expression in taking time to discern the importance of each word and grammatical construct.
This is especially true in poetry because word count isn’t about quantity. It is about quality. Every word in a poem counts. Every break of a line creates emphasis. Every comma or dash or semicolon pauses the reading in a specific way. Every indent has intent.
The beauty of poetry is the freedom to break these rules within good reason. That good reason must include knowing why a rule is to be broken in order to add greater meaning to the poem.
As I revise and refine my poetry, I keep “good reason” in mind. I ask others to beta-read, to edit, to format, to check and double-check my blind-spots before the merge into publication. I have the freedom to reject their suggestions. Not every reader is going to understand with a first, second, or third reading why I chose a specific word or phrasing. But, I value the good reasoning of others during this process. More often than not, I sigh with relief when an error in spelling or in wording or in judgment is caught and can be corrected.
Freedom of revising with good reason carries with it great responsibility. Because some rules ought not to be broken. It’s essential to give credit to quoted texts. It’s prudent to consider compassion and empathy for every reader. It’s critical to be true, as much as possible, to all sides of truth. There is certainly freedom to break the rules. But, not to break trust.