While writing is a solitary task, all writers are dependent upon others to help them achieve a goal. Whether it be an understanding family, a dedicated critique group, and/or an excellent editor, writers thank these important individuals in the Acknowledgement section. This post seeks to pay homage to the one whom I owe a debt of gratitude: Tilly Warnock.
In 2009 I completed the second year of a five year program towards a Masters degree through the Bread Loaf School of English. I registered for two classes. One was a “how to teach Shakespeare” course – which proved invaluable in helping me motivate 8th grade students to memorize and perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The other was a writing class that I hoped would help me inspire students to write.
Much to my surprise, this class sparked a interest in me that has only swelled with each passing year.
The class was entitled, Rewriting a Life: Revision as a Life Skill, and used several texts including William Stafford’s classic: You Must Revise Your Life. While the course was intense and involved work considerably outside my comfort zone, it was the kindness and compassion of the instructor that made the class memorable.
Tilly was able to take a group of eighteen strangers and make them intimate friends in a matter of hours. She peeled away the layers of self-consciousness and perfectionism, and inspired us to share our authentic voice. I learned how to accept constructive feedback, and how to bleed on the page. I had never heard the term “creative non-fiction” before the class began… and I left with confidence to pursue this writing genre.
Tilly and my fellow classmates taught me that revision means to “see again” Not just simple edits here or there, but the willingness to undergo a complete overhaul. The essence may be good, but the execution needs work. Often revision requires experimentation with no promise of success. In fact it is through the many failures we learn most about the direction we need to take.
When I thought about starting a new blog, I considered the idea of “redefining life after 50” – but the title did not ring true. REVISING is the better word – le mot juste. It is taking what is in essence good – and experimenting with Point of View, Organization, and Focus – to make improvements so it becomes the best it can be.
So thank you, Tilly, for helping me find this latent passion and enabling me take the necessary steps towards a meaningful second half of life.