Book Review: “Living Revision – A Writer’s Craft as Spiritual Practice

Review by Bob Pajer

For anyone who has entered the writer’s world for publication of their works or not, this is a fascinating and expertly written book.  Elizabeth Jarret Andrew has a written a book that is truly a gift to us all.  Whatever you consider the word “spiritual”, in her chosen sub-title, to mean you will get a lot out of Andrew’s way of explaining what it exactly is to be a writer, in my opinion one of the noblest of activates.  I think her word “spiritual” is quite appropriate.  At least as I think of the word’s meaning, a place we go in our minds that focuses our attention on who we are, from where and why we are here.  None of which is clear to most of us, so we think of a higher power that can teach us.  For many, this higher power is within us, unclaimed territory for helping us to better understand our potential and the capabilities of realizing it. 

Andrew explains to us that in revision, that moment when the material we have written seems like it needs change in the direction of closer to what we are thinking and wanting to tell.  I have always found this phase of writing to frustrating, disconcerting and disappointing as an author.  However, I’m drawn to it nonetheless and I love it.  I am a pianist and all of the preparation for a concert performance is exciting to me, from the moment I introduce my self to a piece of new music.  Right up to the moment before performance I am tinkering and testing, listening and revising, aiming for perfection, while knowing the only thing I can do perfect here is practicing my skill and deeper understanding of the music.  All so that when the time comes and I’m ready to give this piece away I can do it with the fullest understanding of what it’s about.  Knowing the fathom achieved so far is a touch of something out there that is, well just there, for me to view in a very with limited perspective from a mind that places it’s own limits on it self for some rather strange reason.  My mind is always afraid of knowing not its limitations, but the grandeur of coming from its Higher Source, some call God. 

Complete with descriptions of what writing is, what revision is and then providing excellent what Andrew’s refers to as “Toolbox”  One such helpful tool box (p. 120) describes use of tools in “Looking for Clues.”  She quotes Patricia Hampl in this Tool Box:  “Now that I have the fragment down on paper, I can read this little piece as a mystery which drops clues to the riddle of my feelings, like a culprit who wishes to be apprehended.  My narrative self (the culprit who invented) wishes to be discovered by my reflective self, the self who wants to understand and make sense of half remembered moment about a nun sneezing in the sun.” 

Later Andrew says, “These are clues to your piece’s inner life.  Reflect on them in our journal, dialogue with them, stretch these moments in your draft with more details  — in other words, listen to what these clues say.”

That can be a profound spiritual moment, a time when you are able to step out of the box of never ending thought and mind wandering to a deeper place in your spirit, which by the way I believe is having a human experience here in this world.  You know, the place we chose to come to better understand ourselves, as though we could do such a thing in a world that is made (by us) to do just the opposite.  But we do remember the questions we have.  You know, the ones that impose on the comfort not knowing seems to bring at times.  The inevitable questions our Creator left with us when we decided to set up on our own account in a universe we make up to “validate” in the impossible.   Those She asks us, “Where are you?” when we need attention, like He asked Adam in the garden, “Where are you Adam.”  Of course They know. 

This is an excellent book, written by a person who thinks beyond the regular age old repetition the mind normally wants to impose on us.  A book that will be on my desk as long as I believe writing is a very special uncovering of what spirit means, I am desperately trying to communicate with you about things we are still hiding from ourselves, until we’ve gathered enough holy perception to take the final stages of a journey without distance to a goal that has never changed, Jesus says in “A Course in Miracles.”

I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book

review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are

my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part