Revision: Friend or Foe?

posted in: Tips 96
Dorothy Quincy Hancock, thinking about my revision dilemma. John Singleton, 1772. Image: Wikipedia.


A word.

When I post open-ended questions, when I start surveying the ol’ PG readership about this or that, it’s not because I’m making you do my blogging work for me; it’s because I care about who you are. I know seems just totally unconscionable, but I get tired of myself! I’d rather hear about you!

So, tonight, a question for you: Should I go back and edit old blog posts?

Now — and this is important — should I go back and edit them not because I’m prepping them for publication or because whatever, but should I go back and edit/rewrite because I think they aren’t written as well as I could write them now? Or because they just are weird or there are typos or because the internet is Forever and I want to make myself sound funnier/smarter/wiser forever than I actually was at the time of writing the post?

This is a 21st century problem, y’all.

Because I was going to do a “Pendennis Picks Three” tonight on account of how I’m so tired. I was going to rest on my laurels because I’m on location for Quiltfolk (I can’t tell you where we are for Issue 07 but it’s going to blow your mindand I need to rest. Badly. But when I pulled up some entries from 2015, 2016, etc., to post as a flashback and thereby not have to make new words, I read them over and was like, “Aggghh! No! I wrote such lame sentences in that post!”

And now here I am, more tired, and writing new content.

Should I just leave old blog entries as time-capsules?? Leave them to represent myself at that time of writing? Or should I do whatever I want with my blog and fix them up how I like them? Or like them now, as opposed to then.

I need help. My brain hurts.


96 Responses

  1. Anne Sommerville
    | Reply

    Let it be……

  2. Gail
    | Reply

    Please don’t rewrite the older posts. I like you just the way you were and are!! Also, I just received the Arizona Quiltfolk today and can’t wait to see where Issue 7 takes us!

  3. Luelle
    | Reply

    You leave it because it’s a snapshot of who you were in that moment.
    You leave it to see how far you’ve come, how much you’ve grown.
    You leave it because nobody else will ever pick apart your work the way you yourself will. It’s like quilting, you have your face right up against your work all the time so you have trouble finding perspective and you become overly critical. But when it’s done and you take a few steps back to look at it as a whole, it’s perfect because it’s a series of moments unique to you that make up something even greater than the sum of its parts. Something with a human hand.

    • Kathy Callahan
      | Reply

      Luella says it perfectly! I agree completely.

    • Rita Farro
      | Reply

      Because this comment is so well written, I’ve decided to save myself a little time and say — LISTEN TO LUELLE!!

    • Karen Johnson
      | Reply

      Well Said Luelle! I agree – don’t change them.

    • Maggie
      | Reply

      Luelle has it completely right! That was you then, this is now. You change and progress through life – would you go back and rewrite your journal from childhood (we all have at least one,), no, because that’s the history of you, just as your blogs are now

    • Summer
      | Reply

      Luelle and Caroline Kennedy have got it right! Was listening to the podcast of The History Chicks (WARNING: You WILL get hooked!), and they linked to the 2011 Diane Sawyer special about the book/audio recordings of Jackie Kennedy. Caroline was tasked with editing her mother’s words. She didn’t. She said (to paraphrase), although she could hear her mother in her head saying that she wished she might have said things more diplomatically or re-worded things, it was a time-capsule of who she was at that moment (about 4 months after the assassination). I think history will thank her for preserving the unedited version and not making it PC just because that’s the taste now. Don’t mess with your past essence. Let her be her flawed self. That way, growth can be seen, and history will thank you! (Perfection is over-rated and subjective anyway.)

  4. Pinkdeenster
    | Reply

    A dilemma, indeed. Typos, grammar – no-brainer – those are fair game. Better words, more picturesque turn of a phrase – depends, I think. Did you choose the words in the original post because you were tired? In a rush? Do posts that include the “lame” sentences actually play well when seen as a collective? Do you just wanna clean it up. Will the new words dull the “in the moment” feel that is part of the treasure of PG?

    Your blog. Do what makes you happy, if you can make it end and not keep revising at the cost of us gaining new words (because, well, it’s all about us, after all!)

  5. Jeanann
    | Reply

    Leave them as written. [However, I understand your angst.] I quite possibly WOULD edit mine.

  6. Ruth Quinn
    | Reply

    Leave them as is! If you think that you can do better, do it in the future, not the past.

  7. MK
    | Reply

    Your question reminded me of something I remembered reading by Gene Weingarten of the WaPo. It’s from the introduction to his collection THE FIDDLER IN THE SUBWAY. He includes the quote “I hate writing. I love having written,” then says, “Sadly, the ‘having written’ part is now severely devalued. That’s because it is now possible to assemble one’s life work in a single electronic file … and then, with a simple click of a mouse, answer one’s own idle, innocent question, such as this one: ‘Gee, I like the adverb measuredly. I wonder how many times I’ve used it?’ Note to other authors: I do not advise this exercise.”

    A few paragraphs later he says this:
    “A real writer is someone for whom writing is a terrible ordeal. That is because he knows, deep down, with an awful clarity, that there are limitless ways to fill a page with words, and that he will never, ever, do it perfectly. On some level, that knowledge haunts him all the time. He will always be juggling words in his head, trying to get them closer to a tantalizing, unreachable ideal.”

    So I say: leave the old words alone. Write new words you like better — maybe after you’ve gotten a good night’s sleep.

  8. Pam
    | Reply

    Leave them alone! I’m just speaking for myself but I’d rather see potentially “imperfect” new material than a polished rewrite.

  9. Marta Evans
    | Reply

    Do a mix. Correct obvious typos or errors. Leave structure as is to be a time capsule. I have recently discovered you, Mary! You are a gift to us, humble recipients of your creative powers. Found your Quilty episodes on YT, then your FB, your books, your fabrics… awesome stuff!

  10. Li
    | Reply

    Previous posts are a snapshot of who you were then. My vote is leave them be. Use your time to write more new posts please.

  11. Tami Moore
    | Reply

    Leave them as is. It would be like requilting your quilt because you can do a better job now. You were doing you best at the time and they show your growth.

  12. Liza
    | Reply

    I would say just keep them as they are and move on. Write new stuff, That was then, this is now.

  13. Judy Dobbins
    | Reply

    Just leave them the way they were originally written, Mary. We probably already read it anyway and the whole point of using the old posts is to give yourself some time for rest! Re-editing doesn’t save you time! We’ll enjoy them just as much the second time around (and will be able to see how much your writing has improved over the years).

  14. Maureen MacDonald
    | Reply

    Perfect, as is, dear Mary.
    Your writing is such a breath of fresh air.
    Thank you for your always day-brightening pennings:)
    You’re super-gifted. No wonder. Look who your Mom is.
    Keep up the excellent work.

    Much love
    from The Great White North

  15. Jean
    | Reply

    Please don’t spend the time or energy rewriting your blog/posts. Keep moving on, doing better. And please get some rest!

  16. Sherri McKnight
    | Reply

    Leave them as written proof of how your writing (and you!) has evolved. Improvement is a living being, growing and changing. The past cannot be undone or even redone, but the future is ready to move forward with new knowledge and new ideas. That’s the best part!

  17. Doris Torkelson
    | Reply

    Leave them! How wonderful to see your own growth over time. Thank you for sharing yourself and your talent with us.

  18. Judy Forkner
    | Reply

    I think you should feel free to fix them up so you can be proud of referring us back to them. I would certainly like to have the opportunity to rewrite some of the stuff I have sent out as emails!

  19. Heather
    | Reply

    Here’s a Mom answer, because I am old enough to be your Mom. Leave them and sleep.

    • pam
      | Reply


  20. Jennifer
    | Reply

    I say edit for typos, misspellings, etc., but leave the sentences alone. It’s the story of how you’ve grown as an author and something aspiring writers could take inspiration from. Plus, there will always be the temptation to smooth over the lumps and bumps of life that were raw then, but perhaps seem overwrought in hindsight. Yet these are the things that make Papergirl so touching and relatable. We’ve all loved your blog over the years, so why change it? (Besides, someday someone may need these early writings for their literary analysis of the writings of Mary Fons, American author of the 21st century.)

  21. Karen
    | Reply

    Don’t rewrite them until you put them together in a book for publication. A blog is not supposed to be the final draft, but a written record of growth– a journal. There is something inauthentic about rewriting for the purposes of a flashback. It’s like looking at my children’s artwork from when they were toddlers. That stuff is by no means well crafted or inspired, but it is a record of how they grew and changed. Any changes would have to happen over my dead body. If it makes you feel better, when you link to the old post, write a disclaimer, “When I publish this as a book, paragraph 2 will have a whole new look” or some such. We won’t judge you for awkward writing in 2015– we are charmed and thrilled at how much growing you have done since.

  22. Mags
    | Reply

    Leave them! Keep it real; perfectionism can make you ill. Love from UK x

  23. I would suggest that you leave them. As you said, they are time capsules. They are also like quilts, evidence of how your writing has evolved. If you change them, you’re obliterating the evidence to your perspective at the time. We cannot judge how far we’ve come if we can’t see where we started. Get some rest! 🙂

  24. Robin Tuckerman
    | Reply

    No Tweak, work in progress.

  25. Sue
    | Reply

    Mary, will you have more time after grad school.? If so why not wait til then.
    You have to take care of yourself including enough rest and eating right. Meanwhile, even though it hurts use those old blogs.
    Love, Sue

  26. Ann Bailey
    | Reply

    Mary, it depends on what your goal is. I would leave them exactly the way they are to show how you’ve grown and evolved along the way, keeping it “real and legit”… they say! 🙂

  27. Karen
    | Reply

    NO! that would mean nothing new could be created. Every time we do something we could improve. Life is a journey with improvements along the way.

  28. Gina Z
    | Reply

    Leave them be. Focus your energy on the next idea, using all the skills writing the old idea taught you.

    • Sherry Doherty
      | Reply

      Leave history as it is. Everything you wrote us a reflection of your growth, personally and professionally.

      • Sherry Doherty
        | Reply

        Is a reflection. Hate spell check. Sorry!

  29. Lee
    | Reply

    Fixing typos is reasonable – it doesn’t change the meaning or style of what you wrote. What would be the purpose or value of going all editor on your older posts? Prove you are better at writing now than you were then? Don’t your more recent posts do that, showing your growth? Leave the record/proof of that growth alone! You have new things to do.

  30. Martha Moore
    | Reply

    Leave them. People who read them in the future will appreciate them as a picture of who you were then. They will see your growth over time and be inspired. AND, you need to move on into your future!

  31. Beth Ann
    | Reply

    I think, perhaps, there’s a middle ground.

    If a post is truly bothering you, I suggest rewriting as you’d prefer and posting it as an addendum to the first. “And now, in 2018, I would say…”

    Or never ever read your older work. It’s like looking at old pictures and realizing you were cuter than you thought – even if your hair was stupid!

    • Ellen
      | Reply

      THIS. Responding to an earlier post with a new perspective would be a great way to balance the need to revise while preserving the integrity of the original post. Would be interesting to read them side by side as well. Great question!

  32. Liz Samlow
    | Reply

    You cannot change history!

  33. Sharon
    | Reply

    Leave them as they were written

  34. Dayna from Wisconsin
    | Reply

    We all grow up and change. The same goes for your writing. It is growing. Would you go take all the pictures your Mom has of you and change them to what you look like now> NO! Yjis is the same thing, Leave it be. I know we all would like to be perfect. Think about someone learning to write. They would give up if they couldn’t do as well. Let them see that GOOD writers weren’t always perfect. Sorry, I’m rambling. Just leave things alone. Please.

  35. Jean
    | Reply

    As a quilter, I look at the ones made 35+ years ago at smile at the uneven seams, chopped points, ugly fabrics. It’s the journey that’s important, not perfection. Leave as is and smile because you made the journey!

  36. Loreen
    | Reply

    Don’t you have enough to do? Give yourself a break. Worry about what you need to do today, not what you did yesterday.

    • Joey
      | Reply

      This is such good advice . For everyone.
      Great advice for anyone with health issues.

  37. Louise
    | Reply

    Leave them as they are. Think of them as a portfolio that shows your growth. You are an artist and there is no reason to change what you’ve produced in the past, but rather recognize the evolution of your skill.

  38. Rachel
    | Reply

    Do you go back to take apart and remake your quikts because your skills are better now? Of course not, it is a moment of time. A picture of who you were then.

  39. Julie Winter
    | Reply

    Come on, Mar. Now would you take apart your first quilt? Remake it with your current skills, as awesome as they are? Would you take out all those big ole quilting stitches on your first hand quilted masterpiece? Of course you would not. They are all cherished and loved for what they are and what they represent ;all that love and passion and angst that comes along with developing a new skill..

    We understand, Mary. Now go take a nap.

  40. Anne
    | Reply

    Definitely let them stay as they are. For all the reason s in the replies you’ve already received.

  41. susan
    | Reply

    I’ve thought about making a “book” of my old blogs. I would fix typos but not reword. As it’s been said, it is a time capsule after all.

    Love you Mary.

  42. Annie
    | Reply

    They are your history, you at that moment. No less brilliant a writer, just at an earlier point on your path.
    And I think editing them messes with History – that other you disappears, and I think she should be documented.
    When I read Pendennis selections, I always look for the date!

  43. Barbara
    | Reply

    You wrote what you wrote because that’s how you felt at the time. That was you. This is now, write what you write now, I enjoy every reading from you. xo

  44. Nancy
    | Reply

    Yesterday is gone! Tomorrow is not here! Your wasting today! Rest thatbusy brain please!

  45. Susan B
    | Reply

    This mom says, Leave them alone! and Get some sleep!

  46. Theresa Libby
    | Reply

    Think of your work like a quilt. Would you go back and tear apart your first quilt now to make it better?

  47. Sue M.
    | Reply

    Let it be.

  48. Dana Chapman
    | Reply

    If you can resist the urge to edit content and simply edit for typos and punctuation, then go for it! Think of it as the edits one would make in a second printing of a book. All the best, fellow Iowan!

  49. Kate
    | Reply

    I teach young people how to knit. Every other Saturday, we sit in the youth room at the library, and help 8 to 14 year olds create magic from sticks and string. We show them how to fix their mistakes, if they ask.
    One thing we insist on is that they not rip their knitting out, instead they cast it off and begin again. This way they have visual proof of how much they have improved.
    Leave the old posts alone. Allow them to stand as where you were then. Make new posts with your new skills.

  50. Mary-Kay
    | Reply

    I would not rewrite them, just check for typos. If you rewrite them, you might get a different response from your readers, it might not be a post they would have commented on or it might change their response. I’d leave them and to me, it would show your growth over the years.

  51. Grammy Judy
    | Reply

    I say leave them as they are, that was you then and this is you now.

  52. Janet
    | Reply

    I wouldn’t take apart a quilt I had made in the past to correct my “mistakes”.

  53. Jane Sanders
    | Reply

    A few words of caution. If you edit for typos, because writing is clearly part of your very being and the essence of who you are, start to rewrite sentences. So, it is either all or nothing. If you do start to go down this path, make sure you have a plan. Will you edit by year, how will you pick the year (random, start to finish, last to first? Or maybe by subject matter (romance, school, health, family, lectures, quilts, etc). Or maybe have a quantity goal like 3 a day or 5 a week. But really Mary, do you have the time?

    PS I wrote this, edited it, left the computer and came back and edited again.

  54. Angela Clemons
    | Reply

    No. You write from your heart and each post reflects where you were in your head at the time. If you start worrying about making each post grammatically perfect you will lose some of the spontaneity and individuality that make your posts so enjoyable to read. And besides, why look back and judge what you’ve done in the past? I believe it’s best to always be moving forward. Accept your old posts as they are…we do.

  55. Linda Duff`
    | Reply

    That was you then. This is you now. You’ve grown (after all, there’s a MASTERS degree in the upcoming days, for Heaven’s sake!), so you can keep growing and write “more better” sentences as time goes on. 🙂 🙂 DON’T change, and please stop stressing about needing to make any changes. Love you and your writing style just as it was and what it has become.
    So sleep … enjoy your secret (to all of us) location for Quiltfolk #7 … soak up the vibes from wherever you are … sleep … write great stuff for Quiltfolk #7 … and repeat.
    Relax, and REMEMBER: enjoy your time where you’re at …. Hoppy Easter. 🙂

  56. Nancy Pederson
    | Reply

    I hate to sound like a broken record, but I agree with almost all of the folks that have commented. Leave the old posts as is. If you ever put them in a book, it would be okay to fix the typos and spelling mistakes, but I think the content should remain the same.

    I am also old enough to be your mother, having had 2 families, my oldest is going to be 50 in May, my second would have been 47 in April. My second husband and I have 2 children who will turn 33 and 31 in September.

    If you have to skip a day of writing in your blog, we’ll miss you, but your health should come first, so rest when you can.

  57. Kellie
    | Reply

    Redo’s are a unfortunate option Michael Angelo could do better work, since he had all that practice. My Grandfather wrote wonderful letters. He was a sharecropper in Tennessee. He had a half year of schooling in the first grade. All of his words made sense, many only known to other Tennessee people. I could rewrite them for prosperity so they weren’t embarrassing after all. But then they would be just letters. , The cats out of the bag. You can’t redo history. Or none of us would have middle school pictures.

  58. Bobbi Penniman
    | Reply

    No. it’s a time capsule and we don’t redo those because we could do it “better” now. No.

  59. Linda
    | Reply

    Leave them be unless you want to change who you are. We are all made up of the information we are given.
    I am not the same person I was five years ago. A lot of things in my life has changed. I lost my daughter to cancer, my interests have changed etc. I hope I am a better stronger person now. If I went back and rewrote the thoughts I had years ago it wouldn’t reflect anything but the person I have become. I liked the other person too but we are not the same now. Life evolves. Let it be.

  60. Debbie
    | Reply

    Leave them as they are. Every entry is a step in your journey.

  61. Becca G
    | Reply

    NO, NO, NO, do not change anything! Your writing is a testimony of your feelings, thoughts & life at the time you wrote them.
    To thine own self be true.

  62. HelenMarie
    | Reply

    Let it be — says it all! Will you go back and edit your diary from junior high? No! It tells who you were, in junior high! Every new blog column journal entry is a renewal!!!!

  63. Georgia O'Neal
    | Reply

    Yes !!! what they said – the past is the past – we cant and most of the time shouldn’t go there – just look the future !!!

  64. Jan C.
    | Reply

    I add my voice to the chorus of “Leave them as written”. For all the excellent reasons already sited.
    You are your own worst critic, some of us, ehem me, don’t even see the slip of the linguistic pen that you would be suffering over, want to “correct”, or improve. Leave them because you are an evolving, delightful author with an audience who follows you because of who you are right there where you were when you hit the send button.
    Hugs from Sacramento.

  65. LisaE
    | Reply

    Leave them be. We read them then, loved you…and still read you now. No need to change. We all live and grow. You’ve got much better things to worry about!

  66. Jean
    | Reply

    The past is a learning vehicle; it cannot really be changed. Please don’t worry about rewrites. Take that time and create. We love every little part of you!! Rest. It will be fine. You’ll see. -Jean

  67. Mark
    | Reply

    In keeping with Heather…
    Here’s a Dad’s answer, cuz I’m old enough to be your Dad! Leave them alone. Your past work represents who you were ‘then’, even with the typos and awkward phrase turnings. And if you edit them those edits will reflect how you feel now and may require re-edits a few years from now when THAT Mary re-reads them. Save that energy and restore yourself or put it into something new.

  68. Glenda
    | Reply

    Let them be……………until you may want to re-use. Then clean it up a little but don’t obsess. If it needs a lot of work, don’t use it.

  69. Kathryn
    | Reply

    Please leave then alone. It’s sort of like looking at a photo album. That was your very best at that time. And you are probably the only one who sees the problems.

  70. Barbara J Mattiacci
    | Reply

    I never do this but I will today. Please do not change the past!!! We all have the same .Make new statements new additions and such.. Show the thoughts changing growing show us YOU now. We love the Before and the Now. Stay true to you.
    Barbara J Mattiacci Philadelphia PA

  71. Tracy
    | Reply

    Agreed! Good advice from the Moms and Dad, especially the part about future Mary. Will she then have to go and rewrite again? You would never be satisfied. Live for now and love your old self as much as your new self. Now go to bed and eat right!

  72. MaMary Dusenberry
    | Reply

    Leave well enough alone! Why would I read rehashed blog posts?
    I enjoy advancing with you.

  73. Shelley
    | Reply

    Dittos to all who said let the past be the past. Learn from your mistakes and marvel at your growth.

  74. J Michael Voiles
    | Reply

    The past made you who you are today. We knew what you meant, and so will others.


  75. Pamela
    | Reply

    Miss Mary- please do not re-write your blogs. Your time is valuable, use it wisely to advance new ideas and opinions! Each of the older blogs has a date on it, and anyone reading it can see when it originally was posted. This allows us to see growth and maturity in your writing! I really enjoy your blog, wouldn’t change a thing. Take care of yourself and rest rather than re-do!

  76. Rosemary Small
    | Reply

    It’s your blog Mary, you do whichever makes you happiest. If you aren’t happy leaving them the way you wrote them back then, if the thought of all those typos and less well constructed sentences are going to haunt you, you definitely need to edit your older entries. If, on the other hand, you can live with what you wrote and the way you wrote it in the past let it be.
    I edit typos and confusing sentences when I come across them in my blog (because the presence of both really annoy me), but other than that I leave the content alone.

  77. Audrey Arnold
    | Reply

    I do photography as a hobby. I do others as well but it is my current passion. When I look back at my photos I can see how much I’ve improved and it makes me happy. Leave them be and appreciate your progress:). They were still good. Don’t beat yourself up dear girl.

  78. Sandy
    | Reply

    Leave them do not change a thing.

  79. Lizzie
    | Reply

    Every year, my mom would set out the little Christmas books I wrote in elementary school on the coffee table. Fast forward to my teens: I was embarrassed by them, and “fixed” the spelling and grammar, as they were written in pencil. Fast forward to my twenties: big regrets. The charm was gone. Forever.

  80. Pamela Keown
    | Reply

    Leave it be…Listen to Luelle…Let it ride. Now, go take a nap. 🙂

  81. Judith J Jorgenrud
    | Reply

    No rewriting. I would only ever make one suggestion for your blog is that you use a darker Ink or a thicker font. In all the sites that I deal with, all the blogs that I read, all the software I use, yours is the only one that I have trouble reading. And I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.

  82. Lori
    | Reply

    Please Mary–leave the posts as they are. Don’t question how something was written then–your work has evolved, as YOU have evolved. You’ve allowed us to accompany you on your journey and we’ve been lucky that you’ve shared your life with us. You’ve helped us all to understand that life is far from perfect so we all have to persevere even if it’s a struggle. In accepting the posts as they are, you’re reiterating the “strive to be better every day” philosophy. With those posts that are “imperfect”, you have tangible PROOF that your writing is always improving.
    …And please Mary–make your health the priority. You know your readers love you–we’ll be fine if you don’t post for a day. We will understand. You are a treasure to us. You need to love YOU as much as we love you!

  83. […] I say unto thee: I will not go back and edit past entries of the ol’ PG. At all. Ever. Except for glaring typos. And at least not until a Major […]

  84. Cindy
    | Reply

    Typos yes. Content no. It’s a record of who you were then, and folks can see your growth.

  85. Brenda King
    | Reply

    Mary- Please give yourself a break. Don’t rewrite history. You need your time and energy for writing forward! : )

  86. Carol
    | Reply

    Don’t rewrite history!

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