For me, change has rarely been a series of edits. What I have excelled at is redrafting my life. I have now lived in Belfast for just over two-and-a-half years. The last city I lived in longer than this I left more than ten years ago when I moved to San Francisco to pursue my MFA. I rewrote my life as a struggling poet in pricey city. That draft was discarded after two-and-a-half years when, following my graduation, I moved to Japan. The first draft of my life there was at an eikaiwa school; the second, much happier one, at public elementary schools. There are a few more drafts between that one and my current draft as a doctoral candidate. And with every paragraph of my thesis I write, I get closer to the day when I will have to redraft my life again.
Just as a new draft isn’t an entirely new work, redrafting your life doesn’t mean discarding everything. I never stopped writing poetry. My experience teaching English as a foreign language inspired and continues to inform my doctoral research.
The really scary part about redrafting, whether in life or in writing, isn’t the unknown. New discoveries and challenges await. I find that exciting, but even if it made me nervous, it still wouldn’t be the hardest part. No, the most frightening part of redrafting is rereading. What if you find a mortifying mistake? A paragraph you’re ashamed to have written or a hairstyle you’re embarrassed to have worn? All of this has to be faced.
One can redraft without rereading, but that only rarely leads to better work, let alone a better life.