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Dissertation Doctor Blog

XXIX. An Academic, Writing: Editing, Revising, and Struggling with the Process

Aug 23, 2013 by Lee Skallerup Bessette

Part of the reason I struggled this summer to keep a productive writing-and-blogging schedule is because of the nature of the “writing” I was tasked with: revising and editing the introduction to my dissertation-to-book project. The process is one that I have always struggled with. As a result, I have struggled to write about it, too, for this series.

Unlike many academics, I don’t struggle with perfectionism with my writing and work. Admittedly, before I start writing I struggle with ensuring that I have read everything, researched everything, and collected all of the pieces. However, once I’ve done that (or at least come to a reasonable conclusion that I have done all that is physically possible), the writing comes fairly easily to me. Where I struggle is that I have always seen my drafts as “good enough,” and thus have little interest in what seems to be the tedious process of revising and editing. As a result, I have little experience with these parts of the writing process.

My lack of attention to revision and editing may be an issue for other academics who, growing up as I did, never received much feedback on their writing. It was “good enough” to get a high grade, thus there was little motivation for a teacher to do more than correct some punctuation and misspelled words. This continued, for me, into my undergraduate studies and on into graduate school. My writing was good enough to keep my GPA, to get abstracts accepted for conferences, and to be published in journals and edited volumes.

I’ve also received (as I’m sure some of you have) some absolutely unhelpful peer-review feedback from publication submissions. I’ve received feedback that contradicts itself, sometimes going so far as to demand that I write an entirely different essay, but providing little guidance as to how I can make the current essay better.

I’m afraid that I also get bored really easily. I prefer to be writing my ideas rather than revising and editing my work. The hard work of improving my own writing has never interested me. I want to be done and move on to the next thing. So, for all of these reasons, I have resisted writing about the struggle that the revisions have been for me.

I do have to thank my coach, Amy Benson Brown, however, for helping me through the process. I’m finally starting to understand how to move from my graduate student voice to a more authoritative voice when I write in more formal academic settings and how certain habits have sabotaged my academic writing. Amy has been working patiently with me on the introduction, so that it is a stronger, more confident document, and she has helped me set up a more cohesive purpose for my overall study.

Thankfully, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and I finally feel able to blog about the struggles I have had in the revision process. It’s been really, really hard, and I hope that I will be rewarded for all the hard work I’ve put into it. But now I know that what I will be submitting is my best work, rather than what is just “good enough.”

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