I’ve been revising. My co-author Chris and I have produced about eight versions of a book manuscript. Yes, you read right, eight. From two versions of individual chapters through two interim versions to reach the one sent out to review, to another three versions of the final copy, each one marked final, but not actually so … We’ve written and rewritten and rewritten a bit more.
An academic writer clearly needs to have a Strong Inner Critic – SIC – an inbuilt evaluator which you can put to work on revision and editing. SIC is a nuisance when producing early drafts and I can happily banish my SIC at the beginning of any new writing project. But not at the end. SIC is essential for cleaning up and clearing out.
But then SIC hangs about and hangs about. I not only wish that my SIC was less concerned about reaching perfection but also that my actual ability to read and correct the text matched SIC’s unrealistic high standards. Even yesterday – on revision number eight, working on a text which Chris, a much more thorough reader than my erratic self, had proofed carefully – revealed some remnant errors and inconsistencies.
When I first opened up the file – again, sigh – and began to read, it seemed as if we’d cracked it. Pages and pages with nothing to worry about. I started to feel optimistic. Maybe finally.
And then there it was. Word repetition. An over long sentence. A missing comma here, a new word there, oh and this must become a less klutzy sentence, and I’ll just move this point up here so it reads better and I just can’t seem to say this any clearer and I do know that I’m going to hate even this latest version when I see it in print.
Some hours later and I was so tired of reading the same old stuff. It’s all meaningless. Why would anyone read this? Nothing to say. Nothing nothing nothing. It’s infuriating. I loathe and hate incompletion and I do just want to finish this. Make this stop. But the SIC wasn’t listening. I was quite energised when I sat down to the text early in the morning and by lunch time I was shattered.
I know I’m not alone here. The last stages of working on the dissertation also seem to drag on forever. No matter how many times you, or someone else, reads the text, there always seems to be more to do. More, more, more.
I know that some people can’t bear to give the thesis, or their book, away, but I have the opposite problem. The text well and truly outstays its welcome and I really desperately want to be shot of it. Go. Begone. Out damned text. But there’s that sneaky SIC saying, “Let’s just make sure, let’s just have another little look, a peek or two won’t hurt…”
I’m now revised past reaction, edited way beyond expectation, proofed beyond the pale.
But finally finally – We are SIC-ed into submission. Yes dear reader, the text has gone off for what I can only hope is the last time. Well, the last time until we get the copy edit queries back. And then there’s the proofs. The proof of the revision is in the… Not to mention opening the new book and it falls open at a page and you see… Noooooo…
A writer’s work is never done.
That’s me and my SIC in the corner rocking quietly.