Wednesday, 26 July 2017

The Frustration of Rewrites

I have been rewriting an article for six months. I am sure that each time I do it, it gets a bit better, but I feel like I am loosing the will to live along the way. Reviewing is frustrating, but at least I know it is the same kind of frustration we get in consultancy, trying to help a client who is unwilling to be persuaded that their idea won't work.

Getting to absolute clarity and alignment of question - method - results is hard work. Writing doesn't arrive fully formed and perfect: it will always needs juggling, polishing and smoothing. It is worth the reworking; even if it feels like purgatory at the time and we end up being sick of the sight of the piece. 

Trying to rewrite without the benefit of an unbiased reviewer perspective is very difficult. We need someone we can trust - who has expertise - to review our work and make suggestions that will make it stronger. A good reviewer is worth their weight in gold, as a good review will help to prevent us finding, once we get our data, that we have measured the wrong thing. Terrible to get to the end of all that effort and find we can't answer our question or provide a benefit for the reader's effort.

We need to proof-read before we get our reviewer to review. Our reviewers shouldn't be reviewing for spelling or grammar, but for clarity and logic. We mustn't waste our reviewers time by distracting them with our poor APA abilities or our lack of understanding of paragraph structure (both of which I have been guilty of often!).

One of the hardest lessons to learn is how to put our ego aside. Remembering that our reviewers are doing us a favour and are trying to help can get us past our own inflated ideas of ourselves. Yes, we would all like to think that our own writing is self-evident clarity right out of the box. However, any successful author will tell us that getting to crystal-clear communication is not that easy. We need to get over our "how dare they not see how incredibly clever and brilliant I am! How can they offer suggestions to make my work better? I was only asking them to sing to my glory!" mindset and get onto making changes. 

We shouldn't leap onto our defensive podium too quickly following reviewer feedback. Sometimes reflecting and putting work away for a few days may give us the insight we need to 'hear' clearly what our reviewer is telling us. Making something tighter and more focused often means we have to get rid of some of our favourite pieces of carefully crafted wisdom. Banking the precious bits somewhere safe to recycle later sometimes helps us let go.

There are some other advantages to reviews. Going through repeated reviews improves our own ability to see flaws in other research as well, so makes us much less naive and more able to spot weaknesses in others' written work. It hones our own critical eye, which in turn makes us more aware when we write.

All good things :-)



Sam

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