The Battle of Editmore

Firstly, please pardon the Led Zeppelin pun that i have employed as a title for this post. Musicians do strange things sometimes.. and this title reflects precisely how i feel at this time.

Editing is a like a battle.. a struggle between author and thesis.

Just when I, the author, feel as though I have made a breakthrough in the process of editing my work – perhaps condensing a section down by 1, 2, or even 3 hundred words – I read over the edited work again and it smiles grimly back at me, firing a missile to the eyes. Things just don’t make as much sense anymore.. Sometimes the edited work looks outright mutilated..

I look to the “trash” section, where passages that I have removed from the page have been relegated: where wounded servants of mine lay. It is as if the words that I have deemed inferior are looking up at me, bleeding and pleading from a muddy trench, hoping to be reinstated to where they feel that they belong:

“How could you sacrifice your own men? We fought for you! We thought you held us dear!”

And I can’t help but sympathise with them..

I think of the memories I shared with these fine warriors of academia – the places we were first acquainted.. Sometimes the attachments an author has with his/her words are hard to ignore. You feel like you’ll do anything so as not to leave them behind.

Take for instance the productive 3 hour writing sessions at a peaceful coffee shop, guzzling lattes that put hairs on my otherwise rather bare chest. Or the three days I spent in lockdown at Steve’s art studio, churning out more words than i knew i had in my vocabulary. Groundbreaking or no.. I am astounded as to how such extraneous influences actually make you feel a certain connection to work that has been done. How can a place, a feeling, or an enjoyable meal/ beverage make you feel more closely connected to a series of words??

Surely, when I look over my work, knowing that many thousands of words need to be erased in order to meet the necessary submission guidelines, it should be plain to see what is irrelevant and needs to go?

After emailing my supervisor in a panic yesterday, I have been reassured that this is not really the case – editing your own work is HARD. But on the plus side, as my supervisor mentioned:

“You’ll have loads of quality stuff leftover that can be used should you decide to publish in journals…”

In the Battle of Editmore, I am reminded of all the books, the readings, the documentaries, the metaphors and the moments of bliss I felt when I finally made sense of those peculiar concepts I had been struggling with..

However, while the shift from writer to reader is not an easy one, it is one that needs to be made. And in the interest of giving myself the best chance of doing well in my Honours Submission – I need to move past the personal ties that I have with my words fairly quickly, and try and edit with the discipline and dedication of a major general.

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Morning thoughts

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Transitions

It has certainly been a week of challenges after submitting my first draft to Adrian last week. As the submission deadline for the first draft drew closer, my inner researcher came to the fore – resulting in some very late, but very productive nights of study. This week has been a bit slower and more challenging than last week, as the transition from detailed writing to focused editing has begun. It has also proven to be the aftershock – fatigue, tiredness, lack of concentration and stress have all crept into the equation – but i am doing my best to take care of myself and keep calm and focused.

While I have found myself having some really productive hours each day this week, sadly they have often been followed by lulls of 2-3-4 hours at a time where nothing seems to flow or make sense. This has made me feel anxious and tense, and led me to have doubts about the continued progress of my work at times, with less than a month to go until the final submission.

One method that has helped to alleviate some of this pressure, which i have mentioned here previously but have only really implemented heavily this past week has been printing out the draft-level versions of my work and editing them on paper. Adrian is a big advocate for this approach, and while i doubted its effectiveness at first – i have noticed that it does really save a lot of time working through the edits of each paragraph – as it is easier to complete your edits with pen and move on to the next paragraph, rather than mulling over one paragraph on the screen for hours on end striving for perfection before moving on.

I have also benefited from discussions with my peers about our progress in these anxious times, and also the direction and reassurance offered to me by my supervisor. It’s good to keep in mind that there are others in the same position as me and that we are all working through similar feelings together. We cannot expect more from ourselves that to submit the best work we can possibly submit in the time we have allocated, even if that means that not everything is 100 percent perfect.

Ultimately, the actual writing process of the thesis is rather short, so there is that sense of “race against time” that we need to contend with. I feel that my peers are dealing with this as best they can, and we are having a positive influence on each other.

I have tried to break up the aforementioned anxious bouts with walks, coffee breaks or even sessions where i stretch my sore muscles and try to relax. The pomodoro method i have raved about all semester is also extremely beneficial, but i find it works better when studying with others, because as a group it is easier to keep each other on track, motivated and obedient of the pomodoro method’s break guidelines.

There is an overwhelming amount of work yet to be done, but there are plenty of actions that can be put in place that will help me to do it. I have consciously decided not to overwhelm myself with the pressure of meeting the requirements necessary to qualify for a phd – despite the information sessions that have been offered throughout the past weeks. I have just felt more comfortable using those two hour blocks to work on my Honours thesis and keep dedicated to the present task at hand. I tend to feel most stressed and anxious when i am juggling too many things at once, so i have tried to organise my time efficiently, take things day by day and make sure that i am completing all of the ‘mini-goals’ set for me by my supervisor on a week-to-week basis, so that i can complete honours to the best of my abilities as a researcher.

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The Bigger Picture

Now that I have made my decision as to which structure I am going to implement for my thesis (due now in exactly a month), it seems to be getting easier for me to edit objectively.

Previously, I had found it difficult to delete, or move on from any section of my writing until I felt that I had addressed all (or at least most of) the points that I wanted to make in that section, and until it flowed exactly the way I had intended. Yet I am now starting to feel like it is less of a challenge to determine what content should remain in my thesis and what can be left out, in order to showcase my research qualities as best as possible.

While I still have a lot of piecing together to do in order to make every section flow sensibly (but also creatively) into the next, I can see how the development of my arguments has been clarified from the process of removing many of the superfluous passages I was holding onto in case they might prove significant later.

The other thing I am learning about research this week (having submitted a draft last Friday) is that it is amazing what you can achieve when a deadline draws near. While you obviously have to be careful not to leave things to the last minute, the work ethic that surfaces when you know you are up against the clock and have lots of work to do is truly something to marvel over.

For this reason, I have set myself a little goal with the intention of staying on task and working methodically and diligently on a daily basis: and that is to have a version of my thesis prepared by the 1st of October that reads coherently from start to finish and delivers my research and conclusions in an orderly and contextualised manner. I am not fussed if it requires 18000 or 20000 words to achieve this, because I know that the editing process will be made even easier yet again once I reach the point that I can actually look over my entire thesis and think to myself: “this tells readers what I want them to know”.

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A quick one

It’s important that i do this blog post and acknowledge a few key things with regard to my current research practice. I feel it will be a good way to round out this weekend and prepare myself for another week of good, old fashioned dedicated study ahead.

1 – Setting up a dedicated space for study and leaving it so for a number of days (for study purposes only) works really well.

2 – Having a friend (or more than one) to join you there helps even more so. You can keep each other in line and focus on the task at hand – but also offer each other support and inspiration in times of doubt and fatigue.

3 – Achievable daily goals. Setting these before your day of study starts guarantees that feeling of relief when you look back on the day of research you have engaged in and know you’ve achieved what you wanted to.

4 (and my final point) – Do not EVER spend nights staying up until 5 o’clock in the morning studying. The next few days (particularly submission day and the following weekend) become the epitome of the hour-by-hour struggle. On that note, GOODNIGHT!

See you again soon after some rest in the coming week of research

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Pomo plan

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Big day ahead

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D Day (draft day)

Today is the last day available for the honours cohort to edit, revise and work through our work thus far before submitting a first draft tonight. On a personal level, the change of scenery away from the lab and from my house and over to Steve’s art studio in Footscray has been a positive one, with the two of us putting in some big efforts over the past 48 hours and ultimately coming away with some more than pleasing work.

I feel like my research and writing has really benefited from being in a different space. Every time i take a break, i find myself in an unfamiliar suburb with new faces, new experiences and of course, new coffee shops around me. It’s proven to be a good way to break up the research.

I met with my supervisor Ed yesterday too to get some advice before the draft submission, as i simply have too many words, too much clutter going on and a whole section left to write. Thank goodness it’s a draft that’s due! We went through a few of the chapters i have been working on together, which he felt positive about but admitted were much too long and in desperate need of condensing. Ed came to the conclusion that in order for me to submit a draft that meets the required wordcount, i simply cannot include everything that i have done. Today i am going to have to be scrupulous and pretty open minded – including just the barebones of my work in progress to give Adrian an idea of what it is that i am trying to say – as i have said earlier, it is surely better to have the words available if i need them, than to not have enough to begin with.

The other big realisation that i have had, as annoying as it may be, is that the structure i have pursued (as discussed in my earlier posts about ‘uneven structure’) has not worked out. By dividing the chapters into the key arguments of my thesis rather than the case studies that i am exploring, i have had to continually reintroduce and provide context about each of the albums and how they fit in with my broader arguments and this has made it tedious and repetitive to read, as others have pointed out. The change will have to be made – to the other proposed structure – active as of today.

It’s frustrating to read over the work that you have laboured over so hard to find that so much of it is superfluous – although i do feel as though the process of ‘writing it out‘ has benefited me and provided me with further context and knowledge upon which to base my arguments and discussions.

With a full day ahead, Steve’s signature buckwheat porridge slowly burning in my stomach, and an effective pomodoro plan to boot (which i have yet to find time to adequately discuss in a blog post in the haste of this manic week), Steve and I are ready to throw everything that we have got at this day and submit some work that we are proud of. I think it’s fair to say that we hope to look back at the end of it, cold beer in hand, and say ‘Cheers’.

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