Today I am finally working on revisions that I might have worked on months ago; already embarrassed at delaying them, I kept saying during the spring that I would do them, and did not.
I have noted before, as has Contingent Cassandra in some comments, that often when I “procrastinate,” it is because at some level of awareness I realize that what seems like a simple, easy task is neither simple nor easy but will take more time (and energy) than I consciously expect it to, or than other people think it should. So it is proving with these revisions.
Yes, the essay was okay before. But in light of work I have done on the MMP in the past year, some of its information should be changed. It suffered greatly from wordiness, which I didn’t see while writing it but which shocked me when I re-read it later. The required revisions were light, and I had no objections to them; but I did not receive any truly useful comments on style or argument.
Now I can see assorted ways to improve this essay. Fixing problems with its formatting is the least of these, although this is complicated in itself, because I have to look up how to cite historical documents, which as a literary scholar I do not normally work with, and which the literary journal’s style sheet does not cover; but now I am a book historian and I need them. Now I can see how to fix the wordiness, when before I was too close to the essay (not too attached to the wording, I’m happy to change it, I was just too used to seeing my points in those words). Now I can see how to improve the argument by writing more detailed topic sentences than those I had before and by strengthening the connection between two pieces of the argument.
Now the essay will be not just done, but good, and that is much more satisfying than having it done sloppily. I’m sure it will not be perfect, but I am not a perfectionist. It does not need to be perfect. It does need to be up to my standards for good writing, and I am glad I have taken the time to do the job properly.
Part of the reason for delay is that doing this job properly, for me, means submerging into it. I could fix formatting problems by making a list of each one I come to and seeking out other examples from the list. I could revise for wordiness paragraph by paragraph, one or two a day for some extended period. But seeing the argument whole and remembering that I made this point here and so I should contrast it more strongly with that point there, that requires sinking into the essay. And sinking in as editor is different from sinking in as writer.
It is true, as Z says, that doing things well is energizing, and doing them badly is enervating. Today’s discovery is, once again, that I should trust my instincts about writing. This is, after all, my work. Owning it is also energizing.