When outlines ATTACK

Seriously, WTF is wrong with me? So here’s one of the dangers of LaTex. I had a manuscript that in March I thought was pretty much ready to resubmit. It’s a revise and resubmit. The reviewers were uncommonly generous because the first draft was, in the words of my colleague, Martin Krieger, “a mess.” Unfortunately, telling me something is a mess does not help me clean it up, and in revising, I basically rewrote the thing, and sent it to ACSP, where we discussed, and then I rewrote it again. I was pretty happy with it. It’s time to send this thing out.

Well, turns out, the journal doesn’t take things in pdf form, which means I got to start the lovely work of translating something that had a million billion footnotes into word. So I started that work and then….eyugh I started to see problems in the reasoning and the narrative. I could see why I was struggling to get to a conclusion. I started rearranging.

I then went to lunch with my writing group and started talking about the misery of reworking. One of my very well-respected senior scholars, Rapheal Bostic, gave out a very good bit of advice: “Don’t. Just stop. If it was fine in LaTex, it’s fine in Word.”

I tried, I really did. I went back to my office and started cutting and pasting and trying not to look at the problems, but I couldn’t help myself. I started futzing again and Phbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbt. Soon, my entire argument had collapsed into a giant steaming pile of pooh.

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One has only two choices when this occurs, after one drinks heavily. One can let the paper go and assume you never had thesis to begin with, or you go back to the original outline and see what’s what. I went back to my original outline to discover I first wrote a draft of this manuscript in 2007. 2–effing–007.

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I printed off a copy of the paper and took out a pair of scissors and starting cutting it apart, rearranging paragraphs and even sentences. Wrote another thesis statement, started outlining, discovered that thesis was wrong, and finally figured out that the reason I’m having so much trouble here is that I started a new paper in the middle of this paper with an entirely different theme that is sort of connected and sort of not connected, but connectable in a way of if you were writing a book, which I am not. I kept telling myself to cut that material, but I liked it, and I just had to find a way to make it fit. But it doesn’t. So yesterday I finally managed to cut it out and put it in its own file, where it sits, like a baby bird chucked out of the nest, bald and sad and ready to die.

So now there is the remainder, and I worked until about midnight last night trying to make sure there was an argument there. Now, I have to go back and revise my thesis, and re-read it. I laid there last night after getting to the conclusions; somehow, my struggles with this paper have become a metaphor in my head for whether I can ever possibly manage to do anything other than descriptive, empirical work, and I entered into despair by 2 am.

This is called over-thinking.

So today I go back and look at the outline again, and see how well I have filled it out. I have discovered a couple more books to read. My goal is to have it re-assembled with a conclusion by Friday. Then I will let it cook again. I think I have it this time, but…I’ve said that before with this paper.

And I get to go to my writing accountability group lunch and admit that I undid work that I thought was done. I LOVE THIS PLAN.