Friday, July 01, 2011

Writing to Reach Summer

Summer has arrived, and the colony has come to an end. This is the last entry in my "colonial diary" (which didn't turn out to be much of diary, after all. Next time, I think I'll make a daily entry.)

It is my hope (and my sense) that the participants had a good time and became, at the very least, more aware of their writing process. I hope they learned something about how to manage the time and space of their writing, and something about the finite object that a research paper is. I also hope that many of them actually finished their project or soon will (before they go on vacation) and that they will be submitting it for review. For them, I offer this little story, which I originally posted over at Jonathan Mayhew's Stupid Motivational Tricks.

It's my interpretation of Travis's music video "Writing to Reach You" as an allegory about the peer review process. Watch the video and read along.

The whole process is a "front stage" activity in Goffman's sense. Backstage, [0:04] you touch up the manuscript before submitting it, you put on your best face. Then you submit it [0:20], the manuscript is now in process.

The reviewers examine your paper [0:37] and you eventually get the answer back from the journal [0:55]. The reviewers have some hard words to say about your work, but it sort of hurts them [1:16] as much as it hurts you to hurl criticism at your manuscript. After reading their report you pick yourself up. You keep going.

[1:25] Though their own projects are stuck in their own way, your colleagues are waiting and willing to help. They offer you support and you submit the paper again.

[1:55] You receive the answer from the second round of reviews. A senior editor is now taking an active interest. [2:05] You feel like you have to run for cover, but [2:35] when the dust settles and the smoke clears you can see he was only taking one of your reviewers out of the equation [2:50].

Still, you sort of like that reviewer's style, and you try it out for few paragraphs in your next rewrite. You incorporate one of his ideas as a sort of scalp [2:53]. The other reviewer is not impressed [2:56]. Fortunately, you've developed a thick skin. You absorb the new criticism and cast off the more outrageous arrows [3:02]. That idea you took from the discarded reviewer's comments wasn't really you anyway [3:17].

You get ready to resubmit another version [3:21]. There's a brief moment of hesitation [3:29], but you do it anyway. When you get the letter saying your paper has been accepted it's like coming home. [3:35] Your colleagues and your peers are in the same room, so to speak. In fact, one of your anonymous reviewers reveals who she is and congratulates you [3:40]. She loves your paper now, and she's going to run with a few of your ideas. [3:43]

You're backstage again. [3:45] Your inside is outside.


Jonathan said...

How did the colonists do?

Thomas said...

I've sent out a questionaire to find out. I'll report back at the end of July or beginning of August.