Revisions suck. They really do. Seriously. I hate them. I am so tired now. Why can’t this draft just be done? I wish I was like the cobbler in ‘The Elves and the Shoemaker’ who would wake up in the morning and find that sweet little shoemaker elves had come and helped him to finish all his work because they saw how tired he was and how much he needed to get the work done. But there are no sweet little PhD-writing elves to help me. I wake up every morning and my ‘to-do’ list for the revisions I have to do seems longer rather than shorter. So, yes, right now revisions suck.
But, they are also necessary and have to be done. And, there is a real sense of achievement in finishing a set of revisions, like a chapter or a big section of one. I finished the revisions of chapter 3 yesterday and it felt great. But it is the easiest chapter to revise because it’s the methodology and there weren’t a lot of missing references to chase down or large additions or cuts to be made. So this, I think, might be my first piece of advice for anyone else who hates revisions or at least feels daunted by them: start with the less daunting chapter. Ask yourself what makes you feel the least like banging your head on your desk repeatedly and then do that. For me, this was initially fiddling with the prelims, like making a page for my figures and tables, formatting section breaks and page numbers and making sure all my headings look the same. Small, fiddly stuff that people can tell you is procrastination, but which is actually also important. It didn’t take too long to do this though, so I had to find the next thing to do that felt do-able, and that was chapter 3. It took longer than I though it would – revisions always seem to take longer than you plan for – but it’s now done (until, of course, I have to do the final revisions).
Now, I have to revise chapter 2. This is the big one, for me. The theory chapter. And now that I have written my ‘data’ chapters where I have analysed the data and told the relevant stories in each of my case studies, I can see what theory and concepts I really need and what are extraneous and need to be cut. So it should be fairly easy, in theory, but I am finding it hard to ‘murder my darlings’ – all my lovely words and turns of phrase that took me the better part of a year to write. And I am tired, and a lot of thinking is required to make this chapter sharp and focused. I would really rather be napping, or reading a novel. I am actually writing this post. So it’s procrastination, but it’s not completely pointless. It’s a kind of PhD-related task. It’s a sort of trick I am playing on myself to get myself into the kind of headspace I need to be in to press on and get this chapter done so I can move onto the other 3 chapters that still need to be revised, and in the case of the introduction, partly written as well. Oh, and did I also mention that I still have to write the conclusion, from scratch? I think I should probably get to work.
I am realising that, while some days (like today) I really wish the elves were real, I actually would feel a bit cheated if someone did this bit for me, even though it sucks. So much of this PhD-writing is more about the journey and the learning along the way than it is about the destination.