The title of this post might sound ludicrous at first, but this is a genuine issue I have been developing over the last few months, so bear with me.
In February this year, I submitted a mammoth of a chapter. It wasn’t good, and I know it. It lacked many things, and as I was writing it, I knew something was missing – but I could not really tell what. My supervisors noticed this too. Things that I had been good at, like planning and structuring, had gone a bit awry. And issues that I previously had, such as dubious grammar and horrendous use of prepostions, just got worse. Whilst we did not really agree on what needed to happen next, it seemed apparent that the chapter would need a ridiculous amount of editing in the best of cases – and worst case scenario, the whole thing would need to be rewritten.
This is such a daunting feeling, particularly as it happened in such a short period of time. I was submitting on a Friday, feeling smug about my 20,000 words. Five days later, after a Wednesday meeting, I was looking at major changes and a complete rewrite. The worst of all was that the feedback, whilst prompt and exhaustive, was far from helpful. The bottom line was that I wasn’t convincing enough with my arguments, and that I took far too many words to explain one little thing. And then I had gone off in a bit of a tangent by comparing some short stories having no background and experience in doing comparative literature whatsoever. It is safe to say, I brought the situation upon myself.
Fortunately, timing could not be better, and I attended a workshop that same week I received the feedback, and I was confronted with the reality of how much needed to be written in how little time, whilst knowing that writing is not necessarily a strength of mine. I did come out of that workshop willing to learn a new way of doing things and trying to stick to the norms a bit more. That same weekend I worked for more hours than any other weekend this year and tore my old chapter apart. I downloaded Scrivener. I created a new work plan and a new structure. And I decided to just try to write the introduction to the chapter, a few paragraphs only, trying to recreated the style that the workshop recommended.
It was NOT an easy task at all. But I decided to start chipping away at it, and slowly but steadily I wrote a new introduction, with clearer sections and different number combinations, and two weeks after the feedback meeting, I met my supervisors again. I had barely given them two pages worth of work. I knew it wasn’t much but I wanted to let them know I had started to write – differently. Their reaction could not have been more positive! They both called it “my new voice”. I wasn’t sure I wanted to name it something that shiny (it sort of sounds as if I bought it somewhere!), but it seems to have stuck.
I was not really sure wether the “new voice” was going to work out in the mid-term, so I kept writing slowly, particularly scared of losing it. At times it still feels that way – that I am going to wake up one mornning and “my new voice” will be gone, lost amid some poor grammar choices and some dubious paragraph structuring. So instead of waiting to write everything up and then send it to supervisors, I have been writing painstakingly slow and revising everything three times over, and I have been submitting every little thing to my supervisors, almost section by section.
The feedback has only been postiive. I seem to be going from strength to strength, and every section I write is just as good as the next one. In the latest email I got, one of my supervisors said that, despite some sentences needing rewriting, my voices “shines clear and concise through the content”, and that it looks like the newer version of the chapter will hold together well. This is great news, all things considered.
I am now at the final revision point, with a few paragraphs to conclude the last section still to go, and some conclusions to wrap up. And the many little chages. And my “new voice” has stayed with me all along, for the past three months, without hesitation. I still feel that one day I will accidentally lose it, but when I think that, I also realise that I read every sentence properly, and make sure I revise the whole paragraph before I am happy that I have conveyed the right idea, before I can “move on”. Whilst I keep doing that, I suppose my new voice is in safe hands, sort of speak. I hope I can keep it that way.
Next submission day: hopefully this Thursday (yes, two days to go! Revision, revision, revision!)