The “submitting draft” fear

Yesterday I sent my supervisors a 25000 word draft of one of my Narrative chapters. I wanted to hug them and tell them not to cry, because if someone sent me a draft containing 25000 words I would almost certainly break down in tears and sob uncontrollably. I’ve only 80000 words in total that I’m ALLOWED to submit*. I have to cut my draft down to 15000, still say what I want to say, and still have my participants say what they’re saying without speaking for them. This is hard because there’s so much lovely data, such rich veins of material that I’m having trouble finding my way through. In a way this is good because I have a chance to see what my supervisors think, and to have them help me find the rigour and tautness of the data.

At the same time when one submits one’s first draft to one’s supervisors it’s always a little bit like the “death of a thousand cuts”, and you have to be very disciplined about one’s writing and not get too precious about the ideas. They are nascent, messy things at first. Drafting and editing requires some of the most disciplined effort I have ever done, and even though I can whip up a quick essay overnight and can look at it weeks later and realise that it’s very good, I can’t do this with my PhD material. It won’t stand up to scrutiny in the same way, and also, because the work is longer, it’s harder to keep an outline in one’s head, unlike a 3000 word essay. Still, every time I press the send button on the email with my draft attached, I feel a little sad, like I’ve just had a baby who’s going to lose its head very soon, or at the very least, a series of limbs.

I am about to start redrafting another chapter I did last year, before I had finished all the interviews and before I had transcribed the end interviews. At the moment it just looks like a lot of interview transcript and lessons excerpts and there is not much analysis linking all the data. It will be good to get back to it, and revisit this case.


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