There I was, poised with the first draft of my masters thesis, ready to jack it under the rear wheels of my car so that I could vent my anger and frustration. Never had I felt this kind of undiluted rage in dealing with a piece of writing. As far as I was concerned, the first draft was complete and therefore the entire piece was finished; however, my thesis advisor didn’t quite agree with me. A less deranged friend of mine talked me out of repeatedly backing over my thesis, and convinced me that it didn’t really matter if I did leave tire marks on it because I had multiple drafts on my disk. But still, I knew that it would just feel so good to leave some tire tread on the paper.
I had not written a thesis as an undergrad, and I was looking forward to this process. It took some time for me to find a professor willing to work with me, but after a number of false starts, I finally came to Peter Heinegg’s door. My thesis was based on the disparate work of Nathaniel Hawthorne and radical feminist theologian Mary Daly. Each week that I left Peter’s office, I found myself laden with at least five books that he deemed absolutely crucial to my writing and thinking process. At one point, I needed an English translation of a German text, and when I finally secured it, I opened the cover to find that the work had been translated by Peter. It was somewhat humbling to work with him because he was so intelligent; however, he was an absolutely amazing teacher and I credit him with helping me to fully understand the impact that revision has on the writing process.
At times, during the writing of our theses, my roommate and I were reduced to performing stupid hair tricks in the wee hours of the morning to entertain ourselves and to create some levity during this, at times, tedious task. I did actually enjoy writing parts of the thesis, yet at other times, the task seemed overwhelming. So, when I came to the end of the first draft of my thesis, I was convinced I had produced a solid piece of writing and that I was finally, and thankfully, done with it. At the point at which I was ready to jack the thesis under my rear tires, I knew I had worked hard on this piece, harder than I had ever worked on a piece of writing in my life. It was certainly the longest piece of writing that I had ever produced; yet I had erroneously equated length with good quality. I had done no revising to this piece, nor had I achieved any distance from it in order set it aside to come back to it at a later time.
In the past, I had not written drafts of my papers; I had been told since high school that I was a reasonably decent writer. I was a comparative literature major in college, and again, I had earned solid grades on my writing assignments, and I had worked hard, but I had not slaved over draft after draft. I tended to write well under pressure (or so I thought), but I left no time for revisions. Usually, I was finishing up the paper within hours of the class in which it was...