Twelve Week Article: Week Eleven (and One-Half) Recap

[Alternative post title: The Miraculous Benefits of Actually Speaking to Real People]

I was hoping that this week would be my final week of working on my Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks article. I was looking forward to telling the world that I’d submitted my article to a prestigious journal and that I was celebrating. However, as the post title indicates, I’m not quite done yet.

I hit a serious snag last week, when I began adding more evidence to the final section of my article. As I began integrating the final pieces of evidence and remaining secondary sources, my heart sank as I realized that my argument and evidence didn’t fit together. The more I tried to force the argument and evidence to work together, the less my article made sense. I lost track of what I was really arguing. Panic set in. I was horrified to find myself so close to the end of my twelve week article and still struggling to come up with a coherent argument.

In despair, I called Writing Buddy. I had sent her my half finished article with a desperate plea for help. I hoped that talking through my dumb argument with her might clarify some things.

I’m pleased to report that Writing Buddy managed to save me (and my argument and my article) from myself.

A few weeks ago, I wrote in this post about how some people give deconstructive criticism. Being on the receiving end of deconstructive criticism feels devastating. On the other hand, getting genuinely helpful feedback feels awesome. I am fortunate that Writing Buddy knows how to give really great feedback, which helps me become a better thinker and writer.

When we finally got to talk about my article, I remembered why it’s so important to talk to other people about ideas. Talking with her for just fifteen minutes about my article clarified a slew of things I’d been struggling with.

What I appreciate about Writing Buddy is that even before she gives me feedback, I know she supports both my ideas and my writing. She’s got my best interests at heart. Getting feedback from someone who really wants to help feels way different than getting deconstructive feedback from passive-aggressive people bent on sabotage. Writing Buddy gives me constructive responses to my writing, rather than criticizing it or trying to fix it. She says things like this:

“What I thought was so interesting about your article was X, but your argument seems to be about Y.”
“You’ve got so much great evidence about Y, so really, it’s just a question of changing your argument to reflect that.”
“The part I didn’t understand was A. Are you trying to say B?”

I then get to explain my thinking and my ideas to someone who’s really listening. I feel validated and heard, rather than shamed and shut down. We listen to each other respectfully, which means that we get to have interesting conversations about ideas. We ask each other questions and clarify things.

Most importantly, Writing Buddy told me what she understood the actual argument of my article to be, as opposed to the one I had written. I had forgotten how massively helpful it is to hear someone else explain my argument in different words. By the time she finished explaining my argument back to me, I saw exactly where the problem was between my argument and my evidence. Even more importantly, I saw how to fix it.

When we finished discussing my article, we’d managed to revise my failing argument into one a much stronger one that said something even more interesting. I’ve got a new list of revision tasks: refining my argument and re-interpreting my evidence. Once I’m done with the big structural revisions, I’ll focus on omitting needless words, as I’m also dangerously close to the word count for the journal I picked. When I’m done with these chores, I’m going to submit my article, regardless of how perfect or imperfect it is.

Talking with Writing Buddy reminded me how important it is to talk to actual humans about our writing and ideas. As always, writing works best when made social. We can’t write in isolation. We create new ideas in response to other people’s ideas and then revise them further when other people respond with their own ideas. Writing is always a conversation, not a monologue.

The blog and I are off on vacation this week, but I look forward to updating the world on my writing progress in two weeks!