Signs that it is Time to Stop Editing
Perfectionism is self-abuse of the highest order.
— Anne Wilson Schaef
It can sometimes be very difficult to stop reading and re-reading your manuscript and decide that it is time to submit it. There are always sentences that could be written better and paragraphs that would benefit from an additional reference. However, you need to distinguish between working to improve your manuscript and being unreasonable about minor tweaks that don’t really increase the quality of your thesis. You should reach a point where you’re happy enough with your manuscript to send it off whilst recognizing that it might not be perfect yet.
People often find themselves over-editing out of fear of failure (or maybe success?) and postponing the moment when they will have to face the committee’s feedback regarding their work. Ensure your psychology is not holding you back. Research shows that perfectionism can often ruin success. Energy spent endlessly re-reading the text and changing it, could easily be invested into something more worthwhile, or something that would give your life more balance.
If you have difficulty deciding when to put the red pen down, here are some signs that can help you decide:
- You feel you’re losing your passion for the subject matter. It’s essential not to let that happen! If you feel you’re getting saturated with your topic, it doesn’t interest you as much as before and you don’t enjoy reading your manuscript anymore, it probably means that you have over done it. Perfectionism can lead to depression and anxiety. So, you need to be able to stop when you feel all your energy is being sucked out of you by repetitive re-readings.
- You feel you’re not making the manuscript any better. It’s dangerous to continue editing just for the sake of it. Maybe you already have it as good as it gets, and you are just re-writing your paragraphs without adding any value.
- You keep erasing sentences and then putting them back in again. If you feel you’re becoming overly indecisive and losing your judgment about what it’s good and what’s not, you should probably stop. There’s no point in destroying what you have previously written and then restoring it back to the original state. If this situation happens too often, you should definitely consider stopping.
- You are not sure if the changes you’re making make sense anymore. This links with point number 3. Sometimes you can spend so much time on a manuscript you are not sure anymore if what you have written so far makes sense at all. This sort of self-doubt signals that probably you are losing your distance and can’t see your manuscript and its contributions realistically anymore. It’s important not to lose your confidence during the editing process; you will need it for your presentation. If things are starting to look blurry, put the pen down.
- You feel you’re not moving anywhere. It can also happen that you feel utterly blocked and stuck with your editing and don’t feel you are making any progress anymore. Listen to that feeling of editing fatigue and stop. It might be that you are just wasting your precious time on something that you are not able to improve anymore at this point in your life.
- You have spent more time editing than doing your entire research. If months have passed and you’re still re-reading and re-reading your material, because you feel too anxious to send it off, get your courage together and press the send
Also, it’s important that once you submit the final version of your thesis, you stop thinking about what else you could have done to perfect it. You need to accept that you made it as good as you could and let go.