Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Promise Kept, Promise Made

Even C.S. will be surprised to hear this confession: I just finished a paper.

I swore to myself I wouldn't whine about this one, and I didn't. Which meant I didn't talk about it at all.

It was a pure slog all the way, and I feel none of the giddy satisfaction that usually comes from putting the last word on paper and adjusting the commas for the final time.

I didn't even enjoy the endnotes, which I normally love. Everyone has a natural talent for something, and mine is academic citation. MLA, Turabian, ALWD, and Bluebook: I'm fluent in all of those languages. People have even called me the Footnote Queen.

You'd think that with the endnotes being in Australian for this paper (using a project-specific editor's manual plus the Australian Guide to Legal Citation), I'd be thrilled about picking up a new language. Alas, this requirement led to a lot of bad jokes about "Aussifying" (ossifying) the paper, but no genuine enthusiasm. The stress of the writing process loomed too large.

What I like best about footnotes is that you can actually get them right. Writing can be "better" and "worse," but there is nothing that truly qualifies as "perfect." In contrast, the objectiveness of footnotes fulfils my desire for correctness, order and completion. Either the comma goes inside the quote marks, or it doesn't. End of story.

Now I've decided that this paper is the last one I'm going to write, if I can possibly arrange that. My writing is always good enough, but it always falls short of what I have in my head, which cranks up the pressure. If there was no deadline, I'd be in search of perfection--planning and thinking and researching--forever and ever.

So from now on, I'm going to do myself a favor and stick with editing others and the pleasures of footnotes. Life is just too darn short for the paper kind of voluntary anguish.


  1. I love footnotes too! When I was at university, I used to get all my friends to give me their papers so I could make the footnotes perfect. Sorry these weren't as much fun as usual.

  2. I have to confess, I have never felt anything for footnotes beyond being glad that they are complete and frustration at the sheer volume of awkward punctuation that must be put into them.

    Glad you like them anyway. They need a champion too. Sorry the paper was a drag. No fun at all.

  3. Ha! I hated footnotes. I have always been about the stuff that comes before that, but to be honest, I'll be happy if I never have to write another required paper.


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