everything is a draft


La Nuit Blanche is behind us. It was an exhausting but very exciting night! I think it was an overall success, lots of people came, many of them knowing nothing about phosphorus, and lots of people asked questions. The piece seemed well received and the only “criticism” I received that night was that I should have danced. (I haven’t found any reviews yet but I did find an additional piece promoting the dance here) I know I should basque in the happy feeling of a project completed, but I am already thinking of how I can improve sections of it for the next opportunity to present science through dance (I am thinking of 3 minutes to change the world and how I can dance and do the narration, presenting in CEGEPS and contemplating the idea of doing a “pre-presentation” before showing the dance instead of leaving all the talking for the end, and i am thinking of how I could present it at science conferences to start dialogue around new research ideas). It seems to be a delicate balance in feeling satisfaction over ones accomplishments (and accepting things are never perfect), and viewing that small accomplishment as a draft for something better or something different, a stepping stone. 

nuit blanche 2014On sunday, only a few hours after finishing with the dance piece, I visited the Peter Doig exhibit at the Musee des Beaux Arts. I saw some nice parallels between his creative process and those of a scientist, again reminding me that everything can be a draft or part of a larger series of works. In this exhibit we saw not only the large-scale “finished” pieces but sketches and alternative smaller versions of the same paintings. In order to get to a final version, the series of drafts were not just about perfecting something, but really about exploring different parts of the painting and viewing the same landscape from different angles and different scales. I think we go through a similar process when asking questions and writing manuscripts (a whole career can be spent on refining a very small set of questions, exploring, and reexploring a problem). It was nice to be reminded that even in art, where as an spectator it can be easy to forget the work be hind a piece, often requires a lot of planning and exploration before a creation is ready for the world. Now back to my own manuscript that needs some refining and reexploring…..

I finished the other steps for reviewing my article late last week and ended up adding 2 additional steps before sending the manuscript to my advisor. I think that printing, reading, and retyping was a helpful exercise to help me slow down and find mistakes (or suboptimal writing), but it isn’t full proof. I added the following 2 steps to try and help myself a little more:

  • Start from the last sentence of the manuscript and read up. I have a tendency to skip words so I am trying to look at each sentence as a unit and make sure it is properly constructed.
  • Revisit topic sentences.

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