Sending work to co-authors may be the worst part of my job*

Sometimes you have these tasks that you just don’t want to do, and you just postpone and procrastinate. Often, they’re not even things you dislike. In my case, at least, I actually liked the task itself. I just didn’t like finishing it.

Today I finished a draft manuscript for my artificial light at night experiment. I loved the experiment. I loved the writing and the reading. I was very pleased with the results, and what I found in them. I think the story is nice. The story had been finished in my mind many times over. All it needed was a final paragraph. Maybe five or six sentences giving an overview of the paper and why it’s an exciting story.

I sat on it for weeks.

I have literally planned blocks of time to write these final sentences at least on four different occasions. On all four, I managed to find some reason to procrastinate.

So why didn’t I finish?

I guess I’m just scared…

On the one hand, it feels a bit like a house of cards. After carefully stacking everything together, I don’t want to invite others to come and have a look, and with that risk that they’ll blow over the entire structure. All the hard work down the drain. I have never written a paper with most of these people, so I don’t know what to expect. Most of these collaborators are professors, and not exactly my peers. It creates a power imbalance, and one that some really don’t mind abusing. I love working with peers. People that are more or less my equals, or at least treat me as such. I don’t know about these people. No clue what to expect.

The first collaborations are always the scariest.

On the other hand, finishing a manuscript is also like finishing a puzzle (that is, this analogy works if you enjoy puzzles and writing). The last few pieces are simple to add, but it also means that the puzzle will soon be finished. Which means you’ll have to start a new puzzle from scratch. Well, maybe with puzzles not so much, but with manuscripts it is a bit like a neverending story.

This afternoon I sent my draft to the co-authors. Instead of feeling victorious, I feel like I’m waiting for the final verdict in a court case.

At least now I have this final annoying task of crossing it’s and dotting i’s for my manuscript off my desk.

Let’s hope people like it.

*I understand and agree that this is an important part of creating the best product. Agreeing and liking are not the same thing.

Published by Robin Heinen

Father of two | Husband | Entomologist and Ecologist | Postdoctoral Researcher @ TUM | Traveler | Coffee Addict

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