At 28, I've written more than a few papers. Short essays, long research papers, reviews, fiction, plays, poems; you name it and I've probably dabbled in it. I'm fairly competent; my grammar is generally acceptable, spelling pretty good, my research is top notch, and I try to be at least somewhat interesting. Good enough to "High Pass" my comprehensive exams research essay. Good enough to present at conferences, and maybe get published. Not so good as to get a book picked up by a publisher.
Editing, however, has always been a weak point. It's been a main area of focus over the last two years. It's an art. David Mamet answered the question "what do you do?" with "I shave syllables." In essence, that's what most writers do. Not so much the case with me until about a year ago, when I did 5 revisions on a 12 page research paper. This was completely unheard of at the time.
But nothing touched doing my Fulbright application. The process really started going in August, ramping up through September till crunch time in October. From the end of August till I submitted the app in mid-October, editing my Fulbright essays was a nightly endeavor.
The total writing was 3 pages.
My personal essay was alright from the beginning. I still managed 8 revisions. There was shaving to be done, phrases to tighten, words to cut, and always the small grammar errors here and there. But the story was there and somewhat compelling, if one could call my life compelling.
The research proposal was another matter. 2 pages that would grab the reader, give them all the pertinent information, list a methodology, and layout a timeline. Alright, I can do the last three, but grabbing the attention of the reader? I figured the idea would be enough for that: Travel to Sweden, interview heavy metal and death metal musicians specifically about the use of folklore and folk melodies, and any connections to political and social messages in the music. Use that info to help write an opera, all the while using the resources at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm. Sounds interesting, right?
I revised that puppy 12 times by the end. This was easily a record for me. Even by the end, I wasn't all that confident in my work. It's a beastly amount of work, finding that balance between interesting and "academic." I feel like I had a more free style younger in life, but was forced into a more academic style of writing. And here I am applying for a prestigious academic fellowship, and I'm being told "Be more interesting! You sound too academic!" Who would have thought?
But it was an amazing process. I'm not expecting good news on the Fulbright. If I don't receive one, it doesn't diminish what I took away in the process: learning to juggle edits from multiple sources, examining the nuance caused by simple grammar changes, learning the style dictated by grants and fellowships, and seeing the massive amount of support needed to succeed in such an endeavor.
Whether I get one or not, the process was definitely worth the time
And all this was made all the more challenging considering I turned it in during my comprehensive exam, while also planning a concert with eighth blackbird. Easy to concentrate.