I am convinced that noone actually likes to correct their work. In over a decade working in the field of historical research, I have yet to encounter any scholar who revels in the idea, who insists on going home early after dinner, or on a night out in a conspiratorial fashion, with a gleeful smile, that they have corrections to be about in the morning. Surely everyone knows the joy of corrections, they confide with scarcely contained emotion, I think not.
Rather it is often a case of “God (Gods, for my polytheistic readership, don’t say I never look after you!), have to get up early and be about these b***dy things for the day now!” The pedanticism with editing is the very definition of tedium itself. To ‘add the half pence to the pence’, as William Butler Yeats put it.
Yet it is this process, on mature reflection, which is often key to the historian’s trade and professional development. We are so often critical of the work of others (who hasn’t ‘tsked’ at a misplaced comma, or incorrect use of a dangling modifier), so critical, that we sometimes lose sight of the need for constructive self-criticism. It is perhaps through this medium, that we ourselves can best view our own work.
I for one am glad (grudgingly I must admit), to be given the chance to revisit my recent work and make changes. The absence of a few weeks makes a tremendous difference! What I had thought of as being THE finished, endlessly redrafted article, was in fact merely the first draft. It was awaiting review by a peer and that is a most valuable process. Little slips in punctuation in references, spelling and pagination errors are churned up in the passing of the editor’s red ink!
But what is most helpful about this process, at least from my own point of view, is the chance to revisit ideas. I am at present able to return to some concepts, which I had only been able to pencil in to my work, briefly address for fear of word count and overly complicating matters. Now, armed with a peer review, I feel far greater confidence to engage in further scholarship, incorporating some fresh ideas into my extant canon.
So really, those souls sneaking away from the bar are not to be pitied, not fully at least! Perhaps they’re just slightly ahead of the curve.