Complex Singularities

Adventures in Thinking Outside the Tower
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On Editing

One of the reasons the writing process—and especially academic writing—relies so heavily on editing is that it is a sedimentary process. Writing develops over time, where slowly and steadily, layers of new information and nuance are added into a manuscript. When something is first drafted you do so in dialogue with a number of other texts, data, an archive, etc. But the longer you work on something, the more drafts you do, the more that initial piece comes into contact with new readings, new perspectives (including those of readers, editors, reviewers, students, conference presentation audiences)—all of which tug and nudge what is on the page into new shapes. Part of this is deliberate, part random. You might seek to fill gaps, pursue lines of flight, but you might also be reading something for a completely different reason and you discover that through its lens your writing has acquired a new facet, there is a new connection you can embroider in, a footnote that needs to be added. A news story might collide with your writing and knock it into a new orbit. In this way writing is always diachronic, a text before even its publication after which each additional reader brings new context to it and remakes it and its meaning and signification anew. It unfolds (or folds?) over time, through small measures, intricately worked together.

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