“How is the status of your manuscript?” … “Well, it’s complicated.”
Sounds like I would talk about a serious relationship with another human being. It is serious! But why is it complicated? What makes manuscript writing such a roller coaster ride?
- Manuscripts do not come alone. They are usually attached to supervisors. And co-authors. And wannabe co-authors. And colleagues asking about them. This means loooots of expectations or even time pressure from several parties. I would actually love to write manuscripts just for the sake of it. Because I can and enjoy science. Who pays a salary for that?
- Manuscripts are born to be criticized and to provide tons of work. Once the whole thing is done, and they have left you for a while after submission to a journal, they come back like a boomerang with lots of work attached again. Honestly, minor revisions or direct acceptance of a manuscript are so rare, they finally didn’t make it into this article. Better to expect the worse.
- The longer you work on them, the more they withdraw from you. Dozens of edits from co- and senior author, reviewer suggestions that want to be considered…your own words and ideas diffuse away like a sweet smell. The increasing alienation heavily correlates with the length of the publication process and the number of journals that have seen the paper. Upon publication, the paper and you won’t notice each other anymore. Really sad story.
- The relationship is a false friend. Many times I thought “I can quickly write this together” just to learn again that a quick paper does not exist, due to 1-3. Anyway, next time I still think the same again. The existence of a quick paper is just so damn seductive and illusive that the learning curve has to stay flat.
- The hardest part: manuscripts typically exist on a computer screen. There is nothing to scrunch, to tear or to burn during the process of writing. All the feelings have to stay with the writer, cause nobody can afford buying a new laptop every week. Screaming at them could be a solution – but poor colleagues or home office cat. Sometimes I miss the old pen-and-paper days.