At my last committee meeting, at the beginning of the month, I presented my figures for my proposed manuscript to my committee and received the thumbs up to go ahead and start writing it (while finishing up a few loose ends and getting one additional experiment to hopefully work). While seated around the table, my boss declared that he would like the draft of it by January 1st – exactly one month later. The committee sat around joking that on the 31st, I’d be buying a plane ticket to California to get those extra three hours of writing in… and then hopping another plane to Hawaii to buy myself a few more hours… but oh, be careful and don’t cross the international date line!
I know that the comments were all in jest, a result of previous graduate students who were unable to meet deadlines and used all sorts of excuses. But when I returned to the lab later and mentioned the deadline to other labmates, they all furrowed their brows and made comments about how a manuscript in a month is no easy feat.
Yesterday, two weeks before the imposed January 1st deadline, I emailed my boss my manuscript so he could take it on his trip to Europe (what better to do with 14 hours on a plane than edit it?!). It took me a week to find the time between experiments to write a two page outline, and then four days to go from my outline to the finished draft, and one more day to get my figures polished. I suspect the reason the writing went so quickly for me is because I have been working on this project for so long – I already knew everything there was to know about it, inside and out, so I did not have to waste time reading through lots of papers. I also just gave my yearly data presentation to my department, half of which was on this project, and if I can stand up and speak about the project for 40 minutes, then I’d expect I could sit down and write about it as well. However, I still can’t drop the nagging feeling that I’ve done something drastically wrong, since I finished writing the draft so quickly and with such ease.
Now the worst part: the wait. Boss returns from Europe the end of next week. Will my draft be returned with some minor edits, or a giant “MANUSCRIPT WRITING: UR DOIN’ IT WRONG!” scrawled across the top?