Last April, I gave a presentation at the Southern States Communication Association convention in San Antonio. I was part of a double-panel that had been arranged by Mary Stuckey on the topic of rhetorical circulation. The piece was a a labor of love and ended up making it into a special forum on circulation in Rhetoric and Public Affairs, edited by Mary. The published essay is entitled, “Delinking Rhetoric, Or Revisiting McGee’s Fragmentation Thesis Through Decoloniality” (click the title for a link to it).
As a writing process geek, I’m writing this post to draw attention to how much essays change from the initial shot across the bow (in this case, my conference presentation) and the final/published version. Anyone in academia knows this happens, right? Rarely does the piece that makes it into print look exactly like what you submit or initially write. Sometimes the changes are small — a sentence here, a citation there — but other times (most of the time!) they’re more substantial.
The problems I got myself into with the circulation piece were twofold. First, I had issues with voice. Despite being the thing I harp on my own students about, sometimes I have a hard time finding my own voice in an essay. In this piece, that was partially purposeful (the fragmented form being a bit of an illustration of the issue about which I was writing). But my voice problems were also related to my fresh take on the topic — that is, I was too new to the argument, which was getting in the way of my own voice coming though clearly enough. This latter voice problem is common … and why folks should probably never submit essays to journals for review until they’ve had some time to sit and go through a proper, long-term revision.
The second problem I had was that the piece was just too damn long. I think Mary had asked us to prepare 8-page papers and mine was somewhere around 13. As a result, things just had to get cut. In this situation, unfortunately, that meant I had to cut some of my favorite parts in which I had situated my argument through an engagement of Jesús Colón, de Certeau, and Latin@ communication studies. Sometimes it’s hard to make calls like that, but they’re the calls you have to make.
Not wishing my brief engagement of Colón to simply go away, though, I wanted to share the original piece (with all of its flaws) here. Read it, don’t read it — it’s up to you. But if you’re starting out with scholarly writing, know that you’re not alone in your struggles to find voice and make the hard choices about what stays in and what gets left out of your essays.
The original essay is below the jump….