As I started to rework an article for the fourth time this morning, I did not jump for joy as I looked at the many hours needed to work on every paragraph of this 20-page paper. This international magazine has four levels of editing and my article can be rejected even during the last round of edits. The previous edits were made by three different editors, and I had to work through all their suggestions. Now this is the fourth round and I hope that it’s the last.
The only other time I have been so thoroughly edited was when I did my doctoral dissertation. By that time, I had left the state of Illinois and my beloved mentor to move to New Jersey. He still worked with me as we sent chapters back and forth through the mail. The first chapter of my dissertation was the most difficult one—my beloved mentor edited it seven times. In our final correspondence about that chapter, I wrote that he was editing his own edits! Nevertheless, because of his meticulous editing, there were only minor corrections at my dissertation defense. With the passing of years, this well-edited dissertation brought me many benefits in the academic world (and some minor financial benefits). I owe all of this to my perfectionistic mentor who practiced excellence in everything that he did.
Married to a Perfectionist
I am also married to a perfectionist who has worked as a piano teacher and pianist. I know that many musicians are not perfectionists, but some are. I was always amazed to observe the progression, as my wife started to teach new students with truckloads of compliments. As time passed and they become more proficient, the compliments came alongside criticism and challenges. Some of those students have gone on to successful music careers because they have perfected these skills.
I have friends in many professions who are known to be excellent at what they do. Some people that I greatly admire are surgeons. They are able to do many complicated things. The majority of surgeons and doctors are perfectionists and many of us are greatly appreciative of that practice.
I am not a perfectionist, but I have been blessed and shaped by them. As I was reflecting on this, I read a line from Oswald Chambers’ book My Utmost for High Highest, where he writes, “Drudgery is the touchstone of character.” My first thought when I got the email with the next round of requested edits was, “Do I have to do it? I could give up now and have one less article to work on!” But I got back to work, silently thanking the people who challenge us so that our work will be better.
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