“Sorry!” she wrote, asking for feedback, “it’s very draft!”
I remembered my own early pieces submitted to supervisors and their noble quest to find something to cheer about them. I am so grateful for their grace. “Wow,” they would say, “you really are uncovering some interesting material.” Looking back now, I see that those pieces were barely notes. Her “draft” was far better thought through than anything mine had been. It got me thinking about how difficult it is to articulate anything in the early PhD stages, when so many options are still open, so much is unformed and there is so little (theory, experience, data, information) to hold onto. I was lucky to have experienced supervisors who understood that early PhD writing is a struggle and they saw my efforts for what they were: hard won fragments scraped together with much effort. I’ve seen other supervisors in action who were far less empathetic, and timed their critique so badly that it crushed the young shoots of research work.
My view is that everything we write – everything – is a draft until that very last day when we hand it in and it’s done. Revealing those drafts can be humbling and scary. Do yourself a favour and find people who will see your drafts for the acts of struggle and courage that they are. Avoid like the proverbial plague those readers who confuse ‘support’ with poisonous criticism, personality attacks or ways of boosting their own sense of power. And be grateful for the graceful.