Sunday, May 29, 2011


I finished revisions on my essay for the edited collection last week, so half of my research/writing-related goals for the summer are accomplished. I feel really proud of this piece not only because it constitutes the first academic writing of mine to be published, but also because I began the project on my own. That is, it's been entirely self-driven rather than being directed by my advisor or other mentors. My interest was peaked, I saw an opening for exploring the subject, I did the research and the writing, and I completed the work before I ever sent it to my advisor for feedback. This, in itself, is an accomplishment for me, because I'm very insecure about my academic work. In fact, I was almost in tears with the editors read my final essay and responded that they thought it was "groundbreaking." Really?! "Groundbreaking." I almost wanted to ask if they were reading the right essay. Honestly, I don't think the essay is groundbreaking. Or, if it is, I certainly can't articulate why or how. But my reaction to their response is what's most telling.

Friends, I'm a Praise-Seeker. There, I said it.

I'm not a Praise-Seeker in the sense that I want everyone to tell me I'm wonderful and a genius and my work is brilliant. No, not that kind. Rather, I'm of the praise-seeking sort that, unless someone says something positive about my work, I will most likely think it's crap. I *need* someone else--preferably someone smarter, older, wiser, and much more senior--to tell me my work is good, worth doing, or contributing something original to the field in order to fell somewhat confident about the work I do. I'm quite certain that this is a horrible fault to have, especially in academia. My advisor explained clearly while I was dissertating that, if one seeks external reward or reinforcement to prove that one's work is worthy, then that person will most often be disappointed. I have tried my best to keep this in mind, primarily by making myself think about the value of my work to the field as I develop it. That is, constantly reminded myself to make it clear in my writing why X topic is worth studying, exploring, etc.

And now I move on to the next project, revising an article for publication in a good journal in my field. I chose not to follow the advice of my advisor, a committee member, and several other colleagues, each of whom recommended that I try for a top-tier journal and then work my way down if it didn't get accepted. Since I was on the job market last year, it was more important that I just get something accepted in a reputable, peer-reviewed journal. And, I did! Is it the Best Journal in the Field? No. Is it respectable, well-known, and credible? Absolutely! And the editor, who I got to meet at this year's ASECS, is very lovely, also well-known, and good friends with my advisor. So, there are connections formed that could turn out to be important in the future.

This second essay has also helped demonstrate to me (especially from the reader reports) that other scholars are interested in my book project. Generally speaking, they think the topic timely, the theoretical framework original, and the research solidly done. This bodes well for revising my dissertation into a book, and it just so happens that the publisher for the edited collection is also the same publisher for which I think my book would be a good "fit." I have a plan for the revisions, which I hope to complete over the next academic year, and I have an editor contact in the publishing company.

All good things on the work front...Now I just have to decide, between now and October, if I want to do a full run at the job market (full run meaning a national job search, as opposed to looking only in the New England area where we'll live). I fear that decision will be difficult to say the least.


Anonymous said...

I would so much rather deal with an academic who has a healthy sense of humility rather than one of those gasbags who thinks everyone needs to hear his (usually it's a guy, but not always) take on the subject, at great length. There is nothing wrong with humility. :-) You are smart enough to see that relying on the good opinion of others leaves you vulnerable in ways you are too smart to be vulnerable. People, even academics, have personal agendas, personal filters, personal blind spots, etc. Trust them too much and you may abandon a path that might have given you great satisfaction, as well as bringing you recognition. Find persons you trust - whether their views align with your own or not. Use them as advisors, but - trust yourself. Trust yourself, even if you find yourself from time to time making a leap of faith. Even failure has lessons to teach us, even if only that we are capable of getting back up and starting over when failure knocks us down. The secret is following your passion. :-)

QueSera said...

I feel the exact same way about praise. I'm my toughest critic and never think anything I write is up to snuff because I know all the things that I can change to improve the piece. It is when others tell me that it is great that I finally begin to look at it with different eyes and a little less critically.