I was talking with a friend recently about the special kind of hell that academic writing can generate inside our heads, a distinct kind of neurosis that smothers and kills one’s ego again and again and again.
Sharing any kind of writing can be nerve wracking, sure, but academic writing, I think, carries with it the weight of Being Assessed, of having one’s worth measured against a gold standard to which we plebes can only aspire. A standard, I might add, that’s almost Oz-like in both importance and invisibility: the discourse behind the curtain, natch.
This discussion’s taken on a new weight as of late, as I’ve had two pieces of writing Formally Assessed and found wanting.
These are two essays that I submitted to two different journals. One came back quick with what’s called a “Revise and Resubmit” (which is just what it sounds like) and the other was accepted with major revisions.
On the one hand, this is good; for, as my advisor says, though, it’s just easier for any journal to say no, so I should feel some sense of pride in not being rejected outright. Even if, as she notes, doing the actual revising will hurt.
That’s what stands for a pep talk in this context, I guess: congratulations! they didn’t tell you to fuck off. Yet.
And yeah, at some level, I find these results pleasing. A foul tip that stays foul is better than one that goes fair; at least I’ll have another shot at both pieces.
I’m a selfish dick: I want people to read my stuff, damn it, so if this is what I’ve gotta do to make that happen, so be it.
But on the other–
I can’t bring myself to read all of the editors’ comments closely quite yet. It makes me so freaking nervous.
I mean, just the prospect of looking their notes–reading the results of my own autopsies, at it were–has generated this profound sense of anxiety from which I can’t seem to get free.
Trust me: I realize this is a selfish thing to be whining about, but it’s something I don’t know how to process quite yet, and something I’m going to have to get used to. I’m used to being autonomous as a writer, though writing online—both blogging and fan fic—has begun to change that. I’ve come to enjoy collaboration, and getting feedback on my work in this context is almost always great.
There’s just something about having my strictly (ha) academic work examined and judged in this way that freaks the crap out of me—and yet it’s part of my job to get used to it, as a grad student and a nascent baby scholar.
So. What’ll probably happen is this:
I’ll drink a few whiskey and cokes and read through the editors’ comments when I’m a little too far gone to care, to let the stings and arrows of criticism sit too deep in my skin. When I’m much too sober, I’ll write. I’ll respond the best way that I can to the editors’ suggestions and then le jeux sont fait.
I’ve chosen to make a crack at this gig, this panto of being a scholar, and now I’ve got a new part to learn: she who must revise.