Saturday, September 20, 2003

Be Careful What You Wish For

How can I possibly be this swamped only three weeks into the semester? Sixteen SciFi/Eng 101 papers, 10 Sr. Sem. responses, a review of a book about Gregory the Great's reception in Northern Europe that was due a while back, I think (email lost in hard-drive crash in June, so If anyone out there has an issue of Mediaevistik, please tell me how long the reviews generally run). Then another 52 (dear God!) Medieval Lit papers come in on Monday. The fellowship applications are mostly done, but now there's an article due on "How the Monsters Became Important: From 'The Monsters and the Critics' to Today" by Dec 15 for an essay collection being published in Italy. And then there's an essay on Tolkien's Beowulf translations due Jan 8 for Western Michigan...

And that nice little whine sets me up for today's brief topic: the rapid switch from famine to feast that stops you from really producing another big piece of work.

When I was first starting out in academia -- or even just a couple years ago -- I would write articles and then spend gobs of time (actual years in the case of the wills article) sending them out, having them rejected, sending them out again... lather, rinse, repeat.

Now, all of a sudden (and when it matters much less thanks to tenure). Everyone is asking me to write articles. I can barely keep up with my publication committments. It's crazy. Ten years ago, no, five years ago, I would have killed to be included in essay collections. Now it's becoming a chore.

It's a nice chore, don't get me wrong. And much better than being ignored. But I can see how writing an essay here, an essay there could really cut into one's ability to produce a big, sustained book. Not only that, but you kind of reduce the impact of your big work if it's all been published in pieces elsewhere.

But will I start saying 'no'? Doubtful. How can you say 'no' to your friends or to people you've admired for years, or to people who gave you a chance when you were getting started?

My two research assistants, though, claim that they're going to start intercepting my mail and email to prevent me from starting any new projects...

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