Monday, October 25, 2010

Dealing With Academic Rejection

I have written about the hardships of academic rejection before. All of us come up with our own ways of dealing with yet another article or grant proposal being rejected in painfully offensive terms. So I came up with a way to provide myself with a psychological safety net for dealing with academic rejection, which is backfiring in a very curious way.

Now, when I submit an article for publication to a prestigious journal (especially, if the article deals with a controversial issue such as, for example, collective identity), I immediately follow it up by submitting another article to a much less prestigious journal. The idea here is to have something to fall back on psychologically when the article gets rejected by the more prestigious publication. Weird, I know, but how much rejection can a person take and not lose all faith in themselves?

Strangely, however, this system has been producing the opposite results. I would get an article accepted by the prestigious journal and have a similar article refused by the non-prestigious one. The most recent pair of articles dealt with collective identity in the contemporary Spanish novel. One of them was accepted by a very respectable journal, which only requested some minor changes. The other article was rejected by a place that (as I learned to my horror after submitting the article to them) has published some people who are complete and utter ignoramuses and quacks. The reason for the rejection was (and I quote) that "the theme of the novel is clear and does not warrant an extensive analysis." This third-grade level terminology in a discussion of literary criticism makes it painfully obvious how low the journal's standards are.

It looks like the time has come for me to revise my publication strategies.


Canukistani said...

Maybe you should publish your artices on your blog. I typed in "eliminate tenure" last Sunday to check out what has been going on during the past month and the top ranked page on google was "Clarissa's blog."

Clarissa said...

Oh, thank you for telling me, Canukistani, I had no idea. I feel very good about myself now. :-)

Pagan Topologist said...

I think it helps not to take rejection seriously, nor personally. It seems clear that editors and referees are bound to make errors and to make silly decisions. I have had an article rejected four times which was later accepted after I changed the title. In retrospect, the original title was somewhat pretentious and less descriptive of the content of the work, but the content did not change.

Actors and singers, after all, get rejected at least a dozen times for every job they get. Those not so good at what they do no doubt get even more rejections.

But hang in there! It sounds as though your career is on a favorable trajectory.

Clarissa said...

Thank you, Pagan Topologist. I understand on a reasonable level that you are right, but somehow each rejection makes me feel like the biggest failure of all possible failures. Which is unhealthy, I know. I wonder how many publications I need to have to start feeling secure enough as an academic.

Anonymous said...

I think it makes perfect sense that the less prestigious magazines reject your work. I would imagine that the more prestigious publications employ brighter and more accomplished individuals. Those accept and welcome the talent of their peers more easily. Someone who is mediocre will fail to either accept or even acknowledge someone whose work is superior. It is not only the case in academia - works quite the same way in the corporate world.

sarcozona said...

I submitted a grant proposal today that I really really want to get. I've been relatively successful funding-wise, but my stack of rejections is far, far higher than acceptances. It never seems to get easier, but my strategy is to only let myself rant and cry and whine about the rejection for a day. Then I start a new project I'm excited about.

Clarissa said...

Good luck on the proposal!

I admire the strength of your personality in only whining about rejection for one day. As for me, I don't rest until everybody around me has heard just how miserable I am. :-)

Blogging helps, though. :-)