NOVEMBER 2022: If you have a question you’d like me to answer during Nov 2022 daily blogging, please leave a comment to this post.
I have a new pen name/email/web domain for the new (to me) genre in which I am writing a novel. This brings the number of different email accounts to seventeen gajillion. I know this sounds silly, but this all makes the endeavor more real, like I’m truly committed to it (which I am). I am feeling energized to get back to the novel (I have about 50k as of July, but haven’t been able to work on it very much since, on account of, you know, day job and stuff). However, I am hoping to put down some more words during the rest of this month and especially in November.
Speaking of November, I usually blog every day, following the old-timey NaBloPoMo tradition, and will try to do it again. It will likely be a mixture of reposts, new posts maybe 2-3x a week, and the rest links/Twitter silliness posts. Which, to be honest, is how previous Novembers mostly went, too.
If you have a question that you would like me to answer, please submit either via email (xykademiqz at gmail), or leave a comment to this post. There will be a new post like the one on the RHS for the upcoming November. I will try to answer as many as I can, and if I don’t get to yours, it usually means I planned to, but it slipped my mind. Just ping me again sometime in the future.
The following is definitely a feature of the job, but it still sometimes strikes me how constantly critiquing people’s work erodes my joie de vivre. Even if my opinion is 100% correct, it still takes something from me to have to submit even the most tactfully crafted negative opinion, to recommend declination of a proposal or paper, or to decide to reject a paper as editor. These are all actions that, even if justifiably, hurt other people, colleagues who usually put a lot of time into the work, and I have to the person who tells them ‘no.’ Saying ‘no’ is always fraught, and so many people take it way more personally than they should — the judgement is on a particular piece of work and its suitability for a journal or a funding agency, not on the authors’ ability to do science — but I have also been on the receiving end of such bad news, and it’s often hard to decouple the two (the rejection and the sense of self-worth). It’s easy to read too much into a rejection, and it’s perhaps not always misguided to do so, because people also hold grudges and gatekeep, so the noes aren’t always as impersonal as they ideally should be. For me, having to dispense negative opinions and decisions always takes a little something away from me, makes me a little colder, as little more closed off.
Which is also why it’s so nice to do stuff on my own, without anyone to teach. I don’t have to witness other people’s hardship and failure. My own is fine; usually I take it as a sign that the reward is worth the sweat, and I always love a good challenge! Not that I never get demoralized, but when it’s just me, I am usually OK. In contrast, seeing my students (or my kids, for that matter) have setbacks can be really hard.
An undergrad came to talk to me about grad school, and we chatted about where he would want to go. I suggested a bunch of places and people, but the field he wants to go into isn’t really mine, so my information is limited. Then he said he’d asked a person it the field, but couldn’t get an appointment with them, after which I contacted the same person on behalf of the student, and the person got back to me quickly, with off-the-top-of-their-head information that probably took them no time at all to type up, so now the student had all the info he could need. This little (barely) anecdote got me thinking how we who are specialists in our fields are really such vast repositories of knowledge, knowledge that is very hard to get in other ways but that we possess and can effortlessly dispense, but only to those who have the ability to get a hold of us. This can be a metaphor for a whole bunch of stuff, but one thing is certainly true: like with so much of everything in life, access is everything, yet it is also the thing that most will never have.