...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Dear contributor...

The awaited decision came today. The second rejected article in the last six months. The referee's and editor's reasons for the decision this time are in a long list of small comments about everything from the premise of the article to specific words. It feels like getting a term paper back from a teacher, with the margins filled with small comments and yet with nothing there to grasp. Okay, maybe I'm just sour. Actually, I am pretty sour.

With the first article rejected, I thought “OK, better luck next time. The article could use some improvement”. With this one, I actually cried. I know; it's disappointing not to get what one wants. But it's even worse when there's hope involved. I was kind of hoping that, after all the rounds with my supervisors, that this article was as good enough as they assured me it was. I was kind of hoping that after the three-week wait after peer review, that the article would at least come back as “accepted with revisions”. I should know that until there's a final word, there's always some kind of hope. Both of my articles have at least been sent out for peer review, and it's an exciting time waiting for the EIC’s decision. But I too should know that the worst feeling is when events disappoint you despite what you've been hoping for.

One part of me is saying that I can't always expect things to work my way. There are worse things than others picking at and rejecting your work. This is ridiculous; I should be able to get over this too; there's no alternative but to move on. Another part of me feels defiant about the disciplinary slant and the over-detailed nature of the comments I've received – why did they send my methods article to a disability researcher? Maybe I should stand for myself instead of getting disappointed and just send the article elsewhere. But there was also another part of me that feels just plain sorry that things haven't turned out better. I try so hard to be friends with disappointment. But why couldn't things just go my way when it matters sometimes? So what if this is a little thing (actually, dissertation-wise, it's not that of a small thing). I could wallow in my disappointment anyway.

I don't see myself as being better or worse than other people. At least not worse. In most of my school years since high school, people around me had led me to think that I wrote well, I thought well, and I could be good in this kind of work. After my first rejected article, my supervisors seemed to be more disappointed than I was. We wanted to make sure I had better chances with this next one, and after months of work and 16 or so versions of this article, I also began to hope that it was as good as they said it was. But apparently it isn't good enough this time either, not for the people whose opinion matter for my chances of finishing this PhD. So what things are in my control, what things aren't? Hard to trouble-shoot when you don't know where to begin finding what it is that's wrong. I just want to get that lasting feeling that “Great, a publication! Now I can pat myself in the back!” In the meantime, I'll just stroke myself on the back with a whole different feeling than triumph. Tomorrow, maybe, I'll move on or be defiant. Right now, I need to wash my face.


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