Monday, October 08, 2007

And So Another Week Begins

And I am c-r-a-n-k-y. Part of the reason that I'm cranky this morning is because I just got comments back on an essay. This essay was accepted for a collection like 3 years ago. It has been through like 4 major revisions (for others: not counting just general revisions I do throughout the process that nobody but me sees), the most recent of which happened in August. And yet, still another set of comments. Lengthy comments, that really change the substance of the essay yet again.

Now, I know I suck with criticism, and I know that I shouldn't be frustrated and impatient, but dude, maybe my essay just doesn't belong in the collection as a whole? Maybe the reason that they keep coming back wanting me to do more and more things to it is because it just doesn't fit with what other people are doing? I don't know. I suppose part of what I'm bristling at is the fact that the longer this process goes on the less resemblance I feel like the essay has to any of my own ideas. And while I generally have absolutely no integrity or commitment to what I write and I will do whatever readers want in order to get something to publication, even I have my limits. It's only one essay. If they want me to do all of what they say that they want me to do, do I have 300 pages in which to do it? Because I'm not sure it's possible in 30 or even 40 to address the whole of feminist criticism, add in yet another theoretical perspective, deal with crap related to aesthetics, and still to talk about the authors and primary texts whom I claim that the essay is about. (I should note that this whole thing began as a 10-page conference paper, so clearly it's grown way out of control throughout the revision process.) Look, I know what I'm doing is wacky. I know that it doesn't really fit in with work that other people are doing on the authors that I examine, and to be honest, I'm not sure that it really fits with the theme they've chosen for the collection. And I know that the fact that I believe that authors aspire to something we might call "great writing" may for some be... problematic... especially for those who think that looking to place texts in 21st century criticism means that we can't talk about things like aspiring to aesthetic greatness. But dude, these are the things that I'm thinking about. I'd rather be dropped than to have my ideas revised out of the essay, especially after I've spent as much time on it as I have done.

The problem, however, is that I've made a commitment to people to do the essay for the collection. I honor these sorts of commitments. I feel like they are important. But I honestly want this thing out of my life. I'd rather they just dropped the essay from the collection and then I could send the thing out as-is to journals and see whether I had any better luck with that. I'd rather not have the commitment to do substantial revisions in the spring (because I've told my friend who's editing the collection that I can't even look at it until after MLA, and yes, that's another layer of complication, that I'm friends with the editors) when I really need a fucking break and when I've set it up to have a break. And, let's be honest, when I don't believe that doing these substantial revisions is going to mean that this thing is any closer to publication.

Which, of course, is nobody's problem but mine. I'm being whiny, and I need to just suck it up and get over it. I sent a reply email expressing some of (well, probably all, just slightly more nicely) these frustrations, so we'll see what comes of that.

All of this is a long way of saying that it will be a very long time before I submit something to an essay collection again. A very long time indeed.


gwinne said...

All I can say is *thank you* for this post. I have an essay I seem to be repeatedly revising for the same journal. The first version was flat out rejected (as it should have been). I used the comments and resubmitted, doing *exactly* what was asked. Then they asked me to revise again; one reviewer (who'd read the original) loved the revision, the other two criticized the essay for everything the first one liked. So I'm revising the thing again, because after this much time and energy, I'm committed to this essay appearing in THIS journal and I'd rather not start this ridiculous process over elsewhere. But I'm completely freaked out that after all this, they still won't take it; they used one of those vague statements like "final decision about publication will happen after we see the revised version." Meanwhile, I'm learning from another essay that when journals switch editors, an already revised and "accepted" essay might suddenly become grounds for further reading and revision. Oy. So thank you. It's good to know I'm not alone. From here on out, I'm done submitting to journals. Seriously.

Dr. Crazy said...

You're welcome, Gwinne. I'm just sorry to hear that you're in a similar situation! You know, I always feel better about sending stuff to journals because I feel like I have more freedom not to do what they ask and just to submit elsewhere if they don't like it. The problem with this is that I really don't have that option because it would mean screwing people over (potentially) in a way that it's just not screwing a journal over not to revise something. I don't know. I just feel pressure because I don't want to hurt the chances of this collection being published by refusing to do my part, but at the same time, I'm irritated by the process and I really wonder whether any of this work has a point, ultimately.

gwinne said...

Yeah, I understand the distinction you're making about the journal vs. the collection. What I find frustrating is that for the untenured person who needs a publication, that "freedom" to resubmit elsewhere is fairly limited. At least, in this case, I know these editors are at least marginally interested in publishing my essay, whereas if I send it somewhere else (because I find their request unreasonable) I might need to start the process of revising all over.

Belle said...

Are you in a place where you can address the comments in footnotes?

Dr. Crazy said...

Well, I'd thought I was on the last revision, but no, apparently from these comments they want me to rework the whole essay. And to be honest, I'm just not in a place where I feel like that time investment makes any sense.

Gwinne, I see what you mean about the freedom to submit elsewhere being limited by tenure concerns. I think that I'm romanticizing that freedom right now because of my specific situation - I mean, at this point I'd rather have been submitting it places and getting rejected - at least that would make me feel like I had more agency in the process. It helps, though, that I don't really "need" this pub for tenure, and that really, even if I did, a journal would be a better placement than a collection.