Thursday, 31 May 2012

Rejection, rejection everywhere ... (Part 2)

What Have I Learned from My Rejection Record

First, and most important, the only way to learn is to try, try, try …. this is especially the case when it comes to writing, which can only really be improved by actually doing it. I look back at my early work and can see how I’ve developed over the years - well, at least to me I seem to have got better at it. Generally, I’ve tried to retain simplicity as a key part of my writing style, rather than heading down the road of obscurantist prose and the assumption that complexity = intellectual sophistication. I now find it really difficult to stomach some forms and styles of scholarly writing. Another side to trying is the ability to recognize that you're always learning and that you will frequently not know something – admitting you don’t understand is more scholarly, in my opinion, than attempting to bluster your way out of admitting you don’t know or understand something. I find this difficult myself, especially when I come up against referees who I disagree with, but it is still important to bear in mind....  

Anyway, here are some more practical things I’ve learned along the road to rejection:

  1. DO NOT RESPOND TO REFEREE / EDITORIAL COMMENTS FOR AT LEAST 24 HOURS. I can’t remember who gave me this advice or where I read it, but it has saved my ire from tarring future relationships with many an editor.
  2. Always start with a journal submission strategy that includes aiming for at least 2-3 journals that you think would be suitable for your paper. If it gets rejected from your favourite, simply send it IMMEDIATELY to the next journal on the list.
  3. Reflect on whether you have written two arguments in one paper as I have many a time; often the papers I have had rejected ended up forming the basis of two later papers that eventually got accepted. So, try not to jam too many ideas into one paper. This also means that even in rejection we are learning something and we are developing our ideas – in this sense, rejection is very much a productive thing and not something to fear.
  4. Make sure you know your field. It’s always good to try new ideas out and try to get a wider audience, but be aware that what you write will probably have a rather limited audience who will accept your approach, argument etc.
  5. Develop a sense of humour – essential in my view and important for taking something productive from referee / editorial comments that can often verge on the sadistic or simply dreadfully vague – or a sense of detachment. There are already too many thin-skinned scholars out there.
  6. Do not assume that you are ideas are going to be good just because you are clever. It might be easier to justify your ideas or argue your point; it doesn’t mean that either of those things are actually any good or worthwhile.

Ok, that’s about all I can think of, so no need to belabour the point any further.

[UPDATE (4 June 2012) - this was originally my calculations of how much I've had accepted or rejected in word count terms; I've deleted it, however, because I've now written a post on it so it seems less useful sitting here]

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