The emotional perils of academic publishing

For the last several months, I’ve been working on an article – my first ever – about the challenges of doing research with young people, combining a review of the literature with a discussion of my own experience. Initially, it was meant to be a piece of writing that could be evaluated as part of a scholarship application, but my supervisors suggested that I also try and get it published in an academic journal.

Now, I am fully aware that preparing an article for publication is no easy task. My partner is an academic, I grew up around academics, and I’ve seen this process as an outside observer quite a few times. I thought I had a handle on how it worked. After the actual article is written and submitted, there’s the waiting, then the peer review stage, and then the back and forth with final changes. It takes awhile, and the chances of receiving negative feedback are high. Not a problem, I thought. I can deal with criticism, and if it makes my writing better, what’s the big deal?

The big deal, the thing that no one mentioned to me and that I didn’t think to ask about, was the possibility of rejection without review. The possibility that the editor will not even let an article be sent out for review, because it isn’t a good fit for the journal or, as I got told this morning, because it just isn’t good enough, period. This most recent rejection was the third, and I’m getting frustrated and discouraged. I’m also beginning to wonder whether I will ever get anything published ever, because that’s where my thought process ends up when something doesn’t go quite the way I want it to.

Part of the reason it’s difficult, I think, is that this particular piece of writing is quite personal in a lot of ways; as one of my supervisors said, I put a lot of myself into it, and in a way I’m quite attached to it. But having it rejected multiple times is making me doubt not only my writing ability but also everything I thought I understood about what qualifies as appropriate content for an academic publication. And if I’ve completely missed the mark with one article, how am I ever going to put together an entire thesis?


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