I’ve got a terrible confession to make. I want to be a rock star.
I think I’ve wanted to be a rock star since, oh, I don’t know, 1985. And I think the reason I want to be a rock star is because of the allure of instant gratification. I understand that it probably takes a lot of work, a lot of practice, to become a rock star. And the instant gratification you get comes at the end of a short, ninety-minute set, on stage, in front a few thousand drunk idiots. But it’s instant gratification nonetheless. You perform; people applaud.
Ego. Ego. Ego.
I’m writing this because over the weekend the publisher I’d sent my book to rejected it. My emotions are all over the place on that one. I know that writers rarely hit it out of the park on the first go, and I did not feel good about the manuscript when I’d sent it off in the first place. If anything, I felt rushed. I stripped my dissertation (which I did feel pretty good about) and threw a bunch of stuff at it that wasn’t really fully articulated in my own head yet, and hoped to hell that it would stick. The result, based on the feedback I got, was a series of incoherent arguments that didn’t really hold together. I knew that. And I also know that I’ve got better work in me. And that my best work is likely still years away.
That’s one of the weirdest things about this transition from “grad student” to “professional.” I just spent eight years in school, getting “trained” to be a scholar, only to find out that the training never really ends. There’s still stacks of books all over my desk I have to ingest to stay on top of the field. And I’m going to have to work my ass off to get my writing out there, to get my ideas out there, stick my nose into the academic discourse, for years to come before anyone really takes notice.
You can see how the allure of instant gratification would be so, well, alluring.
At any rate, I need to put all this in perspective. I need to do the good Buddhist thing, see it as the fluctuations of ego, take it all in as a good learning experience, and move the hell on. Good writing rarely comes in the first draft; it takes time and work. And it was just one publisher. Like I said, better work is in me, waiting to be put to page. And I need to trust that even if I don’t become a rock star, I’m still doing good work.
But not only that, and way more importantly, I didn’t spend eight years in grad school to be just a writer. The whole reason I decided to go to grad school in the first place was because I wanted to teach, not because I wanted to be a rock star. And the fact of the matter is that, published or not, I get to teach (in less than four hours as a matter of fact), I get to teach not only stuff I was “formally” trained in, but I get to teach stuff that I’m passionate about. Which ain’t half bad.
And at the end of the day, I know that what I’m doing has value. It’s a pretty good gig.