Monday, July 27, 2009

Saying No

let it be here acknowledged that I am terrible at saying no. I am so flattered by the idea of having a say that I have been loathe to say no to ANYTHING, particularly when my own voice might be considered useful to the discussion at hand.

This has occasionally bitten me in terms of service, but I am realizing that it has the potential to become a problem for my research as well.

Over the past few years, I've been solicited to do a few things--talks, reviews, etc.--that have in and of themselves been productive (like the plenary I gave last spring, or the talk for Nels Highberg's series this spring). I could argue that in both of these cases, the single project led to work that might have momentous effects on my future research agenda. I can hardly say i'd rather not have done them.

But the book review on a playwright I'd just discovered, and who is only tangentially related to my work? maybe less so. And that kept me from working on the book for two weeks.

I've just gotten a request to write a response essay for an article. The article is written by someone with whom I've had some small contact, very positive, and who could potentially be an external reviewer for my tenure file. The play she writes about appears in my book, and she directly references the article that was pulled from that manuscript. All of this says, "Go ahead! Do it!"

But...the turnaround is quick, even for only 4000 words, and the journal is a small European publication that I've never heard of. The publication is only a drop in the bucket for my tenure case or my annual review file (minor point, I know). And here's the kicker. Those 4000 words for the response essay are 4000 words not written for the book. And with a bit om momentum generated towards getting back on that horse, I think this just might be precisely the wrong way to be spending my writing time...

So I'm thinking of declining the invitation. What do you think? Am I crazy?

7 comments:

Flavia said...

Say no. You already have contact with the scholar in question, and the benefit gained in that area is not, to my mind, worth the time & effort. And there's no other real advantage to doing this that I can see.

(I'm trying to do the same thing--cut out distractions from my book project--over the next year, even when they're semi-useful distractions like conference presentations, so I feel your pain!)

Sisyphus said...

I don't even know what a response essay is. (that probably says a lot more about me than the project though.)

Will people you want to read it, read it? Will it be easy for them to find it or will it look cool and important on the cv? That's getting up into article length, and if no one on this side of the pond is going to read it and go "ooh!" and write cool things in response that then inspire you on your next projct ... it doesn't seem worth it.

Except of course, for blogs. Those you should keep updating, so that I can read them instead of doing my own work...

Horace said...

Flavia, Thanks for the moral support...knowing you're in the same position feels something like solidarity.

And Sis, a response essay is usually a short (8-10 pages), umm, response, to an essay already published in an issue, and is often followed by the original author's response. Sometimes these appear in "forum" sections in the journal.

But rest assured, while I won't be writing this one piece, I will continue blogging, because some procrastination I just can't part with...

Nels said...

Yeah, I'd say no. You have what you need for tenure, so it's really about getting the book done because that is going to have the largest effect on your career.

Dr. Crazy said...

Definitely say no. I just feel like this sort of piece doesn't have much bang for its buck. If you're going to write 4K words, write 4K words for the book, or write 4K words toward an independent article based on your own research for a more widely available journal. It's nice to be asked, but this isn't worth it for you at this time, esp. with a quick turnaround time.

undine said...

Say no and put the time toward your book. YOu're doing the right thing.

Anonymous said...

"...the journal is a small European publication that I've never heard of."
I will be very pragmatic and agree that you should say no. You want your journal work to "pop" on your CV, in my humble opinion. Tenure is so important that you must triage your work and your time. Of course you already know that!