Sunday, March 17, 2013

How to succeed

Marcus Arvan has some good advice on how to be a successfully published philosopher. If you're interested in that kind of thing then you've probably seen it already, but here are his main points:

  1. Habits that foster a positive daily attitude and emotional well-being are of paramount importance.
  2. Write first thing in the morning, without any form of self-censorship, setting a firm 3-5 page requirement for yourself, which you assiduously keep to and do not go over.
  3. Give yourself a couple hours a day of "alone time" outside away from the computer if you can.
  4. Send stuff out; don't sit on your work.
  5. When your work gets rejected, send it out again immediately.
  6. Don't work "in secret", but don't seek out so much feedback that you begin to doubt yourself.
  7. Follow every "rule of publishing" as a rule of thumb, but only a rule of thumb.
  8. The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.
  9. Only work on weekdays--take weekends off.
#1 sounds much easier said than done, but it's closely related to #2. If you write a bunch of stuff every day you will feel good about your work. But that brings us to #2, which seems to require a couple of hours first thing in the morning. Don't people have classes to teach or kids to take to school? Are you supposed to get up at 4 or 5 in the morning? I just can't see how I, to take a random example, could do this. The same goes for #3. 

#4 is probably a good idea, although I suspect one of the things I might regret the most at the end of my career is sending stuff out too quickly. I often think things are done that I later realize I could have improved significantly if I had just sat on them a bit longer and read them over with fresher eyes. #5 is probably a good idea too, but sometimes surely work is rejected because it isn't that good. It might be worth considering this possibility. Knowing when something is ready, or as good as you will ever be able to make it, is much easier said than done. Something similar could be said about points 6, 7 (which is #2 again in different words), and 8.

I like #9.

All in all I'm not sure how useful this advice is except for graduate students working on their dissertations and early career academics trying to get tenure at less-then-stellar places. If you're at a place that cares a lot about quality then I doubt you can afford to churn work out like this. And unless you are desperately seeking employment and/or tenure (which of course a lot of people are) then you probably owe it to the world not to churn. I also can't see this plan working for anyone with children, unless they live in a very 'traditional' my-wife-takes-care-of-that-side-of-things way. I do think it's good advice, but not for everyone. And it helps to show what it takes to make it these days in the profession, what we have come to. 

No comments:

Post a Comment