A little while back I had an article rejected. I’m not going to say which journal it was from. I still see value in ‘blind’ part of the blind peer review game. Suffice to say the article deserved to be rejected. It was written when I was trying to juggle too much work (and it shows). The argument it contained tried to do too much. And as a whole it assumed far too much of the reader. In short it fell down because I was (far) too close to the nuances of my own research and failed to appreciate that not everyone else had that perspective. The positive and negative advice from the readers (though at times frustratingly contradictory) has then proven of great value to my subsequent writing, and portions of the piece have been repackaged, rethought, rewritten, and resubmitted (to another journal I might add).
This comes to mind today as I am, once more, attempting to research and write whilst juggling other responsibilities (read: roles that keep a roof over my head). Of course I am not deluded enough to think that a full-time academic role would bring with it copious amounts of time to read, write, and cogitate. However what the experience of rejection has taught me, is that finding quality time to read, write, and cogitate is invaluable.
The experience of rejection has also made me reflect on the value of saying what I really want to say. In short the value of nuance. There are a number of practices with regard to researching, analysing, and discussing Georgian graphic satire which I find, if I’m honest, infuriating. But what is clear (from one reader report in particular) is that my infuriation came across in the rejected article. I do what I do because I am passionate about it. I genuinely believe we need to fundamentally rethink the terms with which we approach the work of James Gillray, Thomas Rowlandson, Isaac Cruikshank et al (less ruminating on symbols and signs, more consideration of making and selling). Yet I now know that passion needs to trump infuriation, positive needs to trump negative, if I am to succeed in communicating my ideas without facing a hostile reaction from the very same people whose practices I seek to change.
I guess what I’m saying is that we all need a little rejection from time to time, if not to make us reconsider what we are arguing but rather how we argue. I accept what I am saying is hardly anything new (I can almost hear a collective “umm, dur, of course” coming my way). But perhaps we all need to experience it ourselves for the value of the rejection process to really become apparent.