Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Published! Officially finished with dissertation

My final dissertation paper got accepted for publication. All the papers are well-placed, and this one is in a journal with highest impact factor of all. The average impact factor of the journals where my dissertation papers published is. . . well, extremely high. I mean, not Science/Nature high, not even close (though arguably one should be looking at the log of impact factors rather than impact factors themselves because the high ones are so high), but probably higher than many of the dissertations to come out of my program. And they are all single-authored papers, and all in journals where that's very unusual.

So I am really happy about this. Especially since this last paper actually has the chance of making a difference in the field, though also of pissing people off. And that is actually why I delayed submitting it. That and the fact that my committee never seemed to like that paper very much, and it didn't come off super well as a job talk during my first year on the job market.

But the journal took it, and that's all that matters!

Success is scary. It raises the bar of what I feel like I need to accomplish now. Rationally, that thought doesn't make any sense. An accomplishment can never be a bad thing. Not every piece of work is fantastic, and you certainly can't start any project expecting it to be fantastic.

Nonetheless, every project I'm working on so far is at the very beginning stages, and I am not yet feeling absorbed in anything which I find scary and distracting.

And it's hard to feel absorbed because as I am starting projects I wonder if the ideas I'm having are as fresh and original as my dissertation papers. But that's not productive. It's not like I set off on my dissertation looking for something creative. I was just trying stuff, almost on a whim, and things came together. Some projects will come together to be fresh and get well-published. Others are like book-keeping, and they add to what we have but in the same way as others' work does.

All the work habit books talk about turning off your inner editor in order to get started. These books are talking about writing, but the same idea applies to research. Try a little idea, and then see where it goes. As the title of one of my favorite writing books says, "No plot, no problem!" That's for writing novels, but the same idea applies. And it's fun to read about recklessly writing a high volume crap in order to be able to pull a novel out of the mess. Maybe I should get it from the library again and reread.

And the height of non-rational thoughts: I see all the bad economic news and I imagine not doing any work and not getting renewed and continuing on my lack of work streak in any job that I take and . . . well, that's already ridiculous.

If I have a solid hour of work on one project, that's a start, and a solid day, that's great, and a solid week, I will really feel absorbed. Attainable goals; one foot in front of the other until I get to other side. That's how you cross a wire across the Twin Towers (as I heard the guy talking on NPR on Friday), and it's how you do anything.

So much easier said than done. It's totally self-aggrandizing to say that my pretty high impact factors put me anywhere like crossing the Twin Towers on a wire, but even if they do: walking doesn't change, no matter where you are. Attainable goals. Attainable goals. Attainable goals.

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