Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pre-conference anxiety

I'm not usually the type to get tied up in knots prior to conferences.  I like to hobnob, and catch up with old friends, and generally feel professional and professorial.  But this year, I have a sense of dread, largely because I feel a distinct lack of confidence.  (Thanks a lot, Journal of Pretentious Self-Justification, for taking the wind out of my sails.)  I'm still struggling to put the subject of my impending talk into words that don't sound superficial and played out, since that journal rejection seems to think exactly that of me.  And that journal's home discipline is, ostensibly, less theory-centered than my home branch of pseudology.  Can I offer any analysis that will not yield a shower of rotten vegetables from an enraged audience?  My blood runs cold to wonder about this.

The fear is ratcheted up as well by the fact that a friend of mine is chairing the session, and zi is pretty well up to date on my work.  I feel personal pressure not to repeat too much of what zi has already heard, although zi is certainly more intimately familiar with my research than 99% of pseudologists.  And I'd die of shame if I left myself open to a serious criticism from my friend about my methodology or my analysis.  Avoiding shame would be nice.

Speaking of fear, shame, and colleagues, have I mentioned that I'm on the job market this year?  Lord love a duck, I've lined up three preliminary interviews at the Big Giant Pseudology Conference so far, as well as a face-to-face chat with the press editor I've been corresponding with about my manuscript.  My intellectual knowledge that I have acquired a sophisticated repertoire of questions and answers for job interviews is at war with the id-like fear that I will only continue to humiliate myself the way I did the last time I attended BGPC.  I've already had one prelim interview this year via video-conference, and it was a struggle for me to speak about my research, because the criticisms/dismissals in the article rejection were so fresh in my mind.  I was afraid to say what I was working on, because I was newly aware that people might all but say out loud that it was stupid.  That I'm stupid.

We all go through moments of this, right?  I just need to get my theory brain going again — I feel like I've been spending entirely too much time thinking about my classes, which is exactly what everyone and his mother warned me not to do.  And I need to get my game face on for impressing potential manuscript-buyers and hiring committees.  I need to spend a little time thinking of myself as a functioning scholar, instead of a contract teacher.  And maybe I also need to drop by the haberdashery, since I just realized that my dressier shoes and accessories are all black, but my only sport coat and my best non-suit trousers are both brown.  In my anxiety, I'm planning to pack both my (charcoal gray) suit and some more professorial clothing, and I find it easier on these business trips to pack a wardrobe that goes with a single overarching color to match or complement.

And yes, I am aware that this clothing-buying impulse is probably yet another way for me to avoid writing my conference talk.  FML.


  1. Nooo! Don't let the bastards get you down! You can do good scholarship!!!

    Remember that if you're doing interdisciplinary work, it is harder, or just trickier at least, to get into the journals of the related disciplines. It probably is a shaping and fit bit more than the argument itself being bad.

    I know it's hard, but put the journal completely out of your mind and take pride in your own thoughts and scholarship in those interviews. Don't let the past affect your chance to make a good argument about your work!

    And don't pitch the conf. paper for the pseudology friend --- I always find that I am so sick of my work, right before I present it, that I doubt any of my points are actual analysis instead of completely obvious inanities, and at the session everyone will go "ooh" and compliment my ideas I came up with long long ago, because to them they are as fresh and new as when I first wrote the abstract. Don't spend a lot of time rehashing what everyone knows or defining "pseudology," but instead really push the most interesting bits of your work based on an ideal listener who is familiar with the field but not necessarily your stuff.

    You can do it!!! I recommend you start listening to something to pump you up, like the theme from Rocky or The Eye of the Tiger.

  2. Here's how I see it: People who really know what they're doing will know how to talk to you constructively. People who have no fucking clue will generally be jerks to distract the malleable masses away from their incompetence and bullshittery.

    Or, "Be who you are, and say what you feel, because those who matter don't mind, and those who mind don't matter."

  3. I agree with haphazardmusings...totally. Excellent advice.