A lot of people outside academia don’t realize how slow the gears grind. Projects have to be conceived, funded, performed, written up. Submitted, rejected, submitted again, rejected with revisions, resubmitted, and then, finally, published. In an ideal world, the process takes months. In reality…it can take years. I’m out of academia. But I am not free of it. I have four first author papers still waiting. In my first few months out of academia, I spent all my free time writing three of them up. Checking all the data, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. Two have been submitted, and returned with major and minor revisions, respectively.
And now my spare time is devoted to revisions.
People ask me lately what it’s like to be out of academia. It may be years until I’m fully “free.” In some ways it feels like claws pulling me back to my old life. The revisions get harder and harder to do, as I get further and further from the lab. I begin to forget the literature, the established ways of writing, the phrasing. I forget how to think about things. It’s hard to switch from your daily job to the work still unfinished. Especially when it’s 10pm at night.
And unfortunately, the worse you get, the more you get chastised for doing things badly. And the more you fear and expect the chastisement. Emails from your old life make you sick to your stomach, even though most are completely innocuous. Academia loves sticks, and carrots a feel like they are deliberately undervalued. It really says something about academia that often, acceptance with minor revisions sounds EXACTLY like rejection until you ask somebody else.
This makes it very, very hard to complete those papers. Then you realize you’re the one procrastinating and you feel even WORSE. I know it’s my fault. I know. The papers need to go out. I know it’s my responsibility to do them and do them well. But it is a slog. At best.
I’m determined not to give up. So far, I am putting in 30 min per day on a paper. Response to reviewers, reading it over, edits, reading relevant literature. Often, if I get into it, the 30 minutes will stretch to an hour or more. But sometimes I’m gritting my teeth and telling myself “30 minutes, you can do 30 stinking minutes.” It’s not much. It’s not enough. But it is something.