Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Publish or Perish

It's a common expression in academia--the idea that you've got to get your thoughts out there in published form or your career is toast. Implied in the phrase is the suggestion that the quality of work published may not even matter as much to one's career prospects as the fact of frequent publication. And it's a sentiment that certainly applies to the romance industry, in which a writer is only as successful as her last novel and in which top-selling authors struggle to put out two books a year.

Which brings me to my current progress in either of my two chosen fields: literary criticism and historical romance. I never realized when I went back to graduate school how difficult it would become juggling two careers (or the aspirations toward two careers) that take "publish or perish" as their motto. I had a system set out when I was working in (fittingly enough) publishing. I wrote nearly every night for an hour or two. I used my weekends to work on my fiction.

But now I struggle with the thought that extra time, such as it is, ought to be used for research, for academic writing, for additional reading. I've frequently felt in the last two-and-a-half years that I've short-changed both my careers. I haven't devoted myself to academic research with single-mindedness, and I haven't devoted myself to novel writing and publication seeking with any sort of mindedness at all.

New Years are times for expressions of new intentions. And so, of course, are inaugurations of new Presidents. Without turning a blog about writing and reading unduly political, I can acknowledge the inspiration I feel looking toward the next four (ideally eight) years of our country--and maybe take some of that optimism for myself and my individual professional goals.

I've written 30 pages of Oh Mistress Mine since Christmas. I just learned I was accepted into my first professional academic conference this summer in London, to give a talk on Frances Burney.

Maybe I will get the hang of this dual-writing career thing. Maybe I will get to publish before I perish.