Not for the first time, I must send you all round to Maria Nikolajeva’s often hilarious and always thoughtful Confessions of a Displaced Hedgehog, this time to read a post simply titled ‘Frustration’.
For context, realize that Prof. Nikolajeva is a very distinguished professor at Cambridge, one of the leading lights in her field. And even if she weren’t, it would still all be true.
For instance: I have little essay, a fun discursive essay—never mind about what—that can’t seem to get a break. I wrote it for an anthology, and revised it carefully per the editor’s requests. They dropped it at the eleventh hour during contract negotiations. I then revised it for another anthology, at the request of the editor. They dropped it with a friendly lack of explanation.
I revised it a third time and sent it to journal. They didn’t drop it. They didn’t even pick it up.
Every academic, every freelancer, has a sad shelf of full of work like this. Ideas that the writer loved and laboured over and then—either because they were only good ideas at the time, or just because that’s showbiz—end up tucked away on the sad shelf, like babes in the woods. Freelance work is one long game of Russian roulette, only without the predictability. I’m starting to reconcile myself to the fact that is one of those projects—no matter how much work I put into it—that’s simply bound for that shelf.
These articles, with hand in hand,
Went wailing up and down,
But never saw the editor
Approaching from the town.
Their pretty lines with crimson marks
Were all besmear’d and dyed;
And when they saw the darksome shelf,
They lay them down and cried.