From the mailbag–a letter from Historiann, to Historiann’s readers.
Mid-career slumps: I’m afraid I haz one. What do I do about it?
Outwardly, I’m not slumping. My definition of “slump” has more to do with how I feel about my career now than any major failures or setbacks. I applied for two grants this year, and didn’t win either of them. (If at first you don’t succeed, reapply, reapply again, right?) I had been especially hopeful about the one grant, to which I had been specifically invited to reapply. (Last year, I was the first runner up.) But, I didn’t even make the wait list apparently–I was rejected even faster this year! I’m enjoying my teaching this semester. I have a major research project that I’m working on, as well as a few side projects that will afford me opportunities for publishing bits and bobs along the way to completing the book manuscript. I have no doubt that I’ll write this book–I’m enjoying it a great deal, and all of the intellectual detours that it’s taken me on.
But, this is the strategy I followed for the first book. It worked, but something tells me that I should be doing something different. Specifically, I wonder if I should be challenging myself more. I hate rejection and like to play it safe. I recognize that it has limited me professionally. I talked to a colleague about my slumpishness, and he’s reviving a faculty reading group in environmental history that will help me recharge intellectually. (And, it will connect me more with one of the key specializations in my department, since I’m a marginal rather than a central player in our program.) If I’m learning to alpine ski at age 41, I should be capable of taking some professional risks, shouldn’t I?
What do you all think?
Have you ever been in a slump? What did you do? What do you recommend, and what do you suggest the rest of us avoid? I am soliciting your advice. Tell me your stories.