So I’m more than a little bummed that USC turned down my request for a *really* small amount of money to support my book writing. It’s really hard when not even your employer believes in your project enough to give you a month to work on it. But…that’s kind of how work is. When you are a graduate student, it’s annoying that you have these committee members who are always saying “yeah, this project can work, but you are not doing it right yet” or “it’s getting there, but it needs more.” Don’t get me wrong–I get it–it’s annoying.
But when you are done, you are likely to face a world where nobody says “atta girl” but you and your personal support system. Nobody cares about this book I am writing but me–worse than that, one of my most supportive mentors actively seems to dislike the book. He had a book in his mind that he always associated with me, and he just plain doesn’t like the direction I am going. But it’s not his book, and it’s not his time. It’s mine. You just work on what you think you should work on.
So I have to say that it did my teeny tiny heart some good when Mary Beard, probably the most well-known classicist in the world at the moment (or at least neck-in-neck with Barry Strauss) shared her recent failure to receive funding, and referred us to a tale from classicist Edith Hall, for a way more important project than my little book:
I failed to get funding four years ago for a more European-facing version of this project from the European Research Council, whose referees (distinguished classical scholars) could not understand its ‘relevance’ to anything in which they were interested. I failed first time round with the AHRC, the British funding council, because one of the referees alleged that my style of communication had ‘a streak of vulgarity’ (which might be thought to be useful in a project about social class); s/he gave the proposal a 4 when the two other reviewers both gave it the top mark of 6. I went through the complaints procedure, which took four upsetting months, even ending up with a brush-off from the Parliamentary Ombudsman, who said that the AHRC had ‘followed their published procedures’.
Keep going. Yeah, as the de-motivational posters reinforce, you may be persisting in folly. But you won’t know until you are finished so you might as well finish.
Meanwhile, you may have my permission to meltdown a little at personal setbacks: