An (emotional) journey of publication

Hi all, today we will talk about an interesting topic that is not very prevalent among research students. You would have read materials on the publication process, how to publish, writing to impressing editors, etc. But, we will discuss the psychology and the emotions that are associated with publications, especially for beginners.

In this post, I have shared my personal experiences and learning in the process of publications. It might not be the same for you, but you can relate to a few instances and get some ideas. I have spoken more about failures/rejections in this post, not to demotivate you, but because failures teach us more than success.

The first publication is the most difficult

My supervisors used to tell me that getting the first article published is always tricky, and I have also experienced it. When you first submit a paper, you are thrilled and expect a positive reply, but most of the time, the first paper gets rejected. The main reason is that initially, our writing style is not well developed; hence, more chances of rejection. Once you have published a few papers, then you get the hang of writing scientific articles, and the publishing process becomes smoother.

Disappointment, frustration, and desperation

No one can deny that every time you get a rejection mail from editors, you tend to get disappointed. I used to be so sad with each rejection. With each rejection, my desperation to publish used to rise exponentially. There was a time when I was unhappy all the time, impatient, frustrated, and just wanted an article to get published. But let me assure you that it is a phase, and it will pass once you have published a few articles. You won’t feel that frustration for long.

Find the right journal

My first paper got rejected seven times! Yes, SEVEN. We had almost given up trying to publish that data, thinking it will never get accepted because even lower impact journals started rejecting it. But I tried again, and it got accepted in quartile one journal. The reason for the seven rejections was that the journals were out of scope. I was so focused on submitting the manuscript that I never really thought about the right journal. That time, I used to believe that sending it multiple times will get the article accepted. A better idea would have been spending more time in identifying the right journal and understanding the aims and scope of the journals before trying to submit a manuscript.   

Don’t quit

I had prepared a manuscript, and it was well written, so I submitted it in one of the best journals in my field with high expectations and enthusiasm. To add to my expectations, it went for a peer review. Every day, I used to check the status of that article. I was very anxious and wanted it to get accepted somehow. Then after three months of peer review, it got rejected. When I emailed the editor asking if I could revise and resubmit the paper, the answer was a definite NO. It was embarrassing, and I lost confidence in that manuscript. It took me three more months to resubmit that article to the next journal.

Develop resilience

This advice is often understated in academic publishing. If you have to survive this long, frustrating process, then you have to develop resilience. No matter how many times your paper gets rejected or revised – you should be ready to resubmit it with the same rigor and enthusiasm. Many times you will not find a logical reason for the rejection, but there is nothing you could do about it. So learn to let it go. Now, I don’t feel that disappointed after rejections. I think it is a part of the process. Remember that every paper has a home.

No quick fixes

This is one point that you must remember from this post. Publishing in scientific journals is not a joke. Considering the emotional and physical effort required – I felt it was one of the hardest things I have done to date. It really is a difficult thing to achieve, and there are no shortcuts. Patience and perseverance is the key. You will learn the art of writing – very slowly with practice and with multiple rejections and revisions. Trust me; there are no easy solutions for it. Consistently reading and writing will make you better. My supervisors used to make me write one manuscript at least 15-20 times before sending it to any journal, and that improved my writing skills. 

Being on cloud 9

Finally when your paper gets accepted after all the madness and rejections, then you will be on cloud 9. It is such an amazing and gratifying feeling. I used to jump in excitement whenever I got a manuscript accepted.

So, in a nutshell, scientific publishing is indeed a complicated process, and it involves not only your intellectual effort but also your emotional strength. It has highs and lows and very lows. But in the end, you will be proud of your accomplishments. Don’t give up!

Hope you enjoyed reading it,

Amreen

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