I have been feeling depressed lately about my research and publishing prospects. I’ve accomplished a fair amount since I finished my Ph.D., but I don’t feel professionally or emotionally fulfilled by any of it.
I haven’t published anything since 2015. Much of my time in between has been taken up by two articles, one which has been rejected three times by good journals despite interest, and the second of which is promising, but slow to develop. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong, but whatever it is, I’ve slowed down.
It would be easy to attribute this decline in production to my son Luke, who turned 2 last April. But I don’t. I generally gain strength from him. He makes me laugh.
It would also be easy to attribute this decline to the fact that I have started to write more edgy stuff in articles than in my previous pieces.
My dissertation (aside from the first chapter, which appeared in Rhetorica) remains unpublished, I have found, due to that its conclusions don’t align with contemporary Christianity or conservative biblical criticism. I have shopped it everywhere and found no takers. I consider this a massive failure on my part, even though I know it isn’t. It’s a people problem.
To sum it up, my diss argues that pretty much the entire ‘life of Jesus’ part of the Gospel of Mark (everything beside the Passion narrative – the arrest and the crucifixion) is a work of rhetorical fiction. This means Judas is a fictional character inserted for drama, John the Baptist (while a real person!) never had anything to do with Jesus, and all of the post-resurrection appearances are late additions. Those three observations are chapters. Ultimately, I hold the gospels are not four buttressed eyewitness accounts, but competing fictional narratives as they openly plagarize each other in a quest to control the Jesus narrative – which was created by the author of Mark in the first place!
In retrospect I should have seen the problem, though – it threatens too many people. Even if I point to all the form criticism that basically spells it all out, it doesn’t matter. It’s too edgy, even though I find it to be remarkably commonsensical. I wonder, though, if I should try to build up to it through a series of smaller articles. I have only toyed with sending out the individual chapters. Chapter 1 found a home, but only after many years.
There is also my half-secret hobby as a novelist. I have written three larger works of fiction. The first was about 60,000 words and what I would call today fan fiction. Practice. The second was 190,000 words, much better, had an agent, nothing happened. Self-published, which was a mistake, back in 2003. Very few readers. Bummed me out for over a decade. I’ve read far worse, so that’s another disappointment.
Two years ago, though, I wrote another, about 80,000 words. Thought I had a winner. Sent query letters to over 100 agents. No bites. Abandoned the project. Then I started writing a sequel, which was odd behavior, even for me. I felt like the characters could have another go. This has made me think that I should approach publishers directly. But I feel frozen by the likely outcome.
I think I’ve been burned too much. There is only so much negativity that I can bear and it’s starting to wear. I need a win occasionally to justify continued effort. I just don’t know right now where I’m going to get one. I have a lot of germinal article ideas, but there are so many that it’s hard to pick just one and bang it out.
This feeling will probably pass. I just have to find a way around it.