Context &/in Rejection – policing my vulnerability in academic writing

About a week ago, another rejection arrived in my inbox. It was from a piece I started writing about coffee’s role in building community. I know why. A woman from my writing group told me why after submitting it. Still, despite eight revisions, the reader needed more context.

It’s the problem with my academic writing whether the essay or the theoretical analysis of a cultural product. What I omit results from the speed at which my thoughts I travel. It’s a twenty year old problem. It’s not the problem of not having anything useful to say nor of repeating what someone else has said. It is the problem of not providing them enough material to catch up with me.

It’s a weird problem to have.

The weirdness comes from how long I spent outside of higher education and how much I worked to alter my discourse to be accessible to others. The context gets lost as I cross the borders across genres of writing. Crossing between formalized academic writing, creative nonfiction and fiction, I often leave the tools of one in the residue of trying to reintegrate into the other. It takes a certain level of discipline I need to relearn now that I am working full time, to let my brain do that work again. The last time I engaged all three, I was working full-time at a low-maintenance enough job that provided writing time. Now, which is three years later, I have more working relationships that influence how I think about writing.

Reading Grollman’s call to celebrate 2016 victories, well, is easy enough. I did as much in this post on my other blog. As I do so, however, I also recognize that I need to look at what I have not been able to shake away. What I hold on to in omitting context as I traverse genres, well, I hold on to an unwillingness to be vulnerable in higher education. I wrote my way out of suffering, to quote Miranda’s Mixtape track. Unlike Miranda and more so because of the social stigma of mental health I began experiencing in privileged spaces since high school, I began to be strategic about where and with whom I wrote my way out of what.

Now, at this stage of starting a career in higher education, that which I have protected to survive in places and times I was either too much or not enough wants to tell its story like so many others have. Wary of narcissism, of being ‘quarantined’ for expressing raw grief and pain in ways readers had, in the past, deemed too dangerous, I am still thinking about ‘academizing’ my resilience.

I write about it because I have to get out of my head. As I write literary pieces, as I seek activisty academic spaces like Write Where it Hurts, among others, I continue to contend with how much of the labyrinth of multiple-worldview-engaging struggles I will reveal. Because I like having a full time job with insurance; because I am tired of ‘survival mode,’ if and when I reveal what I reveal will be little by little. One at a time.  Rejecting failed attempts at theory is one thing, rejecting the evolution of my body’s resistance to coffee (how building family/community changed over time) comes from a place of wanting more. Academia has yet to decide, as Grollman’s public writing demonstrate, whether or not writing to reform the culture of knowledge production, distribution and analysis is worthy of providing job security.

The system doesn’t like rejection either.



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