Post-conference come down

Having had a look around the internet this morning, this doesn’t seem to be discussed anywhere [feel free to correct me if I’m wrong]. But I think it’s an important thing that has to be dealt with – the thing being the post-conference come down, for those who presented a paper at a conference. If you’ve only attended conferences, then this isn’t for you, or if you’re a seasoned conference speaker, then maybe you don’t need to worry about this so much. But for people like me, finding their feet, their speaking style, their research methodology and topics … basically, their confidence in who they are as academics and speakers, this is certainly something that needs to be discussed.

What is post-conference come down? In the period immediately after the conference, there may be some jubiliation, a high, if you feel as though you’ve done well, a sense of relief, perhaps. There may not be, and that’s okay. This isn’t meant to be prescriptive, a “you must feel these things after the conference” list. Everyone feels things differently. But after the high, and perhaps if you didn’t have a high, and certainly if you struggle with imposters syndrome, the doubt and the questioning can start to set in. ‘I only got one question!’ … you might think. ‘I ran over by a few minutes, had to drop a couple of slides’. ‘I didn’t explain that bit very well..’. The exact words & phrases will of course differ, but the underlying emotional tones are the same: self-doubt, questioning, and if you did have a high, that drop from the high to the self-doubt and questioning is horrible. Really, and truly emotionally horrible, and it can be enough to really badly knock you off your path as an academic. It can come out in a number of ways: being grumpy, being teary, lethargic, not wanting to do any work, right through to feeling really low, down, and perhaps even depressed and wanting to quit.

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Writing – writing the same topic seven different ways

I’m not doing very much primary source research at the moment. Instead, I’m caught up in a round of presentations of various kinds, and the work that I’m doing on my PhD proposal (along with some background research on assignments I have due). I’m okay with this, mostly because I know that soon I’ll get back to the happy state of working with primary sources (I’m due to dive into the archives in a couple of weeks, in fact). But I want to seize this moment to discuss writing.

Since March 2014, the last 18 months, I have written up the same piece of research in seven different ways. I wrote it originally as my undergraduate dissertation, with an abstract, of course. Six months later, I rewrote it as a journal article. That was rejected, and after some painful review, I began to understand where I’d gone wrong, and I rewrote it, six months later, and submitted it to another journal. To my delight, this was accepted, and after revisions, will be published next January. In October, I presented a short talk on my research to the general public. In November, yesterday, in fact, I delivered a conference paper based on it, to my peers and superiors. In a few weeks, I shall be delivering an extended version of that to a local history society, at their AGM. A few days after that, I shall deliver a second, slightly edited round of the general public talk. I have been asked to do at least two more public talks to larger audiences as well, over the next year and a bit.

While I am very happy that my research, and presenting style is such a hit, I’m not writing this in a congratulatory sense (well, maybe a little bit. Can you blame me?). Rather, what I want to explore is the ways in which these pieces of writing are so different from each other, despite all being on the same subject, and how I have deliberately adjusted each bit of writing to match the audience expectations, knowledge, and also the demands of the piece.

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