picturing SCOOPED

If you are a fellow academic or if you engage in other creative work, you realize just how much it stinks to get scooped. This is what happened to me today. Well, it probably happened months ago, but I just found out about it this morning. I opened my e-mail on an otherwise pleasant Tuesday morning to find a new volume of Psychological Science. Unfortunately, one of the papers is strikingly similar to a paper that my graduate student and I are currently writing, but that is not yet published. It gets worse. The author of the paper also happens to be one of the most well-known psychologists in my field, so even if I get my paper published, it is much more likely that he will be credited for the work, even though our work developed independently and is different in several regards.

After seeing the title and reading the abstract, I felt like someone had socked me in the stomach and squashed my heart (its funny how threatening events are so visceral in nature) — it was not a pleasant feeling and it brought out the jealous, petty, social comparison lunatic in me — yes, I said lunatic (I think I caught a glimpse of her in the reflection of the scoop above). Although on the outside, my usual chipper spirit was only slightly damped, I was pissed.  I was pissed at the author. How dare he publish something so similar to my own. Pissed at the journal. I suspect that I would have had much more difficulty getting something published in Psychological Science than this well-known person. Pissed at the University of Nebraska. Why is our damned subject pool so slow. Pissed at myself. Maybe if I would have worked harder, I would have gotten this paper out sooner.

I hate this feeling.

It makes me feel like I have to worker faster and longer hours.  It makes me feel like I should be competing, rather than cooperating with others. It makes me compare myself with others, finding myself lacking.

I really wanted to finish up this paper right away. Like, tonight. However, I know that the quality of the paper would suffer if my lunatic, rather than sane self worked on it. Being threatened doesn’t bode well for creative, academic writing. Instead, I met with my student and we made a game plan. We brainstormed ways that we could get this out quickly and emphasize the unique quality of the work. Then, I came home and did something drastic (drastic for me, anyway). Instead of diving into the paper, I went for a run with my dog. I yelled some obscenities and grunted at the universe. Then I took some pictures and worked on my blog. Am I feeling all better? No, definitely not. Am I feeling better? Yes. Sometimes when we’re feeling crummy, we just need to acknowledge it and sit with the feeling for a while. And, besides, I’ve got my own things to scoop.

  1. Hey Sarah,
    That really sucks! But I love your attitude about it. Just spin it a little differently and try your best!

    • Lauren
    • October 6th, 2010

    Ugh, that really sucks! I’m so sorry, S. And I second Steve – your attitude about it is constructive. Reframe it, get it out, and hope for the best. And in the meantime, run and scream obscenities all you like, how cathartic! Sending you hugs.

    • Thanks, Lauren 🙂 I had to have my pissy day and now I’ll try to get over it. Appreciate the hugs!

    • Tara
    • October 6th, 2010

    You just have a way with words, my lovely friend! I’m sorry about the journal article — that DOES suck. It sounds like you have a good perspective on it though. Sending love your way!

  2. UGH. That’s how I feel for you. That totally sucks. But….it is super cool that your own thinking and research is similar to this world-renown scholar. Just shows how smart you are. AND, you did say your work is a bit different, so it will further the contribution. Most importantly, I’m happy you didn’t dig into work and that you took care of your body and spirit. And played with the dog. xo

    • Tiffany Hogan
    • October 6th, 2010

    So sorry Sarah! Remember though that you have a different view and hey, you are more junior so you will be around longer to write about it. 😉 Your attitude is inspiring. Thank you for sharing your day.

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