On a recent Sunday, I received an e-mail invitation from a journal that signaled my arrival at a special station in the world of science and technology.
I was sorely tempted to submit to this journal when I saw that I could have the pleasure of “immediate or very fast publication on acceptance” and “no visible or hidden charges!!!” Did it really matter that the journal seeking my contribution was in the field of agriculture? It was The Journal of Crops & Their Management . . . "devoted to the rapid publication of fundamental research papers on all phases of crops and their management."
My good fortune did not stop there. I have subsequently received several invitations to submit an article to “open access” journals specializing in mental health and in epidemiology—“crops” that at least grow in my back yard. I imagine they have legions of readers with that kind of unbridled access. Moreover, these journals boast of no page, color, or processing charges to the authors. Everything is free!
Like any writer, I am driven to see my articles in print. I want to see my words enshrined on pages whose worthiness is measured—indisputably—by such standards as “peer review” and “editorial selection.” You might think that age, experience, and the length of my résumé would spare me from doubt about the value of my work, but it doesn’t.
To rationalize my writing and desire for publication, I make a case for writing to advance the mission of my field. I say to myself that I write to communicate important medical matters to colleagues and trainees. I say that I write to speak to people and their families who are affected by mental health disorders and addictive conditions. I add that I write to advocate for public mental health in every way I can. And I do write for all these reasons, believing that the pen is mightier than the sword.
But I also write for reasons I hardly understand, despite the fact that I have been a psychiatrist who has had 6 years of psychoanalysis. Many times, I face an empty screen not knowing what will appear. Frederick Buechner remarked “. . . you fashion out of the raw material of your experience . . . you write more than you know . . . not because of the research [you] did, but in spite of it.” Something more is going on. The words seem to emerge from some unknown person and place—not the same person you looked at in the mirror that morning when you brushed your teeth. It is an unnerving experience when something unexpected fills the page. It hooks you. It is not ego. It seems closer to discovery, a marveling at not knowing who you are or what you will say.
No wonder blogging has become a national pastime.No wonder that even Twitter, with its mere 140 characters, serves as a line of coke for its author. Maybe our need to discover and communicate helps explain (beside the sad financial condition of the industry) the avalanche of self-published books, which exceeds the volume of books released by trade houses. Yet it seems to me that all this verbiage is a good thing, even if it makes it hard to determine what’s worth reading.
With psychoanalysis now material for cartoons, organized religion in chaos, and communities and families losing their center, what’s a person to do? What do we have as a forum for exploration and expression? Where can we go to find ourselves? Where can we utter our thoughts and opinions? Where can we be in dialogue with our fellow travelers spinning on planet earth?
So, what do you think of “Rotating the Crops of the Mind” for the title of my submission to the Journal of Crops & Their Management?