It is said that everyone is competing but I think they are competing down, not up. They are competing for towel space on a crowded beach, as it were. But if you go out past the bathers and through the waves, there are only a few swimmers in the clear water. There is space for everyone and they wave at you as you go by.And
It is draining to do things poorly and energizing to do things well [...]This explains a lot. These two insights are connected at the roots.
Today I am moving, and I realize that I am doing it incompetently and thus it is draining a lot energy from me. I dreaded it so I never planned how to do it efficiently. I just throw things in boxes kind of randomly. I take more trips than necessary (and it is a five hour trip each way). Now I am avoiding loading the car again and instead in Starbucks blogging. I am disrespecting the process. Just the way people who hate to cook cook badly and find the process stressful. But you can't just tell them to love to cook!
When I am writing, I rarely find the process stressful. I take pride in the smallest details. Even the hard parts are infused with a sense of pride.
As for "competing down" it is easy to see that writing another article based on an insight already developed by Jo Labanyi or some other famous scholar, just like everyone else already does, will get you published but not get you known. If you can envision that space beyond what other people are doing, you will always have something to say. It is hard, but hard in a different way. You have to be a strong swimmer, but you don't have to be as good at jockeying for position among many similar people.
I had an insight too recently, that the scholarly base concept is what I have to teach my graduate students. One of our best students wrote a dissertation on Quechua poetry a few years ago but never really learned the language well enough to work with the poetry in Quechua. I disagreed with this, but I still had to sign off on the dissertation. Other than that, it was good. It still bothers me, though. Like, "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?" At OSU there was a graduate student working on the Popul Vuh without knowing the language of the original. I would argue with him endlessly. I guess this is another instance of Mayhew's fallacy, or the idea that if other people just knew what I know, they would agree with me completely.