Several times during my mega-massive writing weekend I asked myself: Why am I doing this? What could possibly make such an onerous task worthwhile? Why keep playing the academic publishing game when the rewards are so meager?
There are rewards, of course--a good teaching job, tenure, promotion to full professor--but after all those rewards are won, what then? Why keep presenting conference papers and writing articles with no tangible rewards dangling on the horizon? I'm a tenured full professor with nothing to prove; I'm not on the job market and my institution doesn't offer any sort of merit pay. The most I can hope for is a pat on the back from my department chair in my annual review. So why keep playing the game?
The main reason, I suppose, is that it's fun. I enjoy reading new things, researching new approaches, and contributing to the scholarly conversation. The time may come when I want to slow down my pace, but as long as playing the game gives me pleasure, I won't hang up my cleats.
Nevertheless, I do understand the frustrations of those who don't see the point in continuing to work so hard with few tangible rewards, and for that reason I would favor the implementation of some kind of merit pay that recognizes scholarly accomplishments. An institution that expects faculty at all ranks to teach a 4/4 load should not be surprised when research and publication take a back seat to teaching, but we can surely do more to encourage and reward scholarship beyond the promise of tenure and promotion.
But I'm not grumbling. I love to research and write about literature and I'll keep doing it regardless of the meager rewards. However, the next time I read some angry screed about all those stale, unproductive, outdated senior faculty members who haven't learned anything new since the Johnson administration, I may have to find someone to kick.