I'm on study leave at the moment, trying to transform my PhD into a book and I'm dealing with a complete reworking of my third chapter which is in knots at the moment...
But I came across this passage again by Anthony Grafton and it struck me:
We learn first as students and then as practitioners of disciplines, members of communities, users of libraries, habitués of archives, apprentices, and friends – as lurkers in particular intellectual, social, and institutional corners from which we look at the wide world. We see only one corner of the past or of the artistic or literary tradition, but we see it vividly, in color and perspective, because we know our set of sources so well and can study them in particular ways into which we have been initiated by teachers and by the keepers of libraries and archives. Our choices of topics, our uses of sources, and our ability to publish all of these results all hinge on our relationship with others as much as on our own abilities.
- Worlds Made by Words: Scholarship and Community in the Modern West.
Academia can often feel like a lonely journey, and the result is we often shut ourselves away, use pretentious confidence to mask anxiety and feelings of utter uselessness. We compare ourselves to others and in so doing put others down or inhibit our own creativity by never feeling good enough.
I'm a firm believer that academia can change, and it will only change by introducing some more kindness. There is a sense of community, and we all know that knowledge does not exist buried in a study somewhere in an ivory tower, but because we share it, receive it, and grow from it.
We should feel proud of our own special niche and what we can contribute to the larger body of knowledge out there by the small little thing that we know. But because it was so hard getting there we sometimes forget that we are human and the reason we started this pursuit was not to be the foremost specialist on x, but because we were hungry for knowledge.
I'm not going to go on, but just remember everything we do depends on 'our relationship with others as much as on our own abilities.'