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Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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Mad Scientess Jane Expat
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Nothing horrifies me quite like failure. It's part of the reason I went into science. It was challenging intellectually, yes, but to be perfectly honest, it was also pretty simple to earn credentials - degrees, papers, recommendations, the respect and admiration of family and friends. Academia sure does give a person a false sense of self-importance. Your advisers shuffle you from undergrad to grad school to postdoc and you don't have to worry much about staying employed. PIs in experimental science always need lab grunts.

In science, you must share your output with other people and subject it to their scrutiny. However, their judgment is not aesthetic; in experimental science, it's hardly subjective at all. You have four or five people who make similar measurements using similar techniques deciding whether or not they think your results are consistent with current theory. Usually, they approve. Usually, they care little for the presentation unless it's completely incomprehensible. And voila, you're published. It really is frightfully easy to be successful in experimental science, in my opinion, without ever risking your ego. Stick to known techniques, perhaps combine them in a slightly different way, and you'll produce a mountain of new and important results. Maybe they won't be revolutionary, but they will be valuable.

Maybe this is my viewpoint simply because I never aspired to be a world-class experimental chemical physicist. Figuring out why would probably be another post on fear of failure all to itself.

With writing, drawing or photography, the only way to be successful is to share your work and subject it to other people's aesthetic judgment. No one is going to take time out of their day to look at what you've made unless you convince them it's worthwhile. You have to believe in your work, and if it's to be any good, it represents a total investment of your ego. It requires both emotional and intellectual conviction. The only field in science that demands so much of an individual is theoretical physics.

I'm afraid to make an exclusive commitment to creative work. There's an uncomfortably real risk of failure, of years and years of abortive attempts and of living in obscurity and poverty. It's even more difficult when I have such an accessible escape route. I can move back to California. I have a place to live. I have a huge network of colleagues and friends. I could settle, probably not happily, but contentedly, into a research career.

I feel as though I have to decide whether a blinking blue light in the darkness is a lantern fish's lure or just a bunch of bioluminescent bacteria. But in reality, it's likely that neither of these options is as irrevocable or dire as I think it is right now.

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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-06-19 11:10 (UTC)
I hope you don't end up needing to do anything so taxing that you don't have the energy to tell your Stories. Fortunately I think your muses wouldn't let that happen.
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[User Picture]From: communistgnome
2005-06-17 17:00 (UTC)
Donald Trump is a fucking idiot. If he is not an idiot, then his presentation is just ridiculous. I've watched 1.5 seasons of The Apprentice, and I seriously wonder how that self-absorbed egotistical ass-clown managed to find the success he has found.

Oh yeah, it was a lucky break amidst bankruptcies.

The thing is, he pays little mind to consequences, does what he feels like doing, and happens to get lucky.

The PEOPLE on the Apprentice are similar in their level of ass-clowniness. It's like watching a moron herding idiots and criticizing everything they do.

Intelligent people have a little more trouble taking risks, on account of they actually consider what they're doing, the consequences of actions, and the viability of a given endeavor. Intelligent people think. A lot. Which is usually good, but can be crippling.

You have a quick and agile mind. You seem to adapt to new situations with little trouble. You display a great deal of creativity.

Take a lesson from the ass-clowns. Go ahead and let yourself do something without worrying whether or not it's a mistake. You'll land on your feet regardless.
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[User Picture]From: scanner_darkly
2005-06-17 17:51 (UTC)

A trump koan

My cousin works as crew on the set of the Apprentice. I asked him about Trump, and he said Trump was very nice...off camera. Also stated an anecdote that may not be true, but goes like this:

late 80's, Trump is going somewhere in the back of a limo, depressed. He's over $200 million in debt, in a lot of trouble, no idea what to do next.

The limo stops at a red light. Trump looks out and sees a bum there, begging for money. Someone drops a dollar bill into the bum's can. Trump things: "that guy's worth $200,000,001 more than me right now, and look at him, and then look at me." He grumps about that a second, then pauses and reflects on that.

At that moment, Trump attains enlightenment.
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[User Picture]From: souptime
2005-06-17 17:17 (UTC)

why can't you be frightfully successful in experimental science
and, a frightfully successful artist

and, frightfully add me back to your friend list
here is incentive

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

it's a picture of my new semi-transparent tool box
that's right!
I'm re-tooling!

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[User Picture]From: victorine
2005-06-17 17:19 (UTC)

What he said...

The fact that you have a safe place to land is exactly why you should take the risk and devote yourself to something you love. It may not be profitable or well received, but at least you'll have tried it. And honestly I don't think that you'll fail horribly at anything you set yourself to. One of the scariest things to do is put yourself entirely in your own hands, and I think yours are very capable.
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[User Picture]From: behsharam
2005-06-18 04:47 (UTC)

Re: What he said...

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[User Picture]From: seismic
2005-06-17 17:25 (UTC)
You took the words right out of my navel.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-06-18 16:57 (UTC)
Sorry, how rude of me. Just let me dust them off and then you can have them back.
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[User Picture]From: sadira42
2005-06-17 17:38 (UTC)
Nothing wrong with a bit of fear. I think fear can drive you to do well, to really try. However, like someone above me said - you can do both. Maybe you can try the creative thing on a trial basis. Throw yourself into it. And having a back-up is just a lovely plus.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-06-18 17:04 (UTC)
I honestly don't think I (or anyone else, really) can do the kind of work I did in science and keep up an artistic career simultaneously. I know from experience the kind of commitment that experimental chemical physics requires, and it consumes all of your time if you want to do it at the level of a principal investigator in a government laboratory or academic research institution. If I choose to pursue creative work on a trial basis, I'd like to put a strict time limit on the production of something successful (e.g. published, exhibited, or otherwise acknowledged by the community). The trouble is, how long do I give myself? If I give myself a year, is that long enough? If I take longer, will I put myself out of the market for science jobs? Lots of risks, not a lot of assurances. I don't expect anyone else to answer these questions, I just have to accept that I probably can't before trying it anyway. :-/ Scary stuff.
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[User Picture]From: sekl
2005-06-17 18:03 (UTC)
One of my favorite quotes is from A Man for All Seasons: "We hold our souls like water in our hands." Well that and a cheap shot at Wales, but the first one is more relevant.

If you give up part of yourself for safety, if you learn to accept unhappiness, you'll find yourself changing in miserably bitter ways. You can't sell off part of your heart and remain whole. Sure, there will be failure, but you're the only person who holds the ridiculously high expectation that you won't fail occasionally. Creative people, with the exception it seems of George Lucas, learn from failure and set-backs.

Poverty sucks, but so does living without feeling there's a purpose to your life. Or that you missed the greater purpose. And the joy of having been successful at your previous career is you have awards, articles, and flashy thingies to put in the face of anyone who gives you crap about "the real world".
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-06-20 09:06 (UTC)
That George Lucas. He sure is a shining example of how to flaunt your mistakes in front of as large an audience as possible.

Maybe I should work on a prima donna alter ego for social gatherings where I get interrogated about what I do. One that wears silver lamé and insists that everyone address her as Doctor, lest she bash them over the head with a framed copy of one of her diplomas.
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[User Picture]From: bellelaqueen
2005-06-17 20:25 (UTC)
Nothing horrifies me quite like failure.

and nothing motivates like fear, use it and do what makes you happy.

Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.
— Sydney J. Harris
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[User Picture]From: bellelaqueen
2005-06-18 17:59 (UTC)
Oh yeah, and have you by any chance been watching The Blue Planet recently?
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From: ripperlyn
2005-06-17 20:34 (UTC)
But in both cases, you initially have to believe completely in the worthiness of what you're pursuing - the theory, the creative idea - and keep believing until you get evidence in the end.

I'm in an odd place because we've just had a really good workshop of a piece I've been working on for over a year now. It's better than when it started but still so far from complete.

I think the important thing is that you don't follow one path because you're afraid of failing at the other. Just risk it. You're young, you have your health, you can fix almost anything before it gets too late.

I believe in you, whatever you decide to do. ::hugs::
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-06-20 16:18 (UTC)
That's true. I think it's probably what I find most difficult at the moment with creative ideas - thinking that they don't suck long enough to continue chasing them down. I keep wondering, is there another one I should be spending time on that would yield better results? It's hard to judge. I'm not accustomed to performing that kind of evaluation. Hearing about your long-term project is comforting. It helps me believe that I need to give my judgment some time to develop and not get angry with myself when I decide something isn't worth finishing.

Thank you. *hugs back*
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[User Picture]From: taische
2005-06-18 02:03 (UTC)

Forward Looking Back

Hmph... I'm one someone else's wireless network in Vegas with a dying battery... In short, I agree with youraugustine, sekl, qb1kenobi, and ripperlyn. I left the physics establishment precisely because the chances of my working on the most interesting problems (which were least likely to produce publishable results and most likely to lead to a succession of "failures") while maintaining a carrier in the science were very small. It was a sense of the scientific equivalent of "artistic integrity" that drove that. I don't mind failing at the things I love; I do mind giving myself over to a life of muted passions and dreams compromised by measures-adopted. For what it's worth- whatever path you choose (long- or short-term), you're unlikely to find yourself alone (in spirit or spirits). I'll buy the first round.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-06-20 16:51 (UTC)
I don't mind failing at the things I love; I do mind giving myself over to a life of muted passions and dreams compromised by measures-adopted. For what it's worth- whatever path you choose (long- or short-term), you're unlikely to find yourself alone (in spirit or spirits). I'll buy the first round.

All I want to say to this is: Yes.

Actually, never mind going out for drinks, let's make a pitcher of mojito.
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[User Picture]From: slutbunwalla
2005-06-18 03:20 (UTC)
those evil lantern fish!
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-06-18 16:56 (UTC)
Sneaky little bastards.
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[User Picture]From: limenal
2005-06-27 05:12 (UTC)
Hey - I realize you posted this almost 10 days ago, but I really related to it and wanted to drop in and say hi. I've been thinking a lot about what else I want to do in my life besides being a lawyer, and what it would take to do something more creative (for me, writing) instead. I find that the hardest thing at this point is even finding the energy to do any creative writing (or even LJ posting!) on the side, and I remember how stretched you were when you were taking that art class while still working in California. And in the background I share your fears re: making an exclusive commitment to creative work. So I guess I just wanted to express some solidarity in this dilemma.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2005-06-30 10:29 (UTC)
The art class experience showed me that I could do both research and creative work for a while, but one definitely had to be secondary to the other. And I admit, my research suffered some while I was doing the art class, because I had to leave lab to attend class. I also stopped going to lab on weekends while I was in art class. I just don't think it's possible to do a great job with a full-time career in one field, make a strong commitment to another and keep a relationship together all at once. Something has to give.

In the end, I am giving the exclusive commitment a shot for a few months. I'm still looking for work, although since I have the luxury of time, I'm being very picky about even applying for jobs, but the search is taking a back seat to making myself bang out a thousand words a day or so. Perestroika, comrade Limenal!
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