I've been experiencing this growing, general dissatisfaction with my own "knowledge work". I can read papers and write stuff and even analyze data for a week straight and not feel like I've done anything.
I have this constant background anxiety over not publishing enough. Other, non-writing artifacts I generate are usually short-lived, only relevant temporarily within the context of specific research projects I work on.
I think the dissatisfaction is for a few related reasons:
- The grain size and timescale of projects. If the goal is publish, a (good) journal paper takes forever to produce. Like, forever. And grants statistically just don't have that high of a chance of getting funded.
- The end-products are words and arguments and ideas (and some stuff, though for my work I'm not usually involved in the making of stuff). It's really abstract, I can't really get the satisfaction of fixing something, or that little thrill of finally getting something to work.
- Part of this relates to the uncertainty and sense of stupidity inherent in doing this sort of work. Is this idea any good? Will this analysis pay off? Does this really matter? Should I be doing something else instead?
I want (need) smaller units of projects– things that I think about and work on and do or make, but that aren't publishable either because they're only "locally new" (as in, new to me) or only "locally relevant" like so project-specific that no one else would care.
So I want to find a middle ground between longer-term deeper-thinking, and shorter-term sense of accomplishments. I also need to get over my fear of sharing incomplete ideas, and find more people with similar interests as my own.
(And maybe the thinking and writing involved will help me build a little momentum toward academic publication.)