I’m pretty sure the most common academic version of the question in the title of this post is something to the effect of “Does my research suck?” or “What if my research make me sound like an idiot?” Of course, as in the Real World, there are millions of variations on this theme of insecurity and, ultimately, fear… such as, getting a job, or desperately desiring the approval of advisors/other scholars, and/or even feeling like a complete fake/fraud throughout the entire process, among many, many others.
I understand that insecurity and fear aren’t the ideal (cf. 2 Timothy 1:7, John 14:1, etc.). Nevertheless, I happen to have my own special version of this sort of question that creeps up every now and then. It goes something like this, “What if I have absolutely nothing to say?” That is, what else could possibly be said about this topic? TONS of people have already talked about X; is there even a point to talking about X even more?!?
Obviously, the response to this somewhat irrational fear (although I think it’s a good kind of question to keep in mind sometimes…) is obviously, YES, there will ALWAYS be more things to say (cf. Beethoven research and/or Renaissance music studies). I mean, this IS the academy, after all. And having read nearly all/most of the work on alternative country, there’s certainly much to be added from the perspective of a musicological/ethnomusicological approach.
But sometimes I forget (very often those Sometimes are at 3:30 a.m., when perhaps it would be more sensible to be sleeping, but instead I have procrastinated and decided to greet a deadline face to face). I read things and think that there’s NO way I could “contribute to the discourse,” add anything new, much less, write a real dissertation on this topic.
Thankfully, I have amazing friends and smart people around me who often encourage and inspire my research/questioning side, or remind me of things that I want to know more about, or who just remind me that I just might be able to do this (e.g., the Amazing Musicology Ladies + the Violin/Musicology Doctor I got to hang out with last night). I’m also reminded of two specific people I know who are never at a loss when it comes to Asking Questions about Music and Music-Related Things–the Grand Master of Discourse and one of my professors who can genuinely Get Excited about Almost Any Musical Thing.
I think this means that I should hang out with and talk to all of these people more….