There's been a lot written recently about the hyper-professionalization of philosophy. I'd like to relate an illuminating personal experience I had, which I was reminded of when reading the following passage from Jagdish Mehra's biography on Richard Feynman, The Beat of a Different Drum:
Feynman confided his concern to Wilson that Cornell had made a 'bad bet' with him...Wilson told Feynmann...[that] Feynman should not blame himself that at the moment he was not achieving very much. Most of all, Feynman should not feel guilty, and just do whatever he was happy in doing.
This conversation with Wilson led Feynman to think that in high school, at MIT, and at Princeton, he did things just because he enjoyed doing them. He used to play games with things about which he felt curious or intrigued. It occured to him that he should continue to play with ideas just as he had done when he was younger -- play at finding the relationships between things, and just do whatever he felt like doing. He was no longer working for his PhD thesis...he didn't even have to live up to the reputation he had obtained at Princeton or Los Alamos or live up to anything else. With these thoughts his anguish, strain, and guilt disappeared, and he decided to recepture the feeling of play in his work on physics.
This feeling...worked wonderfully. (pp. 172-3)
I have to confess that throughout much of graduate school, and then in my first two years out as an Assistant Professor, I felt pretty beaten down by the whole "professionalization" thing. I had gotten into philosophy because I loved ideas. Of course, I had always known that academic philosophy is a profession, with its own rules and whatnot -- but I guess I hadn't really been prepared for it. The professional aspects of philosophy quite nearly beat the love of philosophy out of me. I wasn't very good at "playing the game": at things like networking, socializing, or even writing very targeted papers on small ideas rather than on big ones the ambition of which often outstripped my talents.
My second year out of grad school (my first at the University of Tampa), the stress almost beat me. I had been trying to play the game "the way I was supposed to" for years, and all I had to show for it was two minor publications (both "replies"), chonic insomnia (no sleep for days on end), poor teaching reviews, and basically overall misery. It was at that point -- and I don't really know what led me to it -- that, for one last shot, I tried something different. I tried what Feynman tried. I went back to doing philosophy the way I had done it at Tufts and at Syracuse. I just had fun. I played with ideas, and basically wrote entire papers in one sitting on every good idea I thought I had, forgetting about "what I'm supposed to do." And guess what? I found my love for philosophy again, and published a bunch of papers on ideas I'm proud of.
So, then, here's my suggestion to you. If, like me, you find yourself beaten down by the hyperprofessionalization of philosophy, and you don't know what else to do, just try to have fun again. Maybe, just maybe, it'll pay off. And hey, at least you'll have fun doing it.