A lot of posts like this are from graduate students or undergraduates. I'm tenure track at a Small Liberal Arts College (SLAC) and been through a couple of postdocs, so I know what Math research is. I just think I'm bad at it.
- I haven't thought of any interesting questions I'd like to look into that didn't directly come from my thesis work
- I've been part of a couple big group projects, and every time I felt like I was sprinting just to understand the things my coauthors wrote; I didn't add any new ideas of my own.
- I've been part of 3 projects in the last couple of years that basically ended up with us shrugging and saying we had no ideas, and we stopped meeting about that.
- It's been about 3 years (in a postdoc) since I've discovered anything that I thought was neat and actually got excited about it. Even that was pretty small, and at the time I was not teaching. So when I have zero other responsibilities, I'm capable of coming up with something minor.
The comments in posts like these usually advise the writer to look up imposter syndrome and not give up. I'm not going to give up; I like research. But I think there's something more going on here than imposter syndrome. The way people start collaborating with each other feels like a mystery to me. I go to talks and I ask questions, but I don't know how to go from that into actually starting a project. And when I do join a project, I don't seem to be able to come up with any good ideas.
I feel like the calculus student that does 100 problems and gets all of them wrong. I'm going to keep trying, but I feel like I'm missing something important here.