I’m a home-body. Have been my whole life. This has waxed and waned, though, and I’ve stumbled across journal entries from my late teens/early 20s where I seemed to go out just about all weekend – going from one thing to another, hanging out at various friends’ places, out to dinners and parties. That seems a long time ago, and I remember these heightened social times balanced with plenty of flaking out in my room and a richness of solitude or quietness with just my partner.
In my 30s, I travelled and did a lot academically – I spent almost a whole decade as a research fellow. This was pre-babies. Once babies hit, it was a different ballgame and kettle of fish. Yes, both of those. Continue reading “When more = more”→
It is a chapter I grappled with, both in terms of struggling to find the time to give it proper attention (i.e. to write it!) and in angsting about whether I should even publish something like it. In essence, I say that I have found a way to have a happy balance while working in academia, but the price is my pace of career progression and the risk of being thought ‘less’ because of this. The feedback I’ve had from colleagues has been very positive and empathetic, with many commenting that they related to much of it. Continue reading “The angst inside”→
This post isn’t about real soup. Let me get that out of the way. Won ton soup is one of my all-time favourites, though, so I thought I’d treat you to this delicious photo.
It’s a potentially messy round-up of recent things that have happened, seeing as I haven’t written anything since April.
Those of you who pay attention to everything I’m doing (yes, so many of you) will notice that everything old is new again. I’ve swapped back to the blog template that I was using a couple of years ago. It feels cosy, and I like it. It makes me think of chocolate.
This week’s been a good one for writing and profile satisfaction. When I’m blogging away after a day’s work, when the kids are asleep or on the weekend (such as now, on a Saturday night, at almost 11pm…), I often ask myself why. Not in the sense that I think it’s pointless, because I don’t, but whether I’m investing time in activities that are more obligatory than enjoyable.
There’s a few half-started posts in the queue – I can’t even call them half-finished.
I want to blog quite a few reviews that are AWW2013-relevant. I was so proud of myself for being on-task with the challenge, but good intentions were waylaid by a bunch of things. I guess they all make up that thing called life.
My mother’s hip surgery and ensuing hospital stay. Sick family pet that we had to have put to sleep. All this with backdrop of general domestic frenzy, and higher load at work because of a particular development program.
Every time I sat down to work on blogposts, I’d end up skimming Twitter and Facebook. And write barely 50 words.
One of the posts that’s started is a report from an event that was held back in mid-July. It’s starting to get a bit stale. I’m wondering whether I should bother finishing it. Weirdly enough, I was there the entire time but it did feel odd to be there. Am ambivalent about my participation and I think that comes through with the difficulty I’ve had writing it up. So, it’s not just laziness + being distracted by shiny things. Not all the time.
Most recently, we started watching the Scando cop series, The Bridge. Recommended to us by my sis and @sommystar, it’s a series we’re very much enjoying but, of course, it’s in a blend of Danish and Swedish. This means I can’t be blogging away or editing things because I have to read the subtitles (the dialogue is great – even though I think we’re losing out big time on in-jokes and cultural nuance with the translation [not sure if there are different versions of the show’s subtitles, but the series we have been watching has slightly dodgy titles at times]).
Several things that these waves of distraction have taught me: the consistency of my online blogging time really does drive the quality of my posts here and on Research Whisperer; my mother does so much for us within our domestic routines; and I do have fluctuating thresholds for social media (and this threshold was reached several times when I was feeling preoccupied and stressed).
It’s not a good sign when you’re trying to duck accountability to anyone who might be following posts about your erratic writing practice…by writing erratically about it.
So, I put my first few chapters onto Scrivener, after downloading a trial copy (for PC). Buddy @thesiswhisperer has sworn by Scrivener for ages (for academic research work) and I’ve been meaning to try it.
The problem is that I’m always in a hurry to use new software. I don’t read manuals; I flick around the menus and buttons until it does what I want, drawing on my experience with other software.
I spent a fair amount of time putting things into the right folders and having chapter and character summaries. It’s the kind of categorisation and detail work that can keep me occupied for too long. And it did.
The further I move away from academia career-wise, the more I realise how little I contributed to general commentary about issues relevant to my research interests.
I never had an op-ed published.
Actually, I never even tried to write one.
I only attended a handful of community engagement events. I actively avoided having to be the one quoted voice about particular Asian Australian issues.
My hang-up was that it’s all very complex and I didn’t want to have what I said ‘dumbed down’ to a sound-bite (I know, I know, just bear with me here…). This feeling of being misrepresented in the media was widespread around the areas I moved in academia, and it led to a general suspicion about talking to journalists or pursuing other outlets for research findings.
Now, as one half of Research Whisperer team and working as a research developer, I can see what a negligent and dense attitude that was. Given the sociocultural critique of existing values and hierarchies in Australian society that made up my academic career, what was the point of the research I was doing if it wasn’t communicated to a broader audience in an accessible way?
This complete change of attitude is fed very much by increased confidence in what I’m doing, and the advent of things such as blogging and Twitter (two very effective ways to represent yourself and your work with little mediation, or to ‘set the story straight’ if you needed to). The growing numbers of online news sources, too, is excellent for the flow of more and different kinds of stories and topic concentrations.
Now, when I’m not a full-time academic anymore, I’m thinking about writing for online publications and engaging more broadly all the time.
Since I last notched up a Write Night post, two things to report: one major, and the other minor and good.
1. MAJOR: The Write Nights, as originally envisaged, are no more.
That’s not to say the writing is no more, just that the one-evening-a-week schedule for #shutupandwrite sessions with a local buddy are no more.
The problem, right from the start, was a basic mismatch in expectation and will. I was dead keen on the format and was ready to get into it each time we met. She had just finished a full day’s teaching and wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about the writing that she’d bring along to do. Thusly, she was much more interested in chatting than writing.
I felt a bit of a fraud writing the last post about work on my fiction and, for this one, I feel even more so.
After the household illnesses came the catching up, then the realisation that I’d possibly over-committed myself on the writing front. I used to over-commit myself on the academic front all the time, saying yes to committee work, events organisation, joining associations and doing project things. It felt good to be collaborating with a broad network of people, doing different types of work. That’s how I thought of the amount of stuff I said ‘yes’ to, anyway.
While shedding academic commitments, I’ve filled the space with writing and blogging ones, including a bunch of promised guest blogposts and other short pieces and interviews.
The Write Nights have been dealt a blow recently due to the trailing illnesses that families circulate among themselves. First, it was me; then my buddy had to bail from the night to tend to her partner’s man-flu. We’re on for a session next week, bacteria willing. We’ve only been doing these for a relatively short time, but I missed it. The focus on one piece of work. No internet distractions. Just me and my Word file.
Of course, I can do it at home, but home comes with its share of distractions even though the kids are asleep.
My mum, for example. Love her dearly, but she doesn’t seem to understand the block-out of conversation/responses that I aim for when I’m embedding myself in the text and creating the narrative. So, she’ll ask me something, or be telling me a long and involved story. Because I’m not responding or making any supportive noises, she comes closer and closer as she’s talking. I usually end up having to laugh, and take time out for the conversation.
I’ve managed to live many years without the habit of making New Year’s resolutions. In the odd years when I did make them, one or two would last through the year; others fell by the wayside after a few months’ novelty value.
One thing I semi-resolved to do this year (my commitment is stunning, I know) was to write more and to do it for fun, not academia.
The past year has taught me one thing and that is this:
I don’t think I can do worthwhile academic writing while I work full-time in a non-academic job AND want to keep evenings and weekends for myself and my family. Academic articles/chapters and the heap of reading that should inform them just isn’t on the cards.
I don’t want to change the balance of my days (which I’m loving), or shut the kids out on a regular basis while I pursue a line of research/writing that I’m considering untenable and (dare I say it) pointless for my current circumstances.
What I want to do is spend more time developing my non-academic writing habits.
Since June 2011, I’ve been writing regularly for The Research Whisperer (weekly posts). I’ve never had to have this kind of writing discipline before; I’ve always had to write in my job, but it wasn’t to a schedule, like a blog.