One of my resolutions for 2016 is to post to this blog more regularly. I got my end-of-year stats from WordPress and discovered that for 2015 I posted an average of less than once per month…
Ok, I just wrote that and then looked back to compare 2015 stats to 2014. I had forgotten that this blog started in January 2014 as part of a resolution to write more regularly. And that at the end of last year, I similarly resolved to write more blog posts. One encouraging sign is that the blog was pretty dormant from mid-2014 until last Spring, but since May 2015 I have been posting about once per month. (I herniated a disc in June 2014, which basically wiped out the summer. The 2015-16 academic year was crazy for other reasons, including chairing a tenure-track search committee while our department didn’t have an administrative support staff person.)
I would really like to do more than once a month (it does seem true that the blog gets more traffic with more frequent posts.) And one thing that should make this an easier resolution to keep is that I am on a sabbatical leave for the first 6 months of 2016.
I am trying to resist the pressure of thinking about my work in terms of measurable “output”and quantifiable “productivity.” While I tell thesis-writing students that it is important to get into a regular (if possible, daily) writing routine, I am fortunate to be at a stage in my work life where the “publish or perish” imperative doesn’t really operate. I keep thinking back to the story of a now-retired faculty member at my university, whose sabbatical leave application – which was granted – consisted simply of a list of books in his field that he planned to read. I don’t think the story is apocryphal, and it is a useful reminder that “academic freedom” exists only to the extent that academics are willing to exercise it.
On the other hand, and because I don’t have to think about writing in the more instrumental ways that thesis-writers, those on the job market, and pre-tenure faculty do, I am also trying to think more carefully about the kinds of writing work that I want to prioritize. The last couple of years, between teaching and administrative commitments, it has seemed like the only writing I have had time for is the kind that comes in 140-character bursts. I have a couple of longer-form projects that I want to make some serious headway on: one or two journal article-length pieces, hopefully a book project. But I also want to do more of the 800 or so word-length pieces that fit on a blog.
As in the past, some of these will be teaching-related (I have a few ideas bouncing around from 2015 courses that I just haven’t got to writing yet), and some of them will be about contemporary politics. I’m hoping that the sabbatical will allow me to write a bit more stuff that is responsive to current events. I have a few things sitting in my “drafts” folder that I just couldn’t finish at the time because of other commitments, and that are now totally stale-dated. And it was gratifying to have a post last year picked up by the Halifax Media Co-op. A third kind of post, that I haven’t done much of in the past, are ones that are research-related, but not yet fully baked journal articles.
Another resolution is managing my own work expectations. I have yet to meet an academic who has said that they did everything they wanted to while on leave, let alone one who has caught up on all the reading they want to do. I’m sure I won’t be the first to do either of those things. The back injury I had last year is not something I want to go through again; taking the time to stay healthy is important. And I am trying to think of the sabbatical as an opportunity to have few really pressing deadlines, which means that it is ok to leave whatever I am working on to be picked up the next day. This is probably (hopefully?) the last sabbatical leave that I will take with kids still living at home…
So, sabbatical day 4/182: one blog post written.