In between writing my social theory essay (which will handily become the basis of my paper for the BSA Annual Conference 2013) and planning my qualitative methods assignment (officially duller – though simpler – than quantitative methods) I’ve decided to add to my workload by planning my academic 2013. Despite appearing foolish given the immediate rampage of my deadlines I’m certain this will actually prove a stress-reliever, since as it enables me to plan my time and set some ambitious but reasonable goals. With that in mind, below are some aims for the next year. I suspect they’ll alter as time progresses but I’m hoping they’ll provide some structure for work and life.
i) Get some stuff published. I have a vast range of writing I’d like to see published – from work on the 2011 London riots and sensuality to the relationship between canonicity and power and teaching English. Given the competitive nature of academia, the length of time it takes to see work published in elite journals, and (dare I say it) the decent quality of this work, I think it makes sense to start on the publishing track prior to beginning my PhD, in the hope that some of it might actually see the light of day by the time I graduate.
ii) Submit a good quality PhD application. I’ve had some really wonderful feedback from my (potential) supervisors on my proposal. The word most frequently used was ‘excellent’ but I’m not kidding myself that this equates to getting funding. For me, I’ve written a proposal that incorporates almost everything I care about academically, which was some feat in itself given the disparate range of my interests, so whatever happens, I’m happy with my submission and what I’ll be doing come September.
iii) Write more fiction/non-academic work. This sort of goes towards my next aim – more and more I’m discovering that what I enjoy doing is writing (and presenting) my work but I’m not certain that purely academic writing is satisfactory, both practically and conceptually, for how my ideas should be let loose into the world. Given that I’m predicating an awful lot of my academic work on the notion that critique can be done using more than the hegemonic language of critical social science and the discursive essay, something I’m really enthusiastic about is finding creative and imaginative mediums to present academic work. I’m also keen to produce writing which is completely apart from academia. I’m thinking detective fiction novel. I need to write more often but I also need to get away from academia.
iv) Consider a realistic plan for future career. Considering that I’ve been in university in one form or another constantly since 2004, you’d think that an academic job was my primary aim. In a practical sense it is given that academia is the career track I’m already on and have already made inroads on, but honestly it’s not my dream job. What I’d like is something outdoors-y which involves me going to work in my wellies and Barbour. Having been raised in the countryside I’m quite hunting, shooting and fishing, except without doing any of that because I don’t like killing stuff. But the rural lifestyle of working on the land appeals more than an office job. I don’t think this is practical – especially because it requires capital and youth to get started and by the time I possess the former I’ll have forgone the latter – but I’d like to work out how I can combine writing, academia, teaching, farming, animals, mud, city and rural.
v) Settle in one city. I’ve moved around like a bastard the last five years. When I moved to Glasgow I thought it would be for years but disappointingly I now have itchy feet and miss London. On the other hand I have some brilliant supervision in Glasgow which is very much a pull. But I need to work out where I can flourish, move there and stay there for at least the three years of the PhD.
vi) Write in more varied places. A very simple resolution. When I lived in London I wrote all over the place, especially in galleries and museums. Writing surrounded by Rossettis is a wonderful aid to the imagination. For some reason I don’t do this in Glasgow, nor did I do it in Cambridge. I’ve found what looks to be a lovely French patisserie in Glasgow and I’ll be starting there. Writing in cafes has always been very productive for me and I have no idea why I stopped.
vii) Write more, in general. Simple, exactly what it says. And at length too. Owing to the incredible amount of reading I have to do, the days spent out of academia at my actual job, and the admin aspects of convening the BSA Postgraduate Forum, I only write at length when I actually have a deadline to write to. I’d like this to change because I think writing irregularly is not good for a writer and also because I enjoy writing and want to do more of it.
viii) Work towards a balanced lifestyle. This one is the crux of everything else. Having returned home to the family for Christmas I find the gap between me and them increases with the time I spend in academia and know that this is similar for others. I’m also aware that many people in academia find it difficult to switch off and have brought home work to be completed over Christmas. I’m well aware that I don’t make enough time for fun and this simply needs to change. I have no idea how. I think this aim is a blog post in itself. Things I’d like to do that I don’t do (so much of) now include: sitting in the pub in front of a fire setting the world to rights; reading things unrelated to work; knitting; photography; having a dog; baking; taking the time to indulge in flâneurie; improving my French (used to be good); learning German; sitting in front of art; watching ballet; walking by the sea.
ix) Host Christmas 2013. I keep being teased by family about never hosting Christmas so, damn them, I’m going to do so next year.
I’m interested in how others are approaching the new year (although it’s not really a new year in academia…) and what – if any – goals you’re setting yourself. More importantly, how are you going to achieve those goals?