Saturday 28 January 2012

Academic Privilege

One of the advantages of being a university lecturer has got to be the sabbatical. Another is that most work is self-directed and that one is trusted to get on alone. The university expects the lecturer to research and the outcome of that informs the teaching. In Higher Education, unlike in compulsory and Further Education, the students no longer follow an established  curriculum. Certainly, their grounding in the basics will be firmed up – my daughter who has a BA in geography was required to learn rote fashion all the countries of the world and their capitals – quite right too - but students should also be exposed to the latest ideas and the newest thinking. That comes from their lecturers’ research.               
Technically, my sabbatical finished yesterday. The project will carry on, however. On my research days – we are supposed to take one a week – I’ll continue. My two hours writing a day will also be focussed on the creative part of my project for the next few weeks.  
I’m employed as a creative writer. There is not that much difference between a regular writer and one works as a writing academic. All writers are reflective. Possibly academic creative writers are critically reflective. Plus I’m expected know my field and be able to comment in an academic style and with academic rigour.
For the last five months I’ve spent over six hours a day on weekdays on my project and a few hours at the weekend. I’ve finished a 100,000 word novel, though I’m still editing and I had already completed about 25,000 words.  I’ve kept another blog Potatoes in Spring that is critically reflective of my creative process but that also discusses what I’ve found out in my research. There are also some reviews of primary and secondary resources. I’ve written content for a web site that will go live once I have a publisher for the novel. I’ve conducted a heap of standard writerly research and some other research that might resemble historical or sociological research. I’ve created content for a web site and have prepared material for several talks. So, I’ve not been idle.
But I do feel privileged and respected. My employer considers this work important enough to relieve me of all other duties and pay my normal salary for five months. Even if Potatoesin Spring never gets published - and it’s had one offer already - it’s probably the most lucrative piece of writing I’ve done. Importantly, also, because I’ve been able to concentrate on one project my writing has been more focussed and I’ve consolidated ideas for the next three or four projects.     

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