Monday, May 11, 2009

hot fun in the summer

This morning, my alarm went off..and a large part of me regretted it. My first act, rather than jumping out of bed and rushing through a morning routine (speed shower, speed breakfast, speed drive across the countryside to traverse devastated roads to get to the university) was to shake the dream fragments from my head (some like B horror scenes, some like a sitcom version of my life, some of people I don't recognize, but strangely enough, no pizza making dreams) and wonder why I set the alarm in the first place. After a minute, it came to was all about motivation.

During the course of the normal school year, I am up to my neck in schedules. I have my teaching schedule, schedules in each of my classes (each of which balances out my students' assignments into some master schedule), my office hours schedule, my lesson planning schedule, and others (including to, but not limited to my vague relaxation schedule). These all balance out with my lovely spousal unit's schedules. Some of these are mandated, some of these are by design, and some of these are by default. Regardless, they all rule my life in many ways, throughout the course of the semester. I don't have to question what I'm doing, why I'm doing it, because it's all mapped out.

However, the summer is quite different. I don't have a set natural schedule. I don't have any specific, gun-to-the-head obligations. I don't have anything I have to do. Everething is entirely up to my personal discretion.

At least, that's what the narrative of "teacher over the summer" says. The reality is quite different. I'm non-tenured, and I very much want to become tenured. Because I'm non-tenured, I really don't have to do service or scholarship. It's not part of my job. However, since I want to become tenured, I have to do a lot of scholarship to make it visibly apparent that I'm still an active thinker. My job allows me absolutely no time to do scholarship. So guess what I do over the summer? So I gotta do a lot of scholarship, because I want a better job, and doing the work of an assistant professor on top of doing the work of a lecturer is not optional.

Moreover, it's a requirement of my ego that I stay active. While I absolutely love teaching, I ultimately did get into this business to do scholarship, to think. If I don't do it, I feel more like I'm a warehouse worker than anything else.

And a lot of this ego-business is preemptive. On top of the pure random luck involved, my success on the job market next year will depend on how much work I get done this summer. So, while I could still possibly sit around unshowered and play video games in between watching television every single day, it would mean that much heartache and depression when the rejection letters start rolling in. Of course, getting a lot of writing done is no guarantee that I'll get a job (see the last two years), but it does make me feel that much better...okay, less whiny.

However, while my need to do unpaid work is not really optional, I still have to deal with the workload while knowing that I have no schedule. I am master of my own summer domain, true, but this only really means that I can't count on outside schedules to provide guidance. Instead, I have to set my own plans, keeping that fear and need for ego as my motivation.

So, what's on tap? How do I proceed? I have my plan lined out, step by step.

  1. I have to remember how to be an academic scholar. This basically means I have to read a whole lot of scholarship and theory so I can have quotes and experts at my disposal.
  2. I have to remember what my book is about. This means revisiting my dissertation and the pile of revision notes scattered across the study and computer...after, of course, trying to find everything and get it into a system of piles which makes sense.
  3. I have to remember what I was thinking in the big theory chapter. That means reading all the chapter-specific notes, theory, texts. It means re-reading the 50% of the chapter I've finished, hoping to get back into whatever groove I was in when I had to abandon this. It means reading my old fragment note, maybe writing some new ones.
  4. I have to finish said chapter, which takes all my theory and half of my literature review from the dissertation and pushes them through the grinder with my analysis of the novel Neuromancer. It takes on postmodernism, as well as a whole bunch of Haraway derivatives. It's also where the main point of the book comes out and moves into "this is exactly what I'm adding to the cultural conversation." In other words, it's the most important part of the whole project.
  5. I have to see if there's updated stuff I have to read for any of my other chapters...and since I've been working on this project for eons, you know there will be books galore.
  6. I have to revise everything else, getting it to read as much like a popular book while not diminishing the intricacies of the thoughts swelling around my head for the last several years.
  7. I then have to proof everything and send it off to the editor who was interested...not to mention hope that said editor is still interested.
  8. Time permitting, I have a 90% researched paper on CSI: that I would love to bust out.

Piece of cake, no? This is why I have to set the alarm, avoid hitting the snooze, and actually do something...which is cool, because I do, after all, enjoy the work.

I have to admit, however, that I still have to fight the temptation to just goof off...which is the true peril of the summer academic.

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