Each school year follows a predictable pattern. No, I'm not talking about the prep, making syllabi, and tracing my students on the path from sheet utter panic to comprehension. I'm talking about my own journey as a writer.
The summer is my major productive time, where I write and write and write. Basically, I try to break it up with exercise, glasses of iced tea, and such, but most every summer day is spent either on the couch reading theory or chained to the desk, writing on the computer. I have lofty goals in the summer, ones that require "total dedication."
Of course, although I get an awful lot done (one of my bosses tells me I'm producing tenure-track workload even I'm in a heavy teaching job), I never really come close to completing my "vacation" writing agenda. When the Fall starts, I tell myself that it will be different this semester...I'll find a way to both write and teach. As is, I did pretty good this past fall by getting a brief revision and resubmit out and one conference presentation, but that's it. I never even got that conference presentation written up in draft.
The Christmas break will, I always swear, be the time where I get an article out--this year, it was going to be the Fall conference paper. Unfortunately (for my productivity, that is), there are always visitations, family gatherings, parties, and similar distractions. I always enjoy myself immensely, but again, I never get any writing done.
I tell myself, "well, at least I have Spring semester to write"...but by this point do I really need to go into detail on this semester's work failure?
I'm thinking about these cycles, because although I am still several weeks away from the start of summer, I am at what is most accurately the starting point of my scholarly side. I am at that magical dead space in the semester where the students are buried in their own work and don't really need much hand-holding on my part. I have very few classes left to plan, and I am between conference weeks. This means I have a certain amount of time on my hand, and Summer is on the horizon, I can actually start working without worrying too much about losing momentum in the forthcoming grading/conference period.
There's only one problem: by this point in the year, it's been entirely too long since I ever had to think about anything at all. I know I have mental chops, but it's been way too long since any of them were flexed. My major goal now is to try and get my brain primed and ready to go...so that when the summer finally hits, I can dive into my scholarship.
And I do have a ton of it on the summer "to-do" list...my CSI article, starting a journal with friends, finishing my revision attempt on the music article, the theory-heavy Neuromancer article, and (tee hee) getting a draft of the book done (the latter of these will almost certainly never leave the "dreaming" stage). On top of that, I have a brief smattering of an idea for a paper on the Robert B. Parker Spenser series...as if I need any more work.
I'm starting the brain recharging by reading Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers. If you've only seen the awesomely fun film adaptation, you should know they are nothing like the same story. Heinlein's version is much more proto-fascist "go military" (although a much-smarter-than-I friend has already engaged me on my reductive descriptions), as opposed to the anti-hierarchy film. Honestly, even though I'm an ex-military brat, my sympathies are with the movie, but the film is more of a think-piece...and I think maybe it's the perfect way to ease me back into mental operations.
With the stupidly heavy workload in my on-deck circle, you would think that I would be in panic mode, but it's not really the case. Instead, I feel like I'm coming back to where I belong. I do love teaching, and I find it ultimately enriching, but the research, the writing, the scholarship, that's what really what drew me to this life in the first place...and that's nice to remember.
I have never come anywhere near where I want to be professionally, but I know I am far from alone in this. I don't know if the writing will help me in my career or not. The one thing I do know? Writers write. I might be stuck teaching "welcome to college" classes in a field far from my own, and I might be doing this forever. Doesn't matter, though. My writing is my true work, and I think it's important to realize that it's valuable in its own right.
I could get depressed by my age. I could get depressed by the fact that I rely on hand-me-down cars from my parents. I could get depressed by having to rent a house in the student ghetto because I can't get out of credit card debt. I could get depressed by the very real possibility that most of my friends will be gone in four months, and most likely not even to better places and situations, because damnit, I want all my friends to get great jobs in vacation-settings, so I have places to visit.
I don't know if doing the work will solve anything. I have no idea if it will ever get recognized. Ultimately, I don't even know if the work has value. But I suspect. I believe.
It might be a cliche to say "the work will set me free"...but I'm okay with cliches...at least at this stage of the writing cycle.