Today I woke from a dream in which I (the professor) found myself in my classroom with a bunch of expectant faces and realized that not only had I not finished grading their homework, I hadn’t even started putting together the exam that apparently I was giving that day.
Yeah, the student nightmares of sleeping through a test don’t end when you find yourself on the other side. They simply become different beasts.
But that made me think about all the things I’m doing “wrong” right now as a professor. I could be focusing more on research manuscripts (the journal articles we write–and revise–for publication that are extremely important for peer reviewing our research, getting our research out there, and getting tenure). I could be focusing more on the classes I’m teaching this semester and next semester. I could be focusing more on research proposals (large bodies of preliminary work we compress into a few pages to ask funding agencies for research money–lots of rejections there too–that tend to only get finished and published if we get funded). I could be focusing more on learning the ins and outs of administration in my department and at higher levels so that I have a better sense of what I can and can’t do as a student advisor, as a researcher, and as a teacher.
I’m doing those things during the work week, but I could be putting more effort into them (my nights and/or weekends). Where is that effort going right now?
Writing for audiences I don’t have, hoping for an agent I don’t yet have, struggling with doubts and insecurities I always will have (unless I get over some of them I HOPE I GET OVER SOME OF THEM).
I’m also doing a lot of waiting. Waiting for feedback from critique partners and beta readers who do have my book. Now, I am so freaking grateful for these people. I can’t stress this enough. They’re taking up their free time to read my words and respond to them. They have lives, jobs, deadlines, so many distractions aside from my little MS. They have no obligation to do this, and all I can give in return is my undying thanks as well as feedback on any writing of theirs they ask me to read.
That doesn’t make the waiting easier when you’re wondering why you do this in the first place. I feel like a mediocre professor and a mediocre writer right now. You’d think I’d focus on being a professor–the job that pays–and give up on writing for a while.
But dammit, I’m greedy. I want to do both. I want to be good at both. Right now, though, I’m struggling with the how.
Considering the fact that I schedule my work days, it might be time to schedule my writing time and my non-work-day research time too. Except I need to be willing to try schedules and watch them fail and change them based on what worked and what didn’t. And failure is exhausting. Picking yourself back up from failure is exhausting.
If you have any tips on picking yourself up from failure, I’m all ears.