January has been a lot of things. I applied to a couple more academic jobs, I got into the swing of teaching a class that is going well, and I’ve been having an excellent time writing. But I’ve also stressed out over if my time spent writing was really worth anything, that maybe time could be spent better elsewhere, and questioning if I should just go and apply to non-academic jobs right away. Here I am working away on an article, spending hours of my day writing and researching, and it’s all on my free time.
It’s weird and disconcerting that my job as a sessional instructor is really like a part time job while my other unpaid job is researching and writing. For most of my PhD, teaching felt like a part of my degree. And for four years, it was part of the funding package. Because of this, I always thought of researching and teaching as one, as part of the same job (and I still do).
But being out of the program and being a sessional sends me through disconcerting mindsets. I get upset if I spend too much time on putting some special touches on my teaching. I feel bad when I don’t dedicate a full day to teaching. If I had a hard day writing, I get mad at myself. If I have a good day writing and write all day, I intimidate myself that that writing better end up somewhere, that it’s not all wasted. And then I start questioning myself: what if all those hours are for nothing? What if my article doesn’t get published? shouldn’t you be more actively looking for non-academic jobs? And so on.
It’s hard to stay out of those spiralling thoughts of doom and gloom. It’s something new, and not something I’ve ever dealt with. I’m not sure if I’m handling these thoughts and days well. But I’m handling them. I’m continuing to write. I’m sharing my writing with peers to get feedback. And that feedback has been great. I have an upcoming article in Biography, so I should feel like my research and writing is valued and worth committing to future work. I feel good about what I’m writing, and I don’t want to just give up on it. At least not so soon after finishing the degree.
But it’s really tough. And it can be quite disorienting, confusing, and discouraging post-PhD. It’s not something that too many people talk to you about when you’re in the PhD. This limbo. In the PhD, I had deadlines, a committee to look over my writing and hold me accountable, and a thing called the dissertation that was part of completing the dissertation. Now I don’t have deadlines, I don’t always have someone to look over my writing (and if I do, they are not necessarily within my field), and the projects that I am working on are tied to my CV. Book projects, right now, are intimidating because I have articles that can be written in less time (ah the speed of academia). So, I’m writing article to article, hoping for the best.
So, January has been a great time for writing. But has that “great time” been well spent? I’m going to say yes. At times, it can feel directionless but I’m trying to apply a direction to what I do day-to-day. And I might as well make the best of the time to do the work I’m doing while I can, before I am in a position where I can’t do the research or am not able to do as much as I can right now.