Friday 13 December 2013

A busman’s holiday?

It’s a bit of a cliché but we all know what it means and it’s such an apt description that I’m going to use it anyway.
What academics do when the students aren’t there
The students at the university where I work broke up today for Christmas. That means they’ll have three weeks off. Everyone assumes that is also the case for their lecturers. Not so, I’m afraid. They find plenty for us to do – on top of marking assignments, getting modules ready for next Semester and in our case, interviews all day long next week for two English appointments.

And then there is research, and research in my case means mainly writing but also critical reflection.   
Writing on holiday and at weekends
Yes, I do this. I write best when I’m fresh and awake. It’s harder doing it in the evening, as I am now, but I’d rather do that than not write. So holidays and weekends offer a real advantage: I’m wide awake, I’m fresher and I’m out of my every day context. I’ll often get better ideas. And after all it was a certain holiday in the south of Spain that kick-started my writing. We’re actually going there for a week in eight days’ time! And yes, I shall be writing every day. Tomorrow I’m going to London for the day and I relish the two hours both ways as good times to write. I write amazingly well on Virgin trains.
Other forms of the busman’s holiday
It isn’t just that I work in what other people would consider down time. It’s also that the very activities that happen during that time feed into my work. As I watch television, I’m listening to dialogue, second-guessing plot (usually pretty accurately) and querying whether characters are well-formed. When I read a book, I’m analysing how pace is maintained, whether the dialogue works and how the writer has managed to show instead of telling. And as I people-watch, I’m collecting fodder, consciously or subconsciously, for my own stories.
So, it never ends? It’s 24/7 job?
Yes, more or less. Often my dreams feed my writing. But it’s not a burden. I’d rather be doing this than many other activities. There are in fact few that come close.
Living the dream or what?        

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