Friday 7 February 2014

Being a university lecturer – is this a help or a hindrance?

At least I’ll never have to retire

I met with a few colleagues in a local café yesterday.
“I’ll be retiring in two years,” I said but then added quickly “but of course I shall carry on writing so I shan’t really ever retire.”
We discussed this a little. There would be another advantage – there would be no pressure to write anything too commercial. Even though I’d still want to be paid, so that the writing gained some status, my teaching pension, my university pension and the state pension would pay for pretty well all of my immediate needs. Or is that an advantage?


Some other advantages

You are certainly taken more seriously if you say you have an MA and a PhD in creative writing and that you teach it in Higher Education. This isn’t necessarily by publishers – if anything they’re a little wary. When it comes to organising readings, festival appearances or school visits, though, it’s a good line on the CV.
The university gives me a reasonable salary for being a writer and doing quite a few other useful tasks for them – teaching some classes, completing some admin and as a writer being an ambassador for the university.  
Nobody bats an eyelid if I work on my novel in my office on the university computer.
I’m thinking, talking about and reading writing all of the time. That actually helps me to make my own better.


 Some disadvantages

Time often disappears and sometimes when there is the time there isn’t always the brain space. It is now 8.45. I’m working from home this morning. This is the best time for me to write. Often, if I can’t write first thing I don’t get round to writing at all.
There certainly isn’t the time for doing the marketing that will produce a steady stream of sales. I do look forward to having more time for that when I retire. But I’ll miss a tag, though I expect I can say “former university lecturer”.  
That advantage of not having to be too commercial can be a disadvantage too. There must be rigour in both cases. Lack of commercial value also, alas, can mean lack of visibility.
Creative wring in any case maintain a puzzling position in Higher Education. Even we creative writing academics ourselves can’t always define it successfully. Yet we have a growing sense that we bring genuine academic rigour to that discipline.  


The goal

For me personally this remains the same as ever: to write that novel or that group of novels that really make the difference. And so, inside or outside the academy that process continues.         

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