Friday, 29 May 2009

Oh, stuff. Hello

You know, I really love my job. At the moment it's marking season - and of course I have to have a draft of Now and Rome ready to send to my army of beta-readers (I should actually warn them about this plan, shouldn't I?) in six weeks' time. So I have a strange sort of existence, being in three different workflow/timeflow modes at once, but I like all of them, and I'm enjoying the alternation:

(1) Writing time!
I can't always write all day - often I have to stop after about four hours, and then I spend the afternoon doing other stuff - but if I am going to write on a given day, I must begin the day with writing. I have to turn the internet off before and throughout writing time, and I've quit smoking, and I can't find a free download of Minesweeper or Hearts for the Mac (for the love of God, if you know of one, DO NOT TELL ME ABOUT IT), which were things I did as distraction/procrastination, yes, but also things I used to do meditatively, while letting the next paragraph/idea/transition slot into place. I have new and better ones now: knitting and the Rubik's cube! Also making cups of tea and occasionally eating bread and Branston pickle (lunch is anathema to writing, you have to just eat something without noticing when you go into the kitchen.)

The main point about this, though, is that writing time is protected, don't-talk-to-me, focussed, single-tasking time, unlike

(2) Marking time!
The thing about marking time is that it's erratic - I'm pretty good with first-marking now, but I often just can't tell how long second-marking will take. And of course you never know when you're going to need to meet with a second-marker to agree marks, or when your second-marking will show up, and there's all this fiddly stuff that I always forget to account for: calculating unit marks on the basis of four differently-weighted assessment tasks, filling in mark sheets, all of that. So it's a sort of rapid-response thing: we're (academics) always behind where the office wants us to be, so I'll be like, okay, I finished marking my second-year exams, great, I'm done for the year, and then suddenly a unit of second-marking will appear without warning out of nowhere with a request to get it back to the office yesterday. It's kind of fun* and collegial and urgent and stressy, and we all commiserate with each other like mad while doing our two-photocopies-of-the-cover-sheet, staple, paper-clip, thing in the photocopy room.

(3) Scholarship time!
'Scholarship' is a new category that appeared on our Time Allocation Survey forms this year or last year or something. It's for, like, reading journals and generally hanging out in an academic kind of way, the 'significant soil' of academic life which may or may not nourish the eventual yew tree of research, if you like, and why should you. What my friend A calls 'baggy time'. At the moment, this basically involves me and a sofa and a cup of tea and a giant tower of books about the social construction of childhood and children's literature, which I am playing around in happily while beginning to put together the reading lists and ideas for the third year undergraduate unit I'll be teaching next year, 'Literature's Children'. It's lovely, non-focussed, non-directed, playful kind of work and I'm really enjoying it.

*At least it is for me, this year, because I have barely any marking for some reason: all the units I've taught have been really small numbers and mainly assessed by coursework, so I don't have any of the big 70-student options with end-of-year exams to mark. Huzzah!

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