My semester is over! Grades are in! An article went off to an editor! All of these are exciting developments, but most exciting is that I am not teaching this summer for the first summer in years. Summer school, as you might well know, is intense, fun, but often time-consuming. I always imagine that I will teach a couple of hours every day and also write. This never happens. So, I decided to not teach this summer, but instead take, what I am calling, a “writing summer.” My students were not impressed by my summer plans, which sounded remarkably like work in a time of sun and fun, or some nonsense like that.
So far my writing summer is going well, though I always over-estimate my abilities to get things done. This means that my various summer writing projects do taunt me: another article, revisions to a previous article, a book proposal and piled-up book reviews from previous semesters. While talking to my youngest sister on the phone (people still do that), she asked if I was going to have any *fun* after I recounted my big writing plans. The answer is yes. I am already having fun.
I get to write, people, for hours at a time, which feels like a luxury after getting writing done in fits and starts during my semester. A paragraph between classes, a blog post early in the morning and editing whenever I found the time. Some days, I get to write all day. It is glorious. And I get to read. I am reading not for my classes but for my very own research and writing. This is not to say my teaching and research aren’t related because they are intimately, but it is to say I get to enjoy being a writer and researcher. It is joy. Dwelling in what I love to do for a couple of three months reminds me why I wanted to be an academic. More importantly, I have the breathing room to think about my projects to live with them and nourish them, rather than think about them in the fleeting moments when I am not in a classroom.
The ability to write, to think about my work, reminds me how much I miss it when I can’t. Not being able to write makes me twitchy. It feels like a part of me is missing, a part that I like and admire. This absence haunts me during the year. It erodes my confidence and makes me question why I do what I do. It hurts. But, when I get to research and write again, the confidence returns even in the agony of writing, the work, the failure and the ceaseless revisions. Being able to comment on my field of inquiry, my specializations and my subjects reminds me that there is something at stake in what I do. My work matters. Academic work matters.
As I return to research and writing, I have again found the joy it brings, and I hope all of you do too.