The Adventures Continue

Amaro's picture
This is Caleb, Jessamy, Amaro, Me, and Moz. Isn’t it gorgeous!

Today’s gorgeous picture was drawn by our friend Amaro who is just about to turn six. She and her mum Jessamy stayed with us for a couple of nights (just as I got back from LA) before heading off to Townsville. Their adventure is much bigger than mine and I pray that it all goes smoothly for them.

Amaro drew the picture of everyone in the house. The boys have pink trousers on and I have to say that it’s a pretty accurate representation of Caleb’s hair (on the left).

I’ve been home for a few days now and it’s taken me a little while to figure out what is going on in my head. In fact, I’m proud of figuring it out this early, but then I knew it was coming so maybe it’s taken me too long.

The thing is, I am now officially an entrepreneur. I no longer work for the university, not even two days a week. I am a small business owner. I work for myself.

The whole day is mine. The whole week is mine. I don’t have to go into uni anymore. I can organise the all my time as it suits me.

But that means there is no structure. No fixed appointments. No urgency to get things done today because tomorrow is taken up by work.

And it is easy to let things go. To get lazy. To convince myself that I am tired today and that it would be better to start on that job (whatever it is) tomorrow. To tell myself that I don’t feel like writing this morning and I’ll do it later.

Or to get stuck. To wonder whether I should work on the paid editing rather than the writing because it is paid work and therefore more important. Or whether I should work on the writing rather than the editing because it’s my body of work and therefore more important. And then to do neither of those things because it’s all so confusing that I don’t know where to start.

The fact is, none of the time is mine. It was given to me by God. And though I am no longer working for a business, I am not working for myself either. I am working for God.

Now is the time to put into practice all the wonderful time-management processes that I have been reading about for the past years. I can now figure out when my most creative time is, when it is better for me to do editing, when I need to work on the business side of things.

There is plenty to do. I just need to schedule it in. I need to get started. Try things. See if they work, and adjust if they don’t.

And not feel overwhelmed by the hugeness of having my dream come true.

I am so grateful for this opportunity and I am NOT going to let it pass me by.

I have a novel to finish, editing work to complete for customers, blogs to write, and plenty to learn.

It’s exciting times, folks! Bring it on!

 

P.S. I thought you might like to know that my tooth has been fixed with a filling and you really can’t tell that it was chipped at all. And my arm is feeling much better and nearly all the bruising from the fall has gone. I’m over the jetlag too and I’m borrowing Moz’s old phone until my new one comes in the mail.

I’m very much enjoying having my sister visit us here in Tasmania, and my brother is coming today as well for some proper family time. Life is good. Busy, but good.

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Changing Dreams

We interrupt our regularly scheduled transmission to bring you an important announcement.

TL:DR I am finishing up my contracts at the University of Tasmania over the next eight months and going on to new and exciting things.

I thought it was about time that I make this Facebook official. It’s beginning to feel very official. Very real.

I have said already on this blog that this is the Year of Saying No to everything. Well, it turns out that one of the things I am saying no to is my job.

At the beginning of this year I wrote in my journal, “I’m not going to keep going as I am. I’m done…Ready to move on.” I have taught the foundation chemistry unit at the University of Tasmania for ten years, for three semesters a year. And I have taught into a couple of other third-year units as well. I have also worked in research at the University of Sydney and at the University of Tasmania for seven years combined. I have supervised  one honours student and co-supervised three PhD students. And no, I don’t have tenure, I don’t have a permanent position. My work has ranged from casual by-the-hour work to as much as a two-year contract. If you want to know how I feel about that, you can read this post.

This year, I was ready for a change, and there were a couple of different options available for me to apply for at the university. But as the year went on, I felt more and more that it was time for me to try something new. You see, I want to write. I want to produce novels and write non-fiction books, and generally put my creativity out into the world. But I also want to live, I want to be healthy, to spend time with family and friends, and to exercise. And while others may be able to hold down a university position, and write, and have a life, I know I can’t. I’ve tried.

I have read a few books this year about how to get the writing business going and most of them advocate waking at 4am to write before work, going to work and doing a good day’s labour, and then coming home to work on the business more after work hours. They say that it’s stupid to give up your day job until you are able to support yourself with your dream job. I can see their point, but I have two problems with that scheme for myself.

One is that I’m already struggling to have enough energy to do what I already do. Even with all the changes I’ve made to diet and exercise, and with figuring out and fixing my thyroid issue, I’m still exhausted. This may be due to certain aspects of the university job. I don’t know. But the bottom line here is that I would be taking my time away from my family and letting them down if I put writing first and added that workload to the work I’m already doing. I’m not willing to sacrifice my family’s well-being or my physical and mental health for a writing career that may or may not happen.

Another issue with the aforementioned plan is that the university system already wants me to work from 4am until 10pm for my academic work. To truly ‘make it’ in academia it needs to be your whole life, your passion. You need to be willing to work when you’re on holidays, to work over the weekends, to stay until 4am getting an experiment right. Now, there are several articles I’ve read that show that you don’t have to sell your soul to the university to ‘make it’ as a professor but I feel like the pressure to work long hours is there and that I would be fighting against the trend if I were to treat an academic career like a ‘9-5 job’ and even taking on that fight is exhausting. But to try to run an academic career and build a writing business at the same time? Hats off to anyone who can do that.

I was talking to a creative writing lecturer earlier this year about my book and she asked, “How are you able to write and work in academia?” and I had to say that I couldn’t. I couldn’t keep it up. That I was leaving the uni behind. She looked relieved, to be honest. For her, writing is her academic career and good on her. She couldn’t imagine being able to write as well as do the uni thing. And neither can I. Not on a long-term basis.

So, what is my plan?

I have nixed the idea of becoming a stand up comedian. Just thought I’d let you know that.

The teaching contract I presently have will finish at the end of December and after that I will have two days of research a week until somewhere around the middle of next year. That gives me about eight months to figure out if I can make a living working for myself. If I can’t then I will be looking for another job around the middle of next year. We shall see.

I would like to write about 2000 words a day. Working towards both fiction and non-fiction books. Writing generally takes 5-10 years to pay off if you’re going the Indie Author route (which I am). Yes, 5-10 years. Not a short-term investment.

In the meantime, I hope to make money by doing some English language editing of scientific journal articles and theses. That is, taking work written by people with English as a second (or fifth – these people are incredibly skilled) language and correcting their English. I am in the middle of writing a business plan for this idea and I’ll be setting up a website in due time and trying to get that off the ground. It’s something I really enjoyed when working with my PhD students, and something I have also done voluntarily for an open access journal. But now I’d like to make it pay.

That is the plan. And my teaching for the semester has all but finished so in a couple of weeks (after exam marking) I’m going to be able to put decent hours into the new stuff and get it underway. I’m pretty excited about it.

I also started crying in the car as I was heading home after my last lab class. My last ever lab class.

So you could say feelings are mixed. I’m laying down one dream, and picking up another.

Anyway, that’s the news. I wanted to let you know.

One thing at a time

I want to write about how well this year’s plan to do less is going but I hesitate for two reasons. One is that at the moment I feel really rubbish, with a sore throat and blocked ears and sinuses, so I’m not feeling as overwhelmingly awesome as I have been feeling. The other is that if I tell you just how great it is, you will all get insanely jealous and make time in your busy schedules to come over to my place and bash me up!

One of the things I am learning this year in a positive way (and that I have been learning in previous years in the negative) is that it is so good to focus on one thing at once. I remember when I was working in Sydney one time I had a special set of experiments to perform in the chemical engineering building. My office, computer and internet access were in the chemistry building. The buildings were about 7 minutes walk apart (depending on how caffeinated I was). The experiments worked like this: I would set up the catalyst in the furnace and wait ten minutes for the temperature to equilibrate, then I would set the instrument running that would take a reading every five minutes for an hour. After waiting for an hour I would remove the catalyst and put in another one, wait ten minutes, and set the instrument running again.

There was a lot of time waiting for the whole experiment to run and I didn’t want to waste it, I wanted to get other work done during that time. So my day would consist of heading to chemical engineering and setting the experiment going, then waiting five minutes to make sure that the first reading worked well and there were no leaks in the line. After that I would head back over to chemistry and try to get some work done. I only had about 40 minutes to spend in the chemistry building because of the walk there and back and the five minute wait at the beginning, so I would try hard to do 40 minutes good work and then my alarm would go off and I’d head back over to chemical engineering.

Now any time management person will tell you that I was not real wise doing things that way. I remember after a whole day of working in this fractured pattern I went back to the little room where I was staying and I felt completely discombobulated. My brain felt like it was split into hundreds of pieces. I was exhausted and I couldn’t think straight. I realised that night that switching places so many times during the day had thrown out my brain. I think it takes 20 minutes to get back into proper work mode after an interruption, and I was only allowing myself twice that at a go to get any work done.

Once I realised what was going on, I set up a hotspot on my phone so that I could have internet access at chemical engineering. I found a reasonably quiet student lounge that I could gate crash, and I worked on site. I felt much more reasonable at the end of the day and I got more work done too.

Last year, in the same way, my time was split between research, university teaching, tutoring, and writing. I would try to cover each thing every day. To be able to do that I had to constantly watch the clock and drag myself away from one thing because it was time for the next. I felt like every day I was running late for an appointment, several times a day. I felt fractured, pulled in many different directions, discombobulated.

This year things are set up differently. My tutoring is limited to one day a week, and I have set aside three days for university research and teaching. I have a whole day blocked out to work on my writing projects. The other three days a week I do jobs around the house and any church related stuff and visiting (coffee with friends – one of the MAJOR priorities in my life). It has been so fantastic to live life this way.

I have been able to focus fully on my research in the three days I am at uni. I am finding that my state of flow often kicks in at about 430pm and it’s so brilliant to not have to pull myself away even to make tea on those nights (DH and DS do the cooking those nights, they are awesome!) I can finish my train of thought and then come home a bit late. I’m usually completely stuffed at the end of the day but I also feel satisfied with the day’s work.

On Thursdays I have a slightly fractured day – it’s the day I do all the visiting, the paperwork, the house stuff and the tutoring. But again, it’s good to have a day set aside to do these things, and as I get the house under control again Thursdays will settle down. And on Fridays, oh the Glory! I get to focus all day on my writing goals, and I spend the day alone. Total refreshment, right there. Then I hit the weekend ready to spend time with the family, to have meals with friends, to go out and have adventures.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to arrange my life like that. I am trying to live more in the moment – to be fully present in what I am doing when I am doing it, and not to be worrying about tomorrow or yesterday. I hope to become more practised at that through the year. I am not perfect, at the moment I’m hoping to get quite a bit of uni work done tomorrow because there just wasn’t enough time in the three days to do it all this week (or last week either) but again, I will keep trying.

It’s amazing how it is culturally acceptable to always be saying ‘I’m so busy!’ and ‘there’s so much to do’ but I feel very strange to be telling you all, ‘I’m so refreshed, and I feel like I have almost got life under control!’ but there you go. I’m loving life this year. I hope I keep my days clear for the important things and somehow let the urgent get itself done as it can. And I hope that you also can arrange your life so that you can be focused, present, and unhurried. And maybe one day we will change the culture so that we aren’t all too busy. You never know!

If you want to read more on this subject I have read a couple of really good books lately. One is Margin by Richard A Swenson, and the other is Single Tasking by Devora Zack. It’s actually very pleasant to read them when you’ve already put some of their ideas into practice! And they have very good ideas!