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The Thought Before Tomorrow

There are days when I realise that it is just unfortunate that I need a job.

Actually, that should probably read, "It's unfortunate that I need money." If everything in the world was free, I'd be quite happy. But no, once again, that fact that I was not consulted about the creation of the world's culture at the time it was done has led to things not being right. I've so many complaints about that meeting, really.

Since I handed in the PhD in March, I have spent the last six months sort of chilling round, keeping things real simple. I wrote Twenty-Six Lies/One Truth, read a bit, went a few places, saw a few gigs, applied for a few jobs, and tried to ignore my friends and family who kept saying, "Have you heard back about your thesis?" The answer for that is, incidentally, still no. It's faintly irritating, but I remind myself that a friend of mine took a year to get her's back, so I'm not at that, yet. But however you look at it, I haven't been taxing myself, but now I'm getting kinda bored, and I'm looking for something to occupy myself with. Ready for something new, please.

In solving this, I've had to make some choices about employment. There's lots of jobs I don't want to do, and lots of places I don't want to work at, and if I'm honest, I'd like to stay just in Sydney and teach creative writing, but that's a very limited option. The jobs are just not here at the moment and might never be, especially if you're talking consistent, regular pay cheque work. Now, I've got friends who give the whole, "A job is just a job," line of thought, but if I have to spend a lot of time at it, that's not my theory. I want to at least like the thing I have to spend time at. I like teaching creative writing, simply because I find it stimulating for my own writing; but it seems that if I want to do this, I have to broaden the search, and so I am, which leads me more often than not looking into America, where it seems there are quite a few jobs doing this.

So that's what I'm doing, I'm looking.

To be honest, I've no idea how it's going to go. Who can say? None of the jobs start until August 2007, though the early application deadline is November, which I figure is for budget concerns and so forth. I have no real burning desire to go and live in the States, but it would be different, and about as close as I'll come to working as a full time writer these days, so that counts for a lot.

(Full time writer side note: Have you seen how hard writers in the midlist work to produce work that they often say they wish they could have had another six months on? No thanks. If I've learnt anything in the last six years, it's that give me a year or two to write a novel, at my own pace, to the point where I'm happy and can't stand the sight of it no more, and I'm good.)

However, I do have a backup plan in case this falls through, and that's to enroll back in University to do a one year teacher qualification course (either a Dip Ed, or the other one that floats around, so you can teach English as a second language or whatever--I forget what it's called). I like teaching, and I don't mind High School kids, especially those emo'd up, not too popular ones who want to burn things and later become famous (they're my fav), but all up, I could do without going back to Uni for another degree, and I'd prefer not to be teaching High School English simply because I have no desire to teach picture books, propaganda like children's books, and poetry that is so boring it makes my eyes bleed. But as a fall back plan goes, I could do it, and I'd be quite content with it. So there's that.

Anyhow, how's that for some random thoughts on the this is my life, what-the-fuck-am-I-doing shit?

Comments

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ironed_orchid
Oct. 11th, 2006 04:47 am (UTC)
he other one that floats around, so you can teach English as a second language or whatever--I forget what it's called

It's something like a Grad dip in ESL. I think it depends on the institution.

I recently remembered that in order to teach English (ESL) overseas, one usually only needs a degree - not a teaching diploma - which is an option I'd completely forgotten about, although I did give it some thought before I finished my BA.
benpeek
Oct. 11th, 2006 04:55 am (UTC)
yeah, i know that. i gave some thought to ging and teaching in japan, but, really, i am defective at picking up other languages. i think i'd struggle in a non-english speaking environment if i was there full time.
anencephalickid
Oct. 11th, 2006 05:01 am (UTC)
i think i'd struggle in a non-english speaking environment

And yet you're thinking of going to America?

Yeah, yeah, I know. I just couldn't resist :)
benpeek
Oct. 11th, 2006 05:07 am (UTC)
:P
ironed_orchid
Oct. 11th, 2006 05:38 am (UTC)
I'm not especially attracted to the idea of living in Japan, but maybe China...

As it is, I still need to finish and submit, so it's all idle speculation.
benpeek
Oct. 11th, 2006 05:42 am (UTC)
that's true.

also, for me, i want to be in environment that kind of supports the writing. hit a uni or college and teach CW, and you really have to keep producing the work, since they want you too. that'sa bit of a problem here in aus, since most unis want you to produce *academic* work (getting fiction recognised by the uni as an equal thing on par with academic articles is a bitch).
exp_err
Oct. 11th, 2006 05:53 am (UTC)
It'd be tricky to work out how to rate a work of fiction against an academic article on a person's CV. Maybe one semipro SF fiction publication = one academic conference abstract. One publication in F&SF, Asimovs, Strange Horizons or "Year's Best F&SF" = one article in a peer-reviewed journal. One novel = one academic book.
benpeek
Oct. 11th, 2006 06:03 am (UTC)
yeah, that'd probably work for me.

i'm not really fussed by the comparison, i'd just like the university system here to recognise it more. throughout the phd, i watched the department get all excited about articles that other students published, but for my sales, and publications, there was nothing. indeed, i was once asked when i was going to do the articles.
lyndarama
Oct. 11th, 2006 06:09 am (UTC)
From someone in the biz, who thinks of this stuff a lot:

not only is it tricky, it's something those in high places actually don't really want to enter into. In fact, the latest reports about the RQF (Research Quality Framework) mention assessing creative work (of all kinds; music, art, writing) in terms of their 'impact on community'. So there will be no debate about the relative merits of creative writing versus academic writing, just a step to the left.

It's called moving the goalposts halfway thru the game.

Unless F&SF etc are peer-reviewed (according to those high people's perception of what 'peer' equates to) with the same rules and guidelines for publication as academic journals, anything published in them won't count. And a novel doesn't equal an academic book in the current DEST specifications.

You could outsell The DaVinci Code and it wouldn't count; you could write AS Byatt's Possession and it wouldn't count either. You could win a Booker, Orange, Pulitzer *and* get published in the Womans Weekly short fiction section and it just wouldn't count.

And yes, it sucks arse.

Sorry about the long answer; its obviously a topic of interest for me.
benpeek
Oct. 11th, 2006 06:14 am (UTC)
In fact, the latest reports about the RQF (Research Quality Framework) mention assessing creative work (of all kinds; music, art, writing) in terms of their 'impact on community'.

uh-huh.

cynically: and academic work need not 'impact on the community', yes? how convenient.
exp_err
Oct. 11th, 2006 06:18 am (UTC)
From what I read in the Higher Ed supplement today, anything can be rated in terms of either or both "research impact" and "impact on the community". Hence, an environmental scientist whose work is not cutting-edge research but will have a big impact in terms of reversing environmental degradation can still get points for "impact on the community". A physicist doing top-flight work on string-theory will get lots of points for research impact, but none for community impact.
lyndarama
Oct. 11th, 2006 06:48 am (UTC)
Very good points, and below too. Sucks all round don't it? :-)

So you read the Higher Ed supplement for the articles too huh? Not just the job ads...
exp_err
Oct. 11th, 2006 06:54 am (UTC)
:)
I read it in the tea-room at work and sometimes get funny looks from colleagues who assume I'm job-hunting. I like the articles and I also scan the job ads, though I'm not looking for a new job. I just like to keep an eye on the market. Looking at the PhD and postdoc ads in my field can also give me a heads-up as to who has got a grant to do some work that relates to mine.
lyndarama
Oct. 11th, 2006 06:28 am (UTC)
Absolutely; they have pretty much the same criteria as do creative works; this has been the problem all along. Creative work just can't and shouldn't be measured by the same yardstick as academic work, because they are different.

Studies on improving services for dementia sufferers etc will obviously impact on the community in a very quantifiable way, but measuring how a piece of art impacts a community is harder.

As an example, to try to work within the RQF (which equates to bending over and taking it with good humour), a colleague and I are thinking of starting a research project with high school kiddies; writing workshops with an anthology as an outcome, and the research component would be the process of determining which kinds of writing activities etc suit the kiddies best.

See; still not writing fiction / poetry etc am I? But am working on a project which has an impact on the community, which is what counts.
benpeek
Oct. 11th, 2006 06:32 am (UTC)
this is why america looks beautiful ;)
exp_err
Oct. 11th, 2006 06:38 am (UTC)
There are similar problems in my field. I write academic papers, so they count for research impact, but I don't spend the majority of my time working on those papers - most of my time goes into very applied projects that may or may not have components that can be translated into research papers. How much impact does my work have on the community/environment? Well, first it depends on how well my work is integrated with that of others to produce a picture for the government agencies that manage those environments. Assuming that all the work has been well integrated, it depends on whether the science indicates some nice clear environmental management choices, and then on whether on not the government actually acts on the advice it gets. And if it follows the advice? How much of the impact is due to my work on algae and how much is due to the next guy's work on sediments?
exp_err
Oct. 11th, 2006 06:15 am (UTC)
F&SF etc are not peer-reviewed, but have very high standards. Oddly, "Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine" *is* peer-reviewed (each submission is assessed by three people, all of whom are likely to be SF writers, though not academics in the field) but has much lower standards. But I know that neither would "count" in the current system.

Surely they could work out some sort of impact factor from the size of the print run and the number of times the work is mentioned in other fora (professional reviews and scholarly criticism).
benpeek
Oct. 11th, 2006 06:21 am (UTC)
the problem (at least to my experience) seems to be that no one really wants to work it out. creative writing is really just beginning to grow here, so in a way, it's struggling to be recognised in its own indepedent way. i mean, ultimately, finding these ways to 'compare' isn't the way to do it--fiction has a long history of what is considered professional and what is not. that would serve.

when i began my phd, the creative writing/academic split was 75/25. bout a year later they made it 50/50.
exp_err
Oct. 11th, 2006 06:24 am (UTC)
I just wish I could put creative writing on *my* CV :) And do it during working hours. I'd definitely get back into it then. (Might have some trouble meeting client deadlines, though).
benpeek
Oct. 11th, 2006 06:26 am (UTC)
my creative writing makes up the majority of my CV. looks impressive, even if it's useless ;)
lyndarama
Oct. 11th, 2006 06:35 am (UTC)
We just don't have that nice long history, like the US does, of valuing writing and having great writing schools etc.

My PhD was old school; 75/25.

There's a whole debate going on at the AAWP site (http://www.griffith.edu.au/school/art/text/index.htm) about the value of the exegesis. At the conference for that organisation later in the year, there's a paper called 'The Impossibility of Exegesis', and happily (at least its being discussed) others called 'Writing Creatively in the Academic Environment: Creativity Corrupted?' and 'The Creative Writer as Juggler: The Tricky Business of Balancing Creative Writing, Academic Writing and Trying to Get Published'.

ironed_orchid
Oct. 11th, 2006 05:55 am (UTC)
The creative writing courses at Murdoch were taught by people who had published poetry and fiction. I thought that was a good thing.
benpeek
Oct. 11th, 2006 06:04 am (UTC)
most people who do the CW courses have published some fiction, i should probably add.
lyndarama
Oct. 11th, 2006 06:14 am (UTC)
As well they should, in my opinion. But, as I've discussed in the post above, increasingly its getting hard to focus on creative writing because it doesn't actually 'count' in the academic world. Thus one can feel somewhat a fraud.

Ben, you know as soon as I know the answer to these questions I'll share it with you. You might want to think about designing a workshop on short fiction / spec fic to run at the Writers Centre? Did I mention this to you before?
benpeek
Oct. 11th, 2006 06:17 am (UTC)
yeah, i know :)

i am actually in the middle of designing, pitching a course to the NSW writer's centre. we're just working out the day it would run and all of that. it's an experimental fiction course, since they've got people for the other ones.
lyndarama
Oct. 11th, 2006 06:36 am (UTC)
Excellent; it's a start.
benpeek
Oct. 11th, 2006 06:40 am (UTC)
pretty much. however, it's a difficult way to make a solid income.
mariness
Oct. 11th, 2006 12:33 pm (UTC)
Actually Japan is very well set up for that sort of thing -- signs in English, menus with pictures so you can point at the pictures and so on. I really didn't have a problem with the non-English speaking environment at all.

just a thought.

and no, so not saying this for the excuse of going to Japan again :)
crookfactory
Oct. 11th, 2006 07:22 am (UTC)
ahh, i missed that "oh what the hell will I do with my life" stage that kicks in post uni and coincidentally, coincides with the moment you get sick of daytime tv.

but milk it. milk it good. otherwise you'll end up disillusioned and jaded like me when you get a full time job. yeah i know, that doesn't really help with your job hunting thinking now but what did you expect from me? a beer and a shoulder? you can go shove it, mister.

yes i am jaded. fuck. ;P
benpeek
Oct. 11th, 2006 10:36 am (UTC)
no, no, you didn't miss that peroid. i wrote a book in that. i channeled myself. or some shit like that.

i fear becoming you

;P
crookfactory
Oct. 11th, 2006 02:17 pm (UTC)
get in line, ya hack!
benpeek
Oct. 11th, 2006 11:27 pm (UTC)
don't make me glass you!
(Deleted comment)
benpeek
Oct. 11th, 2006 10:39 am (UTC)
so what's your first plan? or the potential first plan?
(Anonymous)
Oct. 11th, 2006 08:30 pm (UTC)
Well, you know how much I'm enjoying doing my dip. ed.
Yep, that's all I have today.
Agnes
benpeek
Oct. 11th, 2006 11:28 pm (UTC)
yeah, i remember. it's in the front of my brain.
kazzibee
Oct. 11th, 2006 10:00 pm (UTC)
HAPPY BIRTHDAY YA CUNT!
benpeek
Oct. 11th, 2006 11:28 pm (UTC)
thanks :P
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