I firmly believe that your academic career has the potential for joy as well as success. Clients have told me that my services have transformed their lives.
You became an academic because you are excited about ideas and about communicating those ideas to others. How many nights have you stayed up late with colleagues discussing ideas? Don’t you still do that at conferences sometimes? Heck, that kind of free flowing intellectual conversation is probably your definition of a good night out.
You should love your job. Research and scholarship is the formal way that learning new things, creating knowledge, and participating in intellectual discussion (formal and informal) is described in your employment contract. You loved being a student and teaching enables you to share the experience of exploring your curiosity in systematic ways that connected you to a whole community of others (living and dead) who were curious about similar things. The university as an institution is important to you and you are willing to participate in the collective running of that institution to enable it to continue to provide these opportunities for the creation and dissemination of knowledge.
And yet, your day to day experience of working as an academic has made it hard to remember all of that, maybe even to wonder whether it was only an illusion. You may have secured one of the increasingly rare secure positions. You may look like a successful academic on paper. But you are exhausted, disillusioned, and may have lost touch with the work that is most meaningful to you in the attempt to secure this job. Or, perhaps, you are not yet exhausted and disillusioned but you can see how easy it would be to get there and wonder if another path is possible.
You acknowledge that your love of this job has been exploited by governments, university trustees, and senior managers to cut costs and wonder if you need to stop caring so much, become more selfish, as much as it pains you to even consider it. Fear makes it hard to set priorities and create boundaries around your work. Fear is not conducive to getting anything written, as you may have discovered. And it is certainly not conducive to submitting whatever you have written for publication. Fear makes it difficult to teach the way you’d really like to teach, and that you know would be effective.
The structural impediments to being guided by your values, enjoying your work (at least some of the time), and being successful are not insignificant. Despite the significant barriers, I believe it is possible for you to align your work with your values, to do the work you find meaningful, and to set boundaries that acknowledge your human needs and allow you to have a life beyond your work. An academic career is a path, and there are a lot of different paths that an academic career can take. Hope works better than fear.
Things can be better. You can tap into your deep curiosity. Develop a writing practice that will create knowledge. Confidently share that knowledge with those who would benefit from it. Rediscover the glimmers of joy and share that joy and curiosity with your students, along with your knowledge and skills.
I want to help you make that possibility a reality. I do that through individual coaching and through a group program I call the Academic Writing Studio, which focuses on the one meaningful thing you are most likely to drop, writing.