So after crawling out from the thesis cocoon, I’ve been taking a few days to straighten out some thoughts and take stock of things. I’m a little behind on my e-mail, and my head contains a tangled mess of unmade plans. Those plans, however, are taking some form.
I had a nice long conversation with an old friend this evening. It was good to catch up, and nice to talk casually about technical things awhile. This may seem like a contradiction to some, but really I find informal conversation about sciencey things quite refreshing – particularly given the attitude a lot of people around me seem to have developed towards “talking about work” while elsewhere★. I’ve always rather enjoyed taking a closer look at people and finding out what makes them tick. People are fascinating things, and often the topics which they discuss with the most clarity are those which they’re most interested in.
In any case, one topic which was discussed was the ever-present peril of hunting for jobs. Virtually any academic will be able to tell you of the perils involved in hunting for postdoctoral contracts before you can get a more permanent research job on the tenure track. And I would very much like to remain on the dreaded tenure track. Even though at times it may feel a bit like playing the Game of Thrones – either you win, or you die.
Fellowship applications are evidently the long haul. Deadlines are months apart, hearing back about them takes further months, and there may be yet more months after that until you can start. Provided you’re successful. Many have a low success rate. I’m not being discouraged, mind you. In fact, I’m waiting to hear back from a few applications even as I type this (though I know I won’t be told a word until at least next month). In the meantime, I do still need to eat. So I’ve decided to cheat the game.
Simply, I’m running two careers in parallel. Regular readers of mine will know that I already do some freelance writing work which helps me to pay the bills. So in tandem with the ongoing research fellowship application barrage, I’m also planning on upscaling my writing career. You see, finding postdoc places isn’t always a smooth process. Ignoring any imposter syndrome related crises of confidence, I still know a large number of people who have had, or are still having, problems finding research jobs. As my friend and I were musing in conversation earlier, the sticking point is money. With half the planet seemingly in financial crisis, funding for research can be scarce. It’s better than it was last year, but that probably isn’t saying much.
So I’ve resolved to write a book. Specifically, a non-fiction pop science book. I have a few plans for things, and Supernova Condensate is probably an ideal place to collate any ideas on that. As well as documenting any adventures I may have finding literary agents and/or dealing with publishers. One way or another, I’m also resolving to keep this blog much more frequently updated than it has been recently. Writing is always a pleasant way to organise thoughts, and it’s a good habit to keep.
★ Bluntly, science isn’t simply “work” for me. It’s a way of life. I don’t like simply switching off my brain when I go home, and I’ve always found that inspiration can happen at the most unusual moments. Besides, it’s fun to geek out sometimes.