Tomorrow is the first teaching day of the academic year, and for the first time ever, I only have postgraduate students.
It’ll be the first time since I started teaching at universities (about this time back in 1999) that my primary focus hasn’t been on BA students. While there is a great deal of satisfaction to be had teaching at that level – I’m really looking forward to a semester largely free of undergrads.
Supervising Masters and PhD students can kind of spoil you. Your expectations for independent learning, depth of critical thinking and dedication to research are set pretty high. The role is more that of a coach than an instructor. And while that’s no less challenging, it does make a significant difference to the way in which you approach the task.
But a change is as good as a rest, as they say, so this already feels a bit like a holiday from what has been a massive part of my job for the past 13 years. And tomorrow – that ‘holiday’ starts with the first class for my new MA Music Industries students.
That doesn’t mean, however, that I’ll be taking it easy for the rest of this calendar year. Quite the opposite. I have a book deadline.
I’m writing a book, you know
This year, I’ve been trying to make dents in a book I’m writing called Radio in the Digital Age. I’ve made some progress, but I have a long way to go – and I have until Christmas to get it finished.
It’s not an easy book to write — in part, because I’ve been focused on the music industries rather than radio for most of the past five years. This feels more like a book I should have written in 2007 or 2008. Of course, the book I would have written then would have been very different (and, I’d argue, nowhere near as good) – but even so, I feel like this is a return to a subject in order to finally put it to bed, rather than a natural extension of my current activities in the world of academia.
It’s also a hard book to write because the expectations are so high. I’ve been given relief from teaching (hence no undergrads) so that the book I write has as good a shot as it can possibly have of reaching a decent standard in the REF (Research Excellence Framework) – the measuring stick by which universities and academics get rated and the basis on which they get funding.
In short, I have time to write this book on the understanding that it better be bloody well measurably excellent as a piece of academic publication as a result of that time being allocated. No pressure.
It’s not the only book
I have a few other bits and pieces to work away at for the rest of the year: a massive funding application for joint research between the UK and Brazil for starters; my Music in the Digital Age book; a couple of international speaking engagements and some unavoidable responsibilities and administrative tasks that go along with the gig.
I’ve managed to get the Understanding the Music Industries textbook I’ve been writing with Chris Anderton and Martin James completed – that’s with the publishers now, and should be out in early 2013, if not before. I’ve also managed to complete and send off a couple of jazz-related academic journal articles that had been hanging around for a while. One’s been accepted for publication, the other’s currently under review. The book about whisky that I was contributing to is done and in shops now if you’re interested in that sort of thing.
So yeah – 2012 has been a bit of a writing year for me, which is good, since that had been the plan all along.
And yet another book?
I’ve also, against my better judgement, started planning out a long term project: I’m aiming to write a novel over the next few years. I’ve made a few half-hearted attempts in the past – but I’ve decided that this time, I’m going to take it slow and do it properly. There’s no rush.
I’m really happy with the premise. Better than anything I’ve come up with in the past by some considerable margin. It’s not a sci-fi, as such – but more what Neal Stephenson calls ‘speculative fiction’. No, I’m not going to tell you what it’s about (I find it hard to put into words just yet anyway) but I’m really happy with how it’s coming together in my head already.
I have some ambitious ideas for it, and I’d like to do it justice. At this stage, I’ve just been jotting down ideas for characters, setting, context and so on. Essentially, I’m building the world. I want to do that bit really well. Comprehensive. We’re talking global politics, economics, class and societal structure, technology, tradition… as well as fine-tuning the point of the story that I’m trying to tell.
There’s a lot of detail to think about, and I’m going to focus on achieving an internal consistency about the way in which that world operates, before I start with the writing itself. Just that part will take me a good six months by itself, I reckon, in order to get the basics nailed down. Especially since the novel is only a recreational sideline at this stage (though one I get more excited about the more I think it through).
But for now I need to concentrate
Despite all these other projects (and the teaching, of course) the radio book is pretty much my primary focus from here on out until the end of the year. Honest.
It’s going to make me fairly antisocial for the next few months, I expect. Not that I’m much of a social butterfly at the best of times – but I thought I should apologise in advance.
I have writing to do.