Living with Covd19 has not been the occasion for an unexpected and bonus writing retreat. Well, it might have been for a few. But for most people, working from home didn’t become the occasion for increased productivity. Many people had increased caring responsibilities, with their usual supports harder to access. Those of us in higher education found it difficult to do our research and had to reinvent projects or put them on hold. And teaching had to be re-organised each year to cater for different blends of face to face and remote learning. All of this took time away from writing. Well. I’m not telling you anything. You’ve lived through this too.
As well, the connection between writing and wellbeing became clearer than ever. It’s hard to focus on sustained writing when you’re isolated and every day is marked by low level anxiety. So it seems pretty important, at the end of this second plague year, that we forgive ourselves if we haven’t been as productive as we wanted. As productive as we might have been in a more usual year.
It’s also important that we don’t set writing goals in New Year 2022 that compensate for 2021. Last year I only wrote x when I wanted to do y. So this year I’m going to do x+y+z. If we do end up with another year of more viral spikes and troughs, then we’ll finish this time next year feeling very frustrated and down on ourselves. It’s about being kind and real.
There’s a delicate balance to be found. On the one hand its probably good to have a routine that keep us in touch with our writing and keeps our writing muscles exercised, and to make some plans about what to write when and in what order. On the other hand, there’s a problem with having goals that are unrealistic and inflexible. Lining up a load of commitments and deadlines may seem to be a good way to keep on track, but may end up being a recipe for feeling inadequate.
That delicate routine, plan and goal balance is going to vary from person to person of course. But we can use our experience of, and reflections on, this year to consider what is likely to be possible next year. We can make modest but achievable plans for 2022. Well, that’s the approach Im taking to the New Year. No more wildly ambitious monthly targets. Something more gently paced is in order. Something that will support recovery.
But I also don’t want to let the year finish without acknowledging three colleagues who died in 2021, colleagues who contributed to my thinking, writing and this blog.
Dr Julie Rowlands wrote four guest posts for patter – about conference apps, writing the book from the PhD, lazy reviewers and the performative imposts of institutions on PhDers. Julie was building a distinctive place in critical higher education studies and had a unique insider knowledge of higher education management.
Dr Kip Jones often commented on posts on the blog and on social media. Kip was an innovator whose work on performative social science, particularly through the use of film, was very influential. Twitter just isn’t the same without his regular posts.
Professor Terry Wrigley was a co-editor/writer whose activism and passion for education inspired and energised so many. We had plans to do more work together.
Vale Julie, Kip and Terry. We’ll miss you. I’ll miss you.
Patter is taking a couple of weeks off – she will be back on 10th January, 2022.