There are two comments/questions that I've been hearing a bit regularly as the dust settles from the tenure process. First, many tenured faculty have told me to do as little this summer as possible. I've been advised to garden and go hiking and spend time with Da Man and read things that have nothing to do with work and all that. I will say that I have decided to make no plans for July. I have a few things in June, but I'm going to keep July off-limits. I almost sent a proposal to a conference, but I decided not to do anything, that the last thing I really wanted to do was create another conference presentation even if it sounded like fun.
But the second thing has come mostly from the recently tenured. They often ask what I plan to do next in regards to scholarship. Someone made a joke that I could just sit for the rest of my life and never write another word again. While that might technically be true, I do feel like I have an ethical responsibility to keep up with scholarship and professional development. Now, I also think that workshops and other things I done through NYU count as professional development and certainly suffice. But while I'm happy I no longer have the pressure to produce writing, I still want to produce it.
So what to do next? Some of my colleagues have talked about how their writing took entirely new directions after tenure, like they had permission to play and explore. Some immediately set their sights on a book. We don't need one for tenure, and while we don't need one to be promoted to Full Professor, either (as long as we have significant scholarship in other ways), a lot of people turn to a book project.
I'm not sure what to do, but I know me. I can't just plan to follow my whims. If I do, I will accomplish nothing. I need some kind of plan. Yes, I can certainly change my mind if I want, but I need an initial road map. And last night I decided that I am going to work on four articles right now. They are each things that have been tickling the back of my mind in various ways for a few years now. I'll write each of them, working on one a year (2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012). As I work on them, I'll keep track of both how I feel about them and how they are received. And in four years, I'll decide if I want to build any of them into a book or do something else.
No, I don't plan to talk about any in detail at such an early stage, but the general topics are David Wojnarowicz, rape jokes, gay porn, and truth in memoir. Last night, I created binders for each project and put in whatever I already had for each. I plan to take a couple of articles with me on the plane to CCCC this week, too.
It's certainly not a major, life-altering decision, but it feels good to know that I'm working on this and not that. Also, it doesn't really feel like I've closed any doors but still have some leeway, too.
Of course, I could completely change my mind in the next hour, too.