Thursday, June 30, 2011

Writing, writing, writing...

This has been a great summer. The weather has been gorgeous and we are home in lovely Pullman. My original summer travel plans, which I was finalizing in early spring, had me flying out to Belgium to collaborate with my former grad student Xavi; and, colleague Koen Clays. Belgium would then be the staging point for my other trips, which included giving a Keynote address in Pretoria, South Africa, a stop in Poland to give a plenary lecture followed by a trip to Italy to present an invited talk in beautiful Cetraro at the NOMA meeting. Before heading back to the U.S., I would have stopped in Dublin to attend ICONO, an international meeting that has its roots in Pullman back in 1991 when I was an upstart faculty member.

However, the ICONO meeting was postponed until September. Since ICONO and NOMA were my two priorities, I decided to cancel all of my other commitments, reducing my travels to 17 days from 45. We took a 6 day break between my colloquium in Rome and the NOMA meeting in the south to drive around Italy with friends. This was an excellent idea, turning a hectic work trip partially into fun.

As a result of these abridged travel plans, I have been in Pullman for a larger fraction of the summer than usual. The weather has been heavenly, and working in my study with a cool breeze through the open windows is rejuvenating.

I had also planned to be writing several proposals now, but these good intentions were also placed on hold. Instead, I am working on almost a dozen papers that I hope will be submitted by the end of the summer. Proposal writing will continue in the fall.

Typically, summer salary comes from my grants. This summer, I decided not to pay myself for two of the three summer months. Part of the motivation was to have enough funds to pay all of my students since one of my grants is running out and a second grant was cancelled in the first year (out of 5) because of budget problems at the air force. As a result, I am working four to eight hours a day rather than the usual sunrise to midnight pace. This has given me time to decompress from a very busy life. Now I can take some time off to water the plants, catch an episode of a mindless comedy, or read the paper without guilt.

Most of my time these days is spent writing papers. Surprisingly, not having so many responsibilities to balance, I have found the process enjoyable. It's akin to organizing a photo album. As one mounts each photo, memories of people and events flow through the mind, leaving the reminiscer in a hypnotic state. Similarly, as I write each sentence of a manuscript, I recall the moments when ideas were conceived and grew. The memory of stimulating discussions with colleagues and students rekindles the flow of endorphins, allowing me to relive in my mind the birth and eventually the development of new theories or the discovery of new phenomena.

After my mornings with new manuscripts, I have a relaxed lunch, then meet with my students in the lab, interpreting new puzzles and germinating new ideas. This summer, life is as I had imagined for an academic. However, I know that the hectic life will return in less then 2 months, so there is some urgency to my rest. In the meantime, I am withdrawing into my blissful state.


No comments:

Post a Comment