Random Bits of Thursday

Before the pandemic, hubs and I loved to go to a local comedy club. We’d usually catch the late Saturday show (there’s one in the early evening and another one late).

For the most part, research-active faculty in my department teach one course per semester (there is a formula involving amounts of grant money, number of advised research students, number of papers and proposals, etc., versus teaching expectations for a given year). However, due to booming enrollments, we sometimes have teaching overload. I happen to do well in the classroom with undergraduates, so I teach large-enrollment undergraduate courses more often than most (I actually like teaching undergrads, but it still doesn’t make it fair that people get to suck at teaching and get rewarded for it with small graduate classes and thus extra research time; however, this is a rant for another day). This semester, I have  teaching overload, in that I have a huge-enrollment undergraduate class with discussion, and a graduate class in my specialty. I teach them both on the same days.

I don’t know how it is for truly extroverted people, but I have to get into performance mode for teaching. I get pumped (loaded with adrenaline) before class in order to prance around, talk loudly, draw and do math on the board, and make nerdy dad jokes. And then a little while later I have to do it again. When I am done for the day after the undergraduate class, I feel completely drained. I sit in my office for close to an hour just trying to reset before I can go home.

This must be how those comedians feel after that second show on Saturday night.


This semester is kicking my butt. Three days are taken by teaching and meetings, one more day with non-stop meetings (literally nonstop, 9-6), and finally one day where I do get a chance to do something requiring some thought. Weeks really fly by, but it feels a bit like madness.


A writer friend of mine who had a successful law career has sold a couple of novels and now actually writes full time. I am in awe and very proud of them. When we last chatted, they said there was huge pressure to make subsequent books do well (they’re working on their third, and the second is about to come out). Not sure why it surprised me to hear about the pressure, it should be a no-brainer really, but it did. The friend is living the dream (they wanted to be a full-time writer and they are) but it might be an anxiety dream.

There is never no pressure.


I may or may not be writing a novel. I may or may not have already have a pretty detailed outline and I may or may not have already run it past two trusted writer friends / beta readers. There may or may not be pretty detailed character sheets in my mind at least. I may or may not be insane to take this on in addition to everything else.


I did just get some really nice accolade (with money) from my institution.


Even if I write the novel and I sell it and it does well, I don’t think I’ll ever be as brave as that writer friend of mine to go writing full time. Maybe after ten novels that sell well. Make that twenty. Make that becoming Stephen King.


If you’ve read this far, here’s a nice Easter egg for you: I will be putting out a new book based on the blog. I am planning it for early fall. I have awesome cover design commissioned already. It will be very different from Academaze in content (mostly the last five years), but also intent and tone. I’m really excited to work on it this summer.


I’ve always battled doing too much by taking on even more, with the extra being the stuff I actually want to do. Counterintuitive, but it helps. With lost of passion projects, I have plenty of exciting nuggets to intersperse among the less-enjoyable activities. Like tiny joy-filled cushions.


What have you been up to, blogosphere? How’s early 2022 treating you?


  1. Hooray for the new book! Can’t wait!

    And I definitely hear you on getting punished for teaching well. It looks like I’ll be teaching our grad class plus a large intro class in the fall. There are two other faculty who *could* be teaching a single class that would get me out of this predicament (i.e., they only have to teach one class in the fall no matter what), but one of them doesn’t want to teach a grad class three years in a row (even though he has two different classes he can alternate between) and the other has a grad class that he could teach in the fall, but the chair told me that “between you and me, the last time he taught it, it didn’t go very well,” which is supposed to be a convincing reason why I have to have a crappy fall (reader, I was not convinced). This is also only one year after I had to teach two different levels of the intro class in my subject simultaneously (one for majors, one gen-ed) because everyone else in my department has a course that they “don’t teach,” whereas I teach everything, and therefore I get the more complicated teaching assignments. Grr.

  2. This sounds like my weeks, except I have 2 days where I work from 6:30-x in the operating room, and have one overnight call shift each week. Then there’s a day for meetings and then I get one day to think. Except that post-call days count as the thinking day so. Blergh. If this doesn’t work out at least I have a bunch of backup plans.

  3. Excited for your book, for your novel, and maybe a comedy show too :). Your teaching experience resonates with me–especially acting extroverted and needing to recover after (in my case) three in a row.

  4. Agree with the draining aspect of teaching since it is somewhat of a performance.

    Looking forward to the next book – your first always serves as a nice break; I’ll grab it off the shelf from my office to read on section at a time when I have a spare moment between meetings.

    Curious about how that formula: “(there is a formula involving amounts of grant money, number of advised research students, number of papers and proposals, etc., versus teaching expectations for a given year).” I’m carrying a chunk of undergrad, grad, and funding in my department since I’m from a subfield that has much more funding opportunities/labor needs compared to some of the more solitary subfields in my department… it’d be nice to have a break on teaching

  5. Yay – academaze was hugely helpful when I started my lab so I am very much looking forward to the mid/senior career wizard handbook.

  6. Cool that you’re writing a novel! 🙂 Is it going to be science fiction? Horror? Psychological drama? I will buy it when it comes out. 🙂

    I published my first novel last year. It took me several years to write and then find a publisher, but I was always working, sometimes full-time and mostly it was an enjoyable and intense hobby for me. That changed in the year directly before publication; editing was not a lot of fun. But still it was possible to do it in my free time (while having a 2y.o. at home and a new job).

    However, all in all, the experience of publication was kind of hard. It made me realize how as a physicist I think very differently then the kind of people who judge (and read) most novels. Most literary critics are of course liberal arts educated and they are actually quite different than us, I think, which I did not fully appreciate before. I mean already before I was often baffled by how critics were easily duped by novels I thought were entirely uninteresting and also really repetitive. Which could have been an indication that I think differently than them in retrospect, and that they might not get my novel either…. I did not fully make that connection beforehand. 🙂

    I’m not really sure why I convinced my publisher and agent nevertheless.

    Now the publisher somehow still believes in me (they think the lack of success might have been timing / pandemics / accidental) and want to do a second novel. But I am a bit discouraged and trying to find the energy again to write! I love it so much and always loved it so much, but sometimes I feel like I have thought and seen and experienced too much that made me see the world differently than how a literary critic sees it and for this reason I will never be successful and perhaps should do something wiser with my time. I guess the entire experience made me realize how the people who are similar to each other will always love and buy each others books which will confirm their view of the world. And if you are coming from an different direction it will be MUCH harder to be successful (although for sure not impossible).
    Didn’t appreciate that before at all!

    This is not to discourage you in the least of course, it will be different for you for sure. Just wanted to tell you about my experience because I think you might understand what I mean.

  7. @zinemin, congratulations on publishing your novel! That’s a great accomplishment. Is it literary (based on what you told me you wrote before)? I hear you on being different from most literary types. I have been active on literary Twitter for the past few years, and as much as I love the people, they are a different breed than scientists, to be sure. I have found that I am a more natural fit for genre fiction rather than literary (I’ve sold stories within horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and even mystery! I have sold literary pieces, too, but I feel that whatever literary skills I have are best employed toward making my genre fiction better). Even as a reader, I deeply appreciate a clever and surprising plot and abhor the total absence of it. I would be happy to chat more about this over email if you’ve got time/interest. Congratulations again on your novel!

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