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What have I got to show after six months?

Upon returning from Singapore, I committed myself to taking six months out of classroom teaching and not seeking full-time academic employment until (at least) the beginning of the 2020 academic year. While I’ve now met that goal, I occasionally feel a little frustrated or guilty that I don’t seem to have much in the way of concrete outcomes to show for it: no thriving business, no formal qualifications, just one very minor publication, and income only from my salaried position at Western Sydney University.

Yet I have actually met nearly all of the month-by-month goals that I’ve set for myself along the way, and I’ve done it without significantly depleting my savings after the initial expenditure on taking a holiday and refreshing my house. So from that point of view, it’s so far, so good.

Perhaps I’m being a little impatient, and/or perhaps I underestimated how long it might take to write a book or get a business going. As I’ve waded through the editing of a couple of larger fiction projects over the past couple of months, I’ve often reflected that if I learn nothing else from this experience, it’ll be that I better appreciate how much effort goes into writing a book. And I still don’t really know how long it’ll take to get my business going.

If I’d been teaching full-time for the same period, I would have taught two or three classes full of students by now. Had I been programming, I probably could have turned out a meaningful piece of software, though probably not a very sophisticated one. On the other hand, when I was working full-time as a researcher, I published around three papers as main author each year, which is far short of a book and barely scratching the surface of a viable business.

When teaching and programming I have a fairly straightforward way of making and measuring progress: I know what needs to be taught and what the software needs to do, and I have reasonably well-defined workflows to produce course materials and program code. But doing research, or trying something new, is a much more uncertain prospect—and possibly a longer one as well.

Perhaps I need to remind myself that the purpose of this adventure was not to produce stuff; in fact it was to spend some time away from churning out teaching materials and computer software according to processes with which I was already familiar. Having gotten through my first six months well enough, and having several on-going projects that promise to produce something eventually, I’ve got every reason to keep going.

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