Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Writing for fun

I am slowly reengaging with research after the summer of craziness and a year of unusual obligations. I remember how I in the beginning of my postdoc sometimes found it frustrating to be in my office with myself and my papers all the time and wanted distraction and new challenges. Now I think it is pure bliss to close my door and work away on my own things all day. In a way I have achieved what I wanted in the short term now with getting the job, and I don't see the need to spend a lot of time on teaching or admin or any other complimentary CV-building activities right now. I have seven months left in this position and I've decided to live the postdoc life in all it's glory to the fullest and enjoy having all the time in the world to work on publications. It's interesting how it's much easier to be enthusiastic about this prospect now, when I know it will not last forever than in the previous two years when I had plenty of post doc life ahead of me and the mere title made me feel unenthusiastic.

So I have been typing up my field notes recently and while this is a completely brain-less task it is still a way of reconnecting with the work we did a few months ago and get an overview of the kind of data we have brought back. Yesterday, after finishing the typing, I sat down with the notes, went through all the localities and started scribbling down which data have the potential to become which kind of publications. I've always been a bit frustrated with the way these projects are organized, because the control-freak inside me, loves the idea of having a proper hypothesis, finding a good place to test it and see what the outcome is. Sadly my field doesn't really work that way. Of course we have some sort of a hypothesis, but since we don't know how and where we will find the pieces for the puzzle, it always ends up with a situation where we come home with the data and then we begin to figure out what it's all about.

This project has been running for two years now and until yesterday I was seriously worried that my publication outcome of this post doc was going to be embarrassingly small, because I just couldn't see where it was all heading. After yesterday's combing through the material for publishable bit and pieces and bigger arguments I've counted 10 potential publication topics that we could start writing right now and 7 more that require more data, but are work in progress. I mean, how could I not see that before? So, obviously I'm not going to write 17 papers tomorrow (and some of the topics would not be me as a first author anyway), but looking at this list makes me so much more inspired to write than I have been in a long time.

It will probably be years and years before all of this will appear in print and some of the ideas will probably never fly, but it was so cool to go through this process of connecting the dots, identifying ideas and seeing the potential in what was so far just a couple of dirty notebooks with loose pages and weak binding. I have written so little over such a long time that everything has been revision of old manuscripts and that process is so tedious and drab that I get tired just from thinking about it. I have been thinking about how to make the most of my workdays and I think I shall try to sneak in a small portion of writing for fun each day and get started on some of these new ideas.

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