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Balancing Writing with Other Obligations
Once we had our first chapter out of the way it was full steam ahead to complete our remaining chapters, as well as edit those that were coming in from contributors. When you couple this with the responsibilities of our “day job”: writing and delivering lectures, mountains of University admin, keeping a hand in the lab, trying (but never ever feeling like we were succeeding) to read the latest literature, we had quite a bit keeping us busy. Clearly we needed a strategy for balancing the writing process with all of these other obligations.
Our initial strategy was to split the contributions in two. We each took one half and committed to doing the first read and edit so that the other could simply read, check, and make any other modifications. This worked well as there was always the pressure of not wanting to be the ‘weak link’. If you could see a couple of chapters completed waiting for your eyes and you hadn’t even looked at yours yet then it was time to take action!
We also split the chapters that we were writing in this way, with each of us taking a lead. However, the nature of our jobs means that we both have busy times, and less busy times (I don’t think we can call any of it quiet times!). We had to be aware that in order to move toward our deadline we would both have to take it in turns being the ‘weak link’ while the other pushed us forward. It was always difficult to feel like you weren’t pulling your weight but the tables would quickly turn and you would have a chance to make it up to the other.
Of course sometimes we were both busy! The student knocking on a door with an immediate issue is always going to end up taking priority over the chapter deadline which is two weeks away. This inevitably meant deadlines started to get tighter and the pressure increased. Here we had to be realistic. Sometimes you need to say ‘no’ to writing that grant application and wait for the next call. ‘Yes’ we want to push our careers forward and grab every opportunity but ‘no’ we don’t want to burn out or let our publisher down. Also, we had to recognize that the book is an investment in its own right, which will, hopefully, help strengthen our future research bids.
Thankfully Elsevier were very helpful and flexible with our deadlines when we communicated concerns. As we had shown we were reliable with previous deadlines, if we needed a few days here and there at the end of the process they were happy to accommodate this.
And, although it didn’t feel like we ever would, we got there in the end!
About the Authors
I am an early stage academic with a keen interest in research, and research-led teaching, on how microbial communities are studied and then exploited in different environmental biotechnologies. My senior lectureship with Teesside University in 2006 was my first academic post following postdoctoral fellowships in Singapore and Oxford. I really enjoy working in successful partnerships with different colleagues especially where we do research across disciplines, share ideas and learn from each other. So co-editing a book with Caroline will go down in my memoirs as one of my career highlights.
I am a relatively early stage researcher whose area of expertise is in molecular ecology specifically looking at functional microbial communities within the soil. I first joined Teesside University a couple of years ago as my first lectureship position following my PhD and a small amount of postdoc work. When I first joined the University I was keen to establish myself as a researcher not just a member of teaching staff but struggled initially to juggle the two. I was quickly introduced to Komang who was interested in research similar to my own area.
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