Titles by Kij Johnson are available for purchase online

(Locked Patreon post here.)

I am getting used to the idea that I won’t be doing much at KU this fall, since my 25% time this fall will be focused on research, which is to say writing. I am expected to do a little bit of teaching-related stuff, which will consist of making myself available to the grad students, and some service, mostly service to the field, I expect. I haven’t processed what it will look like not to teach in a traditional academic environment because I have had semesters off before this. Will I be miss it? Since I still would love to teach for a low-res program, or I may end up in a classroom because of some consulting work — and of course all my summer and other-time workshops, I honestly can’t say.

Getting used to what’s gone pushes me into considering what is coming up instead. This summer and fall is, well, bonkers: guest of honor or writer guest gigs at three conventions (plus lots of work for a fourth con); a guest-writer gig for a university; six weeks of teaching non-academic workshops in various formats (so far); a family trip with my brother’s clan (woohoo!); two artist’s residencies at the end of the year; a book release; visits to Rice Lake and a wedding out west and a consultancy out east (maybe). I feel like I list all this (or whatever is the latest list) every single time I post. I think I am always trying to make sense of the next little while: What has to be done? In what order? How far out do I need to _______?

This week in particular, because I am starting to see myself as someone who is not really at KU (except in the most minimal of ways), I’m thinking about the disjunct between the quieter, more focused, writing-centered life I’ve been imagining and the facts of the fall semester: lots and lots and lots of being gone and/or focused on intense non-writing work. Is there a way to reconcile the writing-and-contemplation and the frenetic activity? I can’t just say, yeah, it’ll sort itself out in January, because then there will be still more new-book activity, plus I will be back in the classroom at KU (even if only part-time) and, while I won’t be traveling as much, there will be plenty to do that is not writing.

I have spent most of my adult life trying to reconcile interesting or time-sucking jobs (and occasionally hobbies) with writing, which is mentally difficult and time consuming. Writing gets done: a story or three a year, a novel or novella every so often, and I know from experience that not having a dayjob doesn’t actually improve my productivity. I have been hoping that disinvesting from KU would allow writer-me (now with more maturity!) the resources to write more — but as I observe my thinking patterns about the next twelve months, I note that they are the same as they would have been in 2017 or 2008. Changing how I think is of course much harder than changing what I want to think.

I spent a few days with Barbara, who teaches the Intensive Novel Workshop with me every summer — we did not really talk much about that, but we did talk about: ChatGPT, fondue, Ted Lasso, pen club, raised-bed gardening, and jigsaw puzzles.

I also spent some hours clearing the stuff from Jim’s house. I love making order from chaos, so this sort of work is absorbing and fun for me. There have been melancholy moments, of course, as when, two and a half years after his death, I cleared the refrigerator (which hadn’t been cleaned before this). Before his death, I visited him once or twice every week, bringing sausage and onion omelettes and home-made cinnamon rolls, and I always brought extra rolls and sausage for him to tide him over the intervening days if he wanted. The refrigerator still had two rolls and a small glass storage container full of sausages, everything dried to rock-hardness, and I had a sudden flashback to sitting in the living room eating a cinnamon roll and drinking coffee from a thermos, and talking to him. What did we talk about, that last year and a half, after covid meant we had to stop going to Hyvee for breakfast on Saturdays? When Chris was there, Jim talked about the usual things — tasks and books and plans — but when it was just me, he told stories sometimes, about his youth. It was a magical privilege to listen to him. Clearing his house is the last favor I can do him, I expect.

1 thought on “Four things, one of them musing about writing, because who would have expected THAT?

  1. Oh, thank you for sharing this. Best wishes in navigating this new (most promising if poignant) life transition!

Comments are closed.