"Insanely busy"

So, today I read an article in Newsweek about Paul Krugman, the liberal economist and Nobel Prize winner who has been criticizing the Obama administration’s method of handling the economy. And I came across this description of Krugman:

He is, to be sure, insanely busy, producing two columns a week, teaching two courses and still writing books (his latest is “The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008”). He posts to his blog as many as six times a day.

This is almost exactly my own work-load: I am writing a column–not weekly, but it’s still a job–for an online magazine, and I’m polishing up an academic article to send out soon. I am also working on and submitting fiction and poetry as I can manage it. I am teaching two courses–both writing classes, which come with a hefty grading load. And I am writing two books, one nonfiction and one fiction, as well as trying to adapt the latter as a graphic novel. And I’m posting to blogs–not six times a day or even six times a month, but between this blog and my activity on other sites, I’m doing a fair bit of writing.

And I do not feel “insanely busy”–in fact, I feel decadent, almost lazy.

Only a few months ago, I was sitting in department meetings at my former campus in Wisconsin, discussing the workload of the freshman composition teachers. To prepare for my end of the conversation, I started listing the work I did, and I figured out that, on average, I was working between 60 and 70 hours a week and reading the equivalent of 3,000 pages worth of writing, as well as writing another 1,200 pages or so, just to stay on top of the five classes–not two, five–that I was teaching. These figures did include some of the “professional development” work I was doing, reading articles related to teaching and academia, but this did not count the service work I was doing for the university, the time and effort I was volunteering to help writers who were not my students, the work I did for my position as faculty adviser for a fraternity, or the reading and writing I was doing on my own time, when the lines between pleasure and work become blurred. (I posted a similar entry on this subject back in May 2008.)

My old friends and former colleagues back in Wisconsin still work on this schedule, as do my friends in Texas, Indiana, Michigan, and Georgia. They still teach four or sometimes five classes–a semester, by the way, so we’re talking about eight to ten classes a year–as well as volunteer, serve on committees, write, read, and then decide whether to sleep or try to enjoy themselves, because sometimes that’s the decision they’re left with.

That, Mr. Krugman, is “insanely busy.”

Published by Samuel Snoek-Brown

I write fiction and teach college writing and literature. I'm the author of the story collection There Is No Other Way to Worship Them, the novel Hagridden, and the flash fiction chapbooks Box Cutters and Where There Is Ruin.

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