Monday, January 30, 2017
Thoughts on Writing: the Professor character #amwriting
Caveat: every department, university, and career is very different. I am biased toward what it's like to be an anthropology professor in a smaller school, but with a focus on research. Things are super different at the big R1 schools (research first), and vastly different from smaller teaching colleges. Still...it's *always* going to be a busy and stressful job.
So, what got the burr in my butt about this? The guy shows up to work and got to spend the whole day, door shut, just doing research. He didn't have to attend faculty meetings, or read his emails (well, memos in the book, but really NO one uses memos any more). Actually, he avoided interaction with the rest of his department pretty much on the whole all of the time. AND, the kicker, he got to PICK where he worked. JUST NO. On all counts.
Haha, okay, so yeah I know, sometimes it's necessary to bend the rules a little to make a story work. I guess it just irked me because it got me thinking that never, anywhere, have I seen this type of character done well. To add to this, the Professor character is EVERYWHERE. Think about it: they are on almost every show, and many movies, let alone books galore. (and not just characters that are called "professor" and aren't one, too.)
Anyhow, things to think about if you're going to write a professor character: we never have free time. I work pretty much 24/7. I always have to have my email around, because it gets insane in the blink of an eye. I work with people around the world on research, let alone my students in classes and the lab. If I'm in my office, I'm almost never left alone, with the rare exception of right around a big holiday. Students, other professors, random people off the street (and oh gods could I tell you stories about this), let alone research collaborators, etc., are ALWAY stopping by. Getting a chance to work on a single project and dedicate some serious hours to it flat out always means I have to work from home. Which I do. A lot.
I'm never going to be able to take an unexpected trip to see some strange event. Not in the middle of the semester, especially. Professors don't get substitute teachers. We may be lucky enough to have a grad student or TA who can cover a few days for us, both long absences are next to impossible. I'll be missing two days later this semester for a work conference and it's insane attempting to get that all worked out. Sure, I can cancel class...but that can count against me on my evaluations and that's not something I can afford to mess with (they count toward raises, tenure, annual evals, which if you think about it is really screwed up).
Anyhow, this is a random rant of a post about professor life. If you want to be true to life to on in your writing, it would be best to be really familiar with academic life. Or just make your character in some other profession that you know more about :)