On *not* writing for academia: celebrating my first year of freedom


A year ago today I jumped out of academia  Do I regret it? Not one bit! I may have much less money now, but at last I have the head-space to write what I want.

I’m in this position because we’re in a recession. It’s painful for many but for a few it can be very enabling. For young colleagues eager to try new ideas, it can blow open the doors of tradition and create new opportunities, and for older people such as myself, it offers the chance to try a new path.

So when my university announced a voluntary severance package, I leapt at the chance and applied. Six months later, on 30th June 2013 and a fortnight before my 62nd birthday,  I left.

Here’s my first blog post from over the fence. ‘From now on I am going to be writing, writing, writing.’  That’s exactly what I’ve done, and it still feels pretty good.

In the last twelve months I’ve written for Aeon, been offered a column at The Conversation, and had a piece accepted by Orion. I’ve been republished in Slate, Mashable, The Guardian and other places. I’ve been experimenting at Medium, joining in with its adventures around new ways to do publishing. And, of course, ‘Technobiophilia: nature and cyberspace’ has opened all kinds of interesting doors and brought me to an exciting EU project about Cyberparks, plus all kinds of invitations to speak and consult.

But I’m not entirely out of touch with academic life. My Visiting Fellowship at Bournemouth University lets me keep up with developments and meet interesting people, and I’ve worked on a number of scholarly projects. But these days I principally think of myself as a writer, not a Professor.

According to the author Annie Dillard “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” For too many years I spent my days in a world which never quite fitted me. Now, I’m creating a life of my own, and it feels just fine.



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