As you read this I will be returning to Edinburgh after a couple of days on the isle of Skye. This is my 5th trip to Scotland with my wife. We were married here in 1994, the year before she entered grad-school. It was a registry office wedding in Leith in what had once been a library–perfect for book people. Normally we come in the summer because that’s when my wife isn’t teaching at her university in Wisconsin.

This year is different because she’s on sabbatical this fall, allowing us to experience a different season in one of our favorite places. The word sabbatical come from the word sabbath, just as the idea does. A rest on the seventh day, or in the case of the sabbatical, in the seventh year. It is a time to rest and recharge and try new things and it is one of the greatest boons of the academic life.

Though I am not an academic, I am a full time writer, and my wife’s academic schedule is my strongest tie to a normal calendar. Book deadlines are much further between and much less fixed, particularly as I tend to turn books in from 1-4 months early. So, though I am not myself on sabbatical I find that it is almost as much a dominating force in my life as if I were.

This trip is the perfect example of that. I am not bringing any of my normal work along. I will be largely out of touch with my editor, agent, writers group, and readers. I will have a netbook along but primarily so that I can take notes for future projects currently uncontracted or unimagined.

I will drink good Scotch. I will see new things and experience different conditions in a part of the world I love. I will let myself rest and my mind  and imagination wander. And when I return home I will have new ideas for stories and new perspective on old ones. I will have taken a brief sabbatical of my own and I will feel much the better for it. If past experience with travel is any predictor of future results I will also be a better writer for it.

The sabbatical is an opportunity and a gift and I wish it were one that extended beyond the academic world.

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  1. 1. Tom

    The closest I’ve ever come to a sabbatical is when Blockbuster gave my job to an overseas guy for 1/4 the pay. I called it unemployment for 4.5 months, but I like sabbatical better.

    Okay, I have a cold today so not in great spirits. LOL I hope you enjoy your trip to Scotland. I spent 4 years in Germany, and visited many countries (not Scotland). I loved it there. I loved the castles especially. Walk the walls of a castle for me, listening to ancient battles won and lost.

  2. 2. Adele

    I’d settle for a month! Just a little time away to refresh and recharge would be wonderful.

  3. 3. glenda larke

    Boy, as a stagger into the middle third of the last book of a trilogy, do I feel in need of a sabbatical!

  4. 4. David B. Coe

    I followed my wife to Australia for a year during her last sabbatical. It was a great experience for both of us — for all of us (our daughters came along, of course). I did work, writing one complete book and two thirds of another, and she did research. But I didn’t feel that I worked too hard, and neither of us allowed work to interfere with our explorations of Oz. It was a brilliant year, and I wish you and your wife an equally brilliant time in Scotland.

Author Information

Kelly McCullough

Kelly McCullough is a fantasy and science fiction author. He lives in Wisconsin with his physics professor wife and a small herd of cats. His novels include the WebMage and Fallen Blade series—Penguin/ACE. His short fiction has appeared in numerous venues including Writers of the Future and Weird Tales. He also dabbles in science fiction as science education with The Chronicles of the Wandering Star—part of an NSF-funded science curriculum—and the science comic Hanny & the Mystery of the Voorwerp, which he co-authored and co-edited—funding provided by NASA and the Hubble Space Telescope. Visit site.



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