I have submitted a few papers to academic journals. I love writing non-fiction articles and long form "literary" non-fiction. I also would love to write at least one novel. None of my fiction is anything that I would not want a relative to read. None of my fiction is embarrassing. My question is how common is it for academics to write fiction? I use a pen name when I write anything that is not meant for more formal situations like academic journals. Is it common? Is it frowned upon?

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    I don't have numbers, but yes, it is common and not frowned upon. Good fiction requires intelligence and imagination. Who better than an academic? Some popular writers were academics in the past and remain in the vicinity of their former employment to enjoy the benefits of living in a community of intellectuals. A pen name is probably a good compromise for a working academic so as not to confuse people about your priorities. There are a few books (Moo - Jane Smiley) that made people uncomfortable as they recognized themselves in the characters. But brilliant satire of academia. – Buffy Sep 3 '18 at 20:27
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    What exactly do you think professors in the English (or your local language) department do? – Eric Sep 4 '18 at 2:08

I am an academic and a professional writer. In my particular field of writing (interactive fiction), a large chunk of writers are academics, so it’s definitelt possible.

Most employers are not concerned about outside activities as long as they don’t interfere with your responsibilities. However, writing commercially requires a large enough time commitment that it will be very hard to conduct research at the same time. The most prolific and successful academic/writers I’ve seen either stopped writing or stopped being a research academic. A few are able to find a position where there writing is valued as academic research (such as Nick Montfort).

If research is an expectation for your position, then your best bet would be to take a more teaching-focused job or to work only a small amount of time each day and marketing your writing after you finish it in your own.

  • And even geeks and scientists can do it. – Buffy Sep 3 '18 at 23:50

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