One does, in fact, need large blocks of time for work. Not for the work itself — that can be done in little pieces. One needs big blocks of time because the work has to be couched in rest and recreation, in which one is not working at breakneck speed on other things, but is renewing oneself while one’s mind works on its ideas in the background.
Ideally, the things you are doing will somehow support your train of thought; you will run across examples of what you are working on, or analyses of other things that turn out to be germane to your project. This is why it is nice to be in a place that presents such things to you, or to be so situated as to be able to create the right research atmosphere for yourself.
Those were the brilliant, contrarian remarks; now I will continue to discuss the reasons I dislike having Robert Boice thrown at me. Remember: when I rail about Boice, I do not mean I disagree that research and writing must happen daily, or that they can be done in small pieces. I agree with him completely on these matters.
Once again, it is for teaching activities of the bureaucratic kind, and particularly grading, that I need the Boicean program. This is what leads me to believe this program was created to get onerous tasks done in a rational way, which would mean it is a writing program for non writers. That, in turn, would explain why I am so irritated when people recommend it to me so heartily. Do they know me at all? Did they never notice I love to write, always have done?
Boice’s program is for non writers and also for people who have not learned discipline or what some would call a work ethic (although I would call it, interestingly, a program of self-care and I should probably write a separate post explaining that). And last week I came across a discussion of me by the chair of another department, who turns out to feel I have a good work ethic.
I would not have said so since I am not the hardest worker I know, but it was interesting to see. The writer means I am not chaotic or erratic, I remember necessary details, I look at implications and I follow things through. I think these are the things Boice is trying to teach people and I am (a) shocked people have not learned those skills yet and (b) amazed that anyone who knows me would think I need basic instruction in them.
Beyond this, though, is the deeper insult in the compulsive invocation of Boice: the idea that any research problem one has is just poor discipline, or not knowing basic things about writing; that one does not deserve to discuss bibliography or ideas or project design or anything that goes into analyses and ideas; that all one needs is to muster discipline and write to a formula, since that is all one will be capable of doing.
These are the real reasons for my dislike of Boice and the Boiceans I have known: the condescension, the preachiness, and the evasion of interlocutors and thus, of conversation.