Now I understand still more about my reaction to Boice and the Boiceans

It is that one-up, one-down position. The assumption is that one does not know what one is doing at all, needs very basic instruction and is recalcitrant. Questions or attempts to refocus discussion to a more sophisticated are met with this behaviorist, “you have not gotten my point yet.”

I have already been underestimated far more than was good for me and it is precisely my unwillingness to interact with people who behave this way that made me so agoraphobic about academia so long. You have to increase your self-respect, not decrease it the way Boice and the Boiceans would have you do.

It is with more self-respect, and more faith in the validity of your views, that you get more done. These self-helpers who want to break you down and pretend you are less than competent are not useful.

I say this as I continue grading. Grading takes a long time if you take the self-helpers to heart and question your assignment and your standards more than you should. It is all the self-interrogation, and all the abdication of judgment to authority, that I find so unhelpful about self-help.

I was first exposed to Boice and the Boiceans during Reeducation, when I had a degree finished easily and on time and a page of articles, and had lost faith in myself because of … emotional and verbal abuse. The Boiceans could not write and assumed my inability to do anything at all had to be the kind of writing problem they had.

Not to say so, to say one had another problem, was “arrogance” and “denial.” I am against the Boiceans for this reason, and against Boice because he has no idea what it would be to already like writing and to already have experience doing it — and doing it over the long term, when you have many other things you also do each day.

Self-respect has to come first, j’insiste. And my apparently good work ethic is good to the extent that it does not come from grim discipline but from good self-care.


5 thoughts on “Now I understand still more about my reaction to Boice and the Boiceans

  1. I really appreciate the posts you are writing on this topic. I am sometimes appalled to see how some academics frame research as an activity close to self-flagellation. I realised about a year ago that to me it was a question of allowing myself to work, that writing was indeed a way of taking care of myself.

    About Boyce: I have sometimes found his advice useful but ultimately a little empty, because it doesn’t draw on the deeper motivations that make us want to write (nor, as you point out, does it tell us how to deal with more shattering issues). Also, in your recent post on “Word count”, you mention another aspect that I find problematic. With Boyce’s charts I end up wanting to produce more words in less time. If my statistics go down or stagnate, does that mean that I am not a good writer or am not making any progress? While charts can perhaps help blocked writers approach their desks every day (in a purely behavioral perspective), they may not be as relevant a support for writers who write regulary. For all the good that Boyce, pomodoro timers, and general writing advice did me, I often find myself wishing that there were more profound, intelligent analyses of the writing process to rely on in times of difficulty.

    1. Gosh, is he where the word counts came from? I thought this was a new convention — now that we have computers, we count words rather than pages. If it’s Boice, then he has even more penetration than I had thought.

      I think you’re right — he doesn’t like to write or want to; it is just a requirement for him and his people.

      This is not to say I disagree with the idea of writing every day, or writing in the few extra minutes you have. But those ideas are not original to him; I certainly came up with them long before I had ever heard of him.

      I suppose it is the dog-training, behaviorist take he has that drives me around the bend.

  2. Boice encourages not word count but “# of typed page equivalents” which are then charted in relation to “”# of hrs. spent writing”. You thus get a neat little productivity graph which becomes a writing goal in and of itself.

    I too dislike the dog-training aspect of behavioral approaches. I don’t want to tell myself “no shower before you’ve written two pages” or “you’ll get a nice coffee if you finish by 10”. I don’t want to play little tricks on myself; I want to work efficiently and have a well-rounded life.

    1. Play little tricks, I do not like these either. Those charts sound as though they would take on a life of their own and drive quality and purpose down.

      I like my old system, invented in sixth grade and refined for my dissertation — my sixth grade paper and my dissertation still being the two longest documents I have written. I will post on this right now.

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