One of the myriad of temptations luring the budding scholar astray is the notion that writing must be put off until there are enough articles read, research gathered, and, of course, a large enough chunk of time accumulated in order to accomplish it all. After all, as so many of us have learned, writing is time intensive. It is arduous. It is, truth be told, even painful at times. Of course, giving in to this temptation results, most often, in a richness of research fodder but no productive behavior and no tangible text.
In a story that is certainly applicable to the student-scholar as well, Boice (1987) regales us with research regarding effective vs ineffective faculty members (in terms of producing publications). The premise is simple: we are all given 24 hours in a day. How we use that time is up to us. Some of us make excuses. Some of us putter inefficiently from mundane task to mundane task, accomplishing little. And some of us are published every three months. (This stings a little, realizing that I am not in this particular category. But it’s a good sting, prompting me to 1) realize that it should be a goal, and 2) get my butt in gear!) It ultimately comes down to time management, he says. And, easy enough, it simply comes down to an embracing of daily chunks of time to write and an avoidance of “binge writing”, where we put off writing for a time then write for hours. This small tweak can result in measurable improvements.
This lesson in time management reminds me of the late Michael Crichton, famed author of Jurassic Park, Congo, and Timeline, among many other novels. Consider this: by the time he graduated in 1969 with an M.D. from Harvard Medical School, no less, he had penned and published seven fictional works, including The Andromeda Strain, the book that established him as a best-selling author.
So, medical school AND productive, best-selling author? Hmm. Sounds like we’re all given 24 hours in a day. How we choose to utilize the moments we’re given is up to us.
Boice (2000) prompts us that we should take up as a guiding philosophy the motto of nihil nimus, or nothing in excess.
Boice, R. 1987. Is released time an effective component of faculty development programs? Research in Higher Education 26(3), 311-326.
Boice, R. 2000. Advice for New Faculty Members: Nihil Nimus. Allyn and Bacon. Needham Heights, MA.