It’s a bit thorny, the notion of productivity.
I often struggle with the concept of what it means, and what it should mean, and how I interpret its meaning. Many times, I think, productivity becomes intertwined with busyness, and this is when it effectively ferments into poison. Applied liberally, it is sure to suffocate; not only that, it is sure to degrade.
When I feel as though I have become sequestered and I am forced to sip this poison as I would water, I notice the quality of my work begins to deteriorate quite rapidly. Why? Because I become productive for productivity’s sake.
There is a fine balance between getting work done and Art made, and getting work done for the sake of having something on the page. At times, actually many times, I resort to the latter. Albeit, it is usually part of “draft zero,” as Terry Pratchett would say, but at the same time, why allow myself to create something subpar when at that very moment, I know it is subpar? Sometimes I catch myself writing a scene I dislike, and I ask myself: I don’t like this one bit. No one is telling me to write it, so why am I doing it?
Because I want to feel productive. Because I want to get it done, at any cost.
It is time I revise this philosophy. I am no longer at the point where I need to force myself to sit down and write every day. I do that. Of course, I wish I could do it more (as is every writer’s wish who is occupied by other things such as making a living), and of course, some days I really struggle with doing it more than others, but I do it. I know that I will write. However, ‘getting it done’ is pointless if what I produce is worthless.
I was reading a Brain Pickings article that really cemented this for me. It highlights some of Charles Bukowski’s theories on writing, and though he speaks mostly to poetry in this particular article, this resonated with me:
Almost all poetry written, past and present, is a failure because the intent, the slant and accent, is not a carving like stone or eating a good sandwich or drinking a good drink, but more like somebody saying, “Look, I have written a poem … see my POEM! It’s when you begin to lie to yourself in a poem in order to simply make a poem, that you fail. That is why I do not rework poems but let them go at first sitting, because if I have lied originally there’s no use driving the spikes home, and if I haven’t lied, well hell, there’s nothing to worry about.
I catch myself failing oftener than I’d like.
It is due, I think, to my nature to rush; to feel productive; to have something to show; to prove something to people; to make myself feel like I am accomplished. I am working on re-training myself. It is extremely difficult, but it is necessary if I wish to make good Art.