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Issue #43

It’s All in the Framing

John Loeppky

March 25, 2024

A simplified version of the disability pride flag with a black background. There are five vertical bars of colour, from left to right: light blue, yellow, white, red, and green.
Never miss an opportunity to show off your favourite flags/via Wikimedia Commons

Which Flag Do You Fly?

I read a book years ago, when I was in what I would like to think of as my poetry phase, called Writing the Life Poetic. In it, author Sage Cohen, who dedicates small chapters to a variety of writing concepts, talks about titles. One of the pieces of advice contained in the book, which has stuck with me for years, is thinking about titles like the flag you are flying over your writing. The book has been lost to time in terms of my own collections, and there’s no ebook version for me to pull the wording from, but it was one of my key takeaways. 

Relatedly, in my freelance career as a journalist, I’ve come to know that each editor likes the framing of your pitch to be a little bit different. Some want the broad idea, some want an incredible amount of specifics, some—and I’m a bit like this when I’m editing people’s work—like you to have a headline in mind. A line that shouts from the rooftops, in just a few words, telling you what the piece will be about. I’ve made it a part of my business process to ask editors, once I’ve made contact with them, how they like their pitches to be constructed. Journalists are a bunch of people who, generally speaking, like nerding out about process and creation. Why do you think I get excited to write this newsletter?

Some people hate this little piece of minutiae that comes with the writing business, but it’s these small details that get me amped up to write a pitch. I used to think of this process as a bit like crafting a mini cover letter multiple times a week. However, when you do that—connect something you need to do with something that sounds a lot like low return on investment busy work—it tends not to get done.  In response, now I like to imagine that I’m stuck in an elevator with this person and I have a minute to pitch them my idea. Not too pushy, not too presumptive, but in a voice that they can comprehend and get excited about. A voice that says, “I know something about this that you should also know.” 

What does this have to do with cripping productivity other than navel gazing at John’s journalistic shop talk? A lot, actually. 

I think the way we see productivity, whether we’re disabled or not, is a lot like headline reading. We either, on the whole, get excited about it or dread it. I find, with very few exceptions, that the middle ground is very sparse. These visceral reactions can be because of past ableist experiences, they could be because productivity is a special interest, or it could be that a person is being forced to think about their own productivity as part of existing within their version of capitalism. 

Whatever the reason, I think identifying why you’re flying a particular flag when it comes to your productivity can be valuable. For one, it helps you unpack your relationship with the entire genre. Second, it allows you to check in with yourself about when things might be shifting. I’ve written previously that, if it weren’t for the fact that I’m working on a project surrounding cripping productivity, I would still exist in fits and spurts. Some days, I really want to fall down the productivity rabbit hole and, other days, I’d really rather watch basketball highlights. I’m writing this newsletter at 5 in the morning because my chronic pain has subsided for the first time in about 36 hours and I really like writing these with as clear a head as possible. It isn’t out of some puritanical productivity obligation, it’s because the flag I’m flying is one that accepts my body-mind as it is.

I don’t love dissecting productivity advice because I want to create more—though that is a byproduct—I love jumping into these methodologies to help me feel better while I’m being productive. Better is a relative term, of course, but it’s where I try to focus as I develop my practice. The same as a theatre artist (another hat I wear) develops a voice or a movement practice, the same as a para-athlete develops their routine in order to perform at their best, working on your own productivity approach takes work and care that can start with a simple action like stating your intention for when you engage with it.

There are no quick fixes in cripping productivity, there are no guaranteed strategies, and there are no perfect headlines. However, if you can identify the way you approach productivity, you can find some peace in that knowledge—or at least, you can open that door.

So, today’s question: If you had to fly a flag when it came to productivity, which one would you choose and what would it look like? 

Until tomorrow!


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I've decided to shift CRPL to a 5 times a week newsletter about productivity as I am fascinated by the topic, am in the early stage of writing a book about it, and want to have a place to think, and write, and create work about this vital area of thinking. Click below to join the daily newsletter and/or to help financially support this project.