If you had to pick a well (read: content rabbit hole) for me to fill my proverbial bucket from, all things being equal, I doubt you’d assume a deeply Christian homesteader as a starting point. And yet, here we are.
The homesteader YouTube sphere is fascinating to me from both a disability and a productivity perspective. For a start, a lot of these content creators, people like Justin Rhodes and Jessica Sowards, hold a vantage point on the world that is radically different from mine. I am nominally Christian, certainly not evangelical, and I did not grow up in the American south. I have real issues with Rhodes talking about chronic lyme, or his turning his son’s hip surgery into a running series on his channel.
But cripping productivity means I have to look at the tender parts. For me, in this instance, that means allowing myself to look at what makes these people tick rather than where their lived experiences are polar opposite to mine. Rhodes talks about chronic lyme—which, for what’s worth, I see as a form of undiagnosed chronic illness and not as an avenue for shills and charlatans to sell miracle cures—and I feel it’s my responsibility to put aside my frustration with how he’s framing his disability and quasi-diagnosis and focus on what he’s saying about slowing down, about sinking into daily routine, and about finding ways through frustration.
Which brings us to Sowards. Jessica is the foundation of a YouTube channel called Roots and Refuge Farm. Her and her family started a farm in Arkansas, moved to the Carolinas, and are continuing to build out their farming operation. Pretty early on in following her content, I heard a phrase that she used that I think has real value when it comes to cripping productivity: “Turn your waiting room into a classroom.” She was/is talking about when she wanted to become a homesteader but didn’t have the means, how she read every book she could get her hands on and talked to everyone she could before starting, but I think it’s equally valuable to think about productivity in this way. We can turn our waiting room into a classroom, especially on days where our body and our brains won’t allow us to push as hard as we’d like.
To give you an example: A lot of my creative practice looks like a waiting room. Early on in my theatre career the way I would memorize my lines was to record them, put them on my cell phone, and listen to them over and over while playing video games. It didn’t look productive, sometimes it didn’t feel productive, but that repetition was what allowed me to soften into the experience of memorization. The point is, waiting can be a productive, and kind to you, endeavour. Just because something is productive does not mean it has to look productive.
This is a metaphor as old and as worn out as my lower back muscles, but laying your productivity foundation does not have to be loud. It doesn’t have to come with announcements and not every project has to be large. Cleaning your office, like I did this morning, can be part of your waiting room. You might hope to become a writer, or a singer, or an accountant, so turning your waiting room into a classroom can mean singing one song a day or writing one page a day. Your productivity does not have to be momentous to be valuable and valid.
A friend used to call procrastination being productive doing something else. When you’re in that waiting room, trying to figure out what next steps to take, homesteaders teach us that learning does not have to happen all at once. It’s the incremental guidance of a life well lived. Cripping your waiting room? Well, that will have to wait for another day.
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.