James Ronin via PixabayAm I truly writing a daily email if I don’t start one with a declarative sentence? Who knows but here goes: You are not broken if you don’t see yourself as productive.
It seems simple, right? Just like we’re so often told that our self worth shouldn’t be tied to Instagram photos, or Twitter retweets, or how many friends we have. Just because it’s true doesn’t mean it’s easy (or painless). Often, when I discuss the craft of writing with other disabled creatives, they’re shocked that I write, on average, one article (usually around 1000 words) per workday. I can write really quickly, I’ll tell you how long this newsletter took at the end, but that doesn’t tell even one percent of the story.
I’ve been working in some form of media since 2011 when I began volunteering at the student media outlet that I’d end up the editor-in-chief of one day. When I started, I’d be lucky if I got fifty good words an hour. My career has been filled with gigs where needing to write quickly was in the top three priorities of my work day. I trained, for a decade, to be like this. And, while CP does mean I’m brain damaged, I also have a processing practice that means I’m often writing in the background. I’ve built systems, but I’ve also had the privilege of being willing and able to put the sweat equity in.
And yet, when I have a slow day—like when I switched medications a few weeks ago—and what used to take an hour was taking five, I had nothing short of a crisis of conscience. Was I no longer productive? Was I a bad writer all of a sudden? Was my advice to other freelancers to learn how to write faster little more than a crock of shit?
Yeah, not a fun two-plus weeks. In moments like this—and yes, I’m about to be that annoying person who definitely uses his MFA—I return to poetry. The type of productivity I subscribe to is present in many poems, the type of writing that sings with grief, and joy, and confusion, and confidence. Poems like the Strivers Row’s “Strive”.
One of the stanzas that sticks with me now and stuck with me when I was trying to get back on the proverbial horse was this one:
May you learn to mend yourself.
May the muscle flex in the eye of defeat.
May the tears spring from the face of the wounded.
May the vulnerable stand monumental and moveless.
A lot of productivity advice positions, in our own imaginations, a lack of doing things as evil. That you have to fill every waking moment with personal enjoyment. It’s the type of thinking that leads business bros or girl-boss types (I’ve yet to find a gender non-conforming or non-binary equivalent but I’m open to suggestion) to tell you that a book is only worth reading if it can make you money.
It is, remarkably unsurprisingly, the way that the rehabilitation model works when it comes to disability. In the worst version of the rehab model you are there to get fixed, to undergo a transformation, to come out a new human. What a horrifying consequence.
Productivity, like the poetry I lean on in the not so easy moments, is a tool like any other. My Notion page, or my Google Calendar, or any of these newsletter reflections are akin (to me) to a mobility device. I can choose to use it some days—I’m an ambulatory wheelchair user—but other times I have no choice. There are periods in my life where if something doesn’t exist in my Google Calendar then it simply doesn’t exist. I have fallen away from using Notion to organize the due dates of my projects because my recurring clients are on consistent schedules at the moment.
Oh, and by the way, these 678-ish words took me 28 minutes.
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.