I think my definition of productivity may be different than everyone else’s.
Granted that the word carries very capitalistic connotations, that the implications of the word convey an image of a factory worker plugging away at widgets or perhaps an office automaton churning through a comically piled Inbox drift of papers, converting them sheet by sheet into a neatly stacked ream of Outbox ex-trees. But still. So much of what capitalism conspires to produce is drivel, is from the Self-Eating Snake School of Consumption. It’s there for profit, and the larger conception of profit, for wasting resources and converting them into items we don’t need. And the biggest resource consumed, of course, is time.
Whereas the truly productive uses of time are those which are geared toward creativity, which innately seems to tense against notions of time-in-the-seat hourly work. Which is not to say that schedules and discipline are fundamentally opposed to getting things done – indeed, longer works and projects require some adherence to a daily grind. But there’s something to be said for the schedule one creates for oneself as opposed to the one that is dictated by others. That a self-regulated sense of commitment is vastly more likely to succeed than one imposed from the outside.
Where a lot of this becomes a struggle is in the realm of my own projects. I have projects so long overdue it’s laughable. The Song Quiz, for example, still claims to be ready to go in early 2010. I designed a new sidebar for this page before this year started and we’re almost halfway through it, without its appearance anywhere herein. In part because it was tied to a new project whose release I have regularly predicted but never achieved. I’m behind on submitting my books to agents and publishers in a new round of excitement that seems to have been unable to launch since July of last year. I have managed to put momentum behind debate, but little else.
Although, of course, this note about writing does remind me that projects spun out into the orbit of thing constantly contemplated and considered but left undone for years do sometimes get finished. American Dream On, for example, was begun in 2002. 2002! And sat as a few-chapter stillbirth, periodically touched up, for seven years before I finally sat down and cranked out the entire work. Not that this is an inspiring model per se, but it does at least offer hope, however possibly false at times, that the distractions of the capitalist-focused life can sometimes be set aside in favor of meaningful and creative production. It feels almost wrong to call that production, so ingrained are the stereotypes about what can be deemed valid output by individuals for society. But there it is. Maybe it’s time to reclaim this word for the good of everyone.
All that said, I have a project I should be working on. That I’ve been meaning to be working on for months, have dabbled in, but haven’t sat down and cranked out. Summer is never the best time to launch projects, but my Facebook contacts are at a critical enough mass and enough of my friends are bored enough (see also Facebook thread of epic proportions, now at 3,276 comments) that it might just do well enough anyway. It’s worth exploring. I can’t promise anything, because failed promises for production tend to get me into a spiral of self-recrimination that leads to video games or reading in bed. But maybe by observing this, putting it here, thinking about it and letting it go, I can do just enough to convince me to be as disciplined about the things that matter to me as I often am about the things that don’t.