What on earth was my productivity for?

Today is Saturday, February 3. Six days ago, I gave in and stopped tracking how many hours I spent drawing and writing. Six days ago, or Sunday, January 28: mark down this date as a fated occasion in my life, a watershed moment, the open gate between misery and dawning serenity.

Since releasing myself from the tyranny of quantitative goals, I have dallied more, gone outside more, and realized gobsmacking truths about myself. I have created work I am proud of, without fretting about the prestige, the accolades it can win me. I have delighted in the process of creating that work. The cincher lies here: I have written and drawn no less than I did when I was clocking my productivity. Fewer hours, maybe, but equivalent, if not greater, output.

I notice more of the life before me, and as such, ideas are now aplenty. They seem to sidle up, drop in, and waft over from all directions. It was awful before, when I was all but staging archeological missions to dig up workable ideas, and still had nothing.   

Some people that helped me get here, or: Primer on how (and why) to fuck productivity

how to do nothing by Jenny Odell, on how silence allows for Deep Listening, the dangers of untrammeled growth, and the vitality of cyclical maintenance work

...perhaps the granularity of attention we achieve outward also extends inward, so that as the perceptual details of our environment unfold in surprising ways, so too do our own intricacies and contradictions.

The tension between creativity and productivity by Jason Kottke, which references Cory Doctorow's How to Do Everything (Lifehacking Considered Harmful):

But today, thanks to a vicious Darwinian winnowing process, the only activities left in my day serve double- and triple-duty... And that means that undertaking new things, speculative things that have no proven value to any of the domains where I work (let alone all of them) has gotten progressively harder, even as I’ve grown more productive. Optimization is a form of calcification.

Also: Quinn Norton's fantastic Against Productivity

We dream now of making Every Moment Count, of achieving flow and never leaving, creating one project that must be better than the last, of working harder and smarter. [...] Productivity never asks what it builds, just how much of it can be piled up before we leave or die. It is irrelevant to pleasure. It’s agnostic about the fate of humanity.
Despite having more labor-saving technology than anyone in history, we have made it so we have more to get done than any form of society before us. [...]
Productive people, like productive machines, have no scores for metis, wisdom, or worthy life. So these things live on in poetry, and fantasy, and if we’re lucky, our sinful unproductive time. They are erased, and with them, the futures they contain. They are not creatures of now, which is what productivity is about. They only ever come up these days when all the other stuff inevitably collapses.
This is killing us. It’s starving our souls and stunting our intellectual pursuits into ever more stratified vertical slices.

I begrudgingly acknowledge everyone in my life who insisted on the importance of downtime, despite my exaggerated and unrelenting scoffing. FINE, YOU ARE ALL VERY WISE.  

I've also been thinking about more generous, abundant ways to love. (Christ, did I have to resist painting a coat of sarcasm over that sentence.) This stuff is unfamiliar territory. But it's all tied to these screwy productivity discourses, which—isn't mechanized productivity all about seeking self-worth? And doesn't self-worth always come down to wanting to be loved?

THIS SHIT IS DEEP. (Listen, I made it a whole paragraph before I gave in. Graffiti over ALL THE SINCERITY!)

And so it begins.

"START BLOGGING PUBLICLY" is one of those goals that's squatted in my brain for over a decade now. I've nursed many goals to preteen age, including "complete more polished illustrations" and "figure out color and lighting" and "eat some damn vegetables, you're going to get polyps." 

In the last few years, I've made steady progress on my long-standing goals. I now have a portfolio of commissioned illustrations, essays, and stories, and a body replete with vitamins. 

Still, I've played it safe. I've frequently publish pseudonymously or churn out sketches that I never show anyone. I only share my work when I am assured of its value, after days of nipping and tucking each sentence. I self-censor most of what I make, because the world is already drowning in slurry, and I am loath to ladle on more.  

BUT. Who's to say my slurry won't be mineral-rich? I've had to sidestep enough crap on the internet, but I've also found writing (and art) that's enlightening, enlivening, and enriching.  

I have other worries, too. I'm worried about how my thinking will change. What if I start to ceaselessly monitor my mind? What if blogging starts to feel like caging my most precious thoughts and taming them for exhibition? And what if I'm depriving myself of time to work on worthier, more difficult forms of writing, like fiction and criticism? 

What if, what if. What if it's fucking amazing?

If it sucks, I'll stop. If not, I'll keep going. I'll probably keep going anyway, because the masochistic streak is strong in this one.

I intend to write about media, the creative process, and perhaps career & workplace matters. All those years I had "BLOG MORE" as a resolution, I used to work my mind into a froth, trying to figure out what the hell I'd write about—international development? economics? philosophy? capitalism? fandom? editing? pastries? ice cream???—and in the end, I never wrote about any of it. So screw all of that. 

I will know this experiment has gone well only after I have reaped the following rewards:

  • Learned to write with an audience in mind
  • Honed my ability to communicate ideas 
  • Learned not to give a damn about audience size or external validation
  • Come to believe the ideas/creations I put into the world have worth and are no burden
  • Traveled toward intellectual destinations I cannot presently fathom
  • Discovered facets of my own thinking
  • Started conversations and formed unlikely connections
  • Transformed into an uncommonly hilarious and witty individual 

Finally, many forces conspired to get me to start blogging, but these posts are especially worth noting: