I’ve read Stephen King’s On Writing, like everyone else.
It bummed me out.
This is a writer with a marksman’s ability to sit, focus, and write. Not just write, but create – worlds, intertwined, 800 pages long, one after another – not in that Danielle Steele way, but in a way you totally respect – and BOOM there’s another book, and there’s another, and there’s another.
And so I tried it.
I made a special time to write. It happened for three days. I’ve tried it over and over since then, with the same result.
I tried giving myself a word count. I’ve tried creating a project that might drive me. I’ve tried and I’ve failed and I’ve tried and I’ve failed and now I’m just tired.
We Gotta Go, Gotta Get the Job Done
Here a few things at which I’ve failed.
I failed the 43 Folders method. I failed because my tasks don’t always line up into single-day voyages. They are multi-faceted, and they depend on other people for feedback, and they float here and there, dependent upon priority. And after a few weeks of shifting papers around, I realized 43 Folders wasn’t going to work.
I failed at Getting Things Done, because (though I love the Omnifocus system as an over-complicated reminder system) the time spent trying to break down large projects into smaller tasks was better spent adjusting on the fly when the process needed some on-the-fly adjusting.
I failed at Pomodoro, because Pomodoro is not conducive to an open floor plan. It’s also not conducive to a home with curious children, or a coffee shop with a few too many distractions, or any type of work that requires a chunk longer than 20 minutes.
I fail at most productivity methods because my mind, while well versed in overanalyzing and over-categorizing, is not set correctly for rigidity.
This is my struggle. All I want in life is for things to line up correctly, and I realize they never will. I seek what I may never have.
And so I was obsessed with productivity for a bit. And so I tried everything. And it never helped.
There’s A Million Things I Haven’t Done.
Here are the things I understand.
I understand that the concept of productivity is designed to help us make the most of our working hours so that those working hours don’t spill into our non-working hours; to use our time wisely when it’s wisest to use it, and to leave no strings attached when it’s time to let go.
I understand that most productivity models are focused on tasks, with break times in between. They focus the mind during certain points, and allow for space in between our beats – they introduce white space, and they create fertile thinking.
I also understand that most productivity methods are designed for very specific jobs. For careers that allow total immersion, that can Pomodoro their way toward a better solution. Follow my plan toward glowing health. Debbie Drake your way to a new future.
It’s that last paragraph that allowed me to exhale. Because I’ve read a Debbie Drake book, and it’s not really that helpful, to be quite honest.
In understanding the rigidity of most productivity models – models created by specific people in specific jobs and adopted by well-intentioned industries as a solution for their very similar jobs – I finally understood the quandary of modern productivity: that the methods that get named and praised and raised on high … they don’t really account for, you know…
Funny, that. Seems a common thread among widely-adopted systems these days.
You. Me. We all work differently. And bouncing from method to method is akin to trying a new fad diet, or exercise routine. The best one might be out there, but in the process we begin to forget what makes us unique. What helps our minds work. Instead, we just try to fit.
I Am Inimitable, I Am An Original.
Stephen King has a solid method. It works for him.
But the entire time I read his book, I questioned him. Every chapter, I doubted him. Every sentence, I felt further from the truth. I needed one answer.
“What happens if I’m not you?”
Productivity? Good luck. My mind is a mess, as is the mind of most people I know, because minds are messy and so is our work and so is life.
I’m not worried about it anymore, because even though sometimes I stress and sometimes I give up and sometimes I wonder why the hell I can’t stop all of my bad habits, I still get the work done. I use my flaws to further my productivity. And it’s a weird magic.
And so I don’t worry about myself.
I don’t worry about myself, because I am myself, and there’s nothing I can do to change it. I work around it.
I’ve worked around myself for a lot of things. I will never be as perfect as a productivity model assumes. So I adapt. I create. In the way that I can. And it works for all of us, because it’s real.