Questioning ‘productivity’

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The last two posts from me have been about writing productivity apps and how they can help to keep up a regular writing practice. While I see the value in using them (and I have been using one for two weeks now), I find the focus on ‘productivity’ unsettling.   This may seem at odds with an academic life where producing texts is seen to be core business but I know that if I focus on ‘outputs’, I almost always end up writing-paralysed.  Yet, if I focus on the message, who I want to reach, and just keep the writing process going, the product happens anyway but with less stress and angst. This morning, I listened to a podcast on this issue (see below) and although Lorsung is not talking about academic writing specifically, what she says makes so much sense to me.  One final caveat:  we all write differently.  While the focus on productivity makes me want to hide in bed, it may energise you.
Éireann Lorsung — ‘Productivity’ and ‘Failure’ for Writers
Wed, 16 Jul 2014 11:33:14 -0500

Listen

Over and over I hear my students, my peers, and my own interior voice talk about failure as writers. Often this is linked to an idea of ‘productivity’, and in particular to a perception of others as ‘more productive’. As publication online increases the speed at which writing can appear in public, the distance between writing as a process and writing as a product closes. Consequently, the concept of productivity is measured more and more in terms of visible, finished objects, muddling the relation of publication to the act/process of writing. I’ll question the usefulness of these ideas—failure and productivity—for writing, and suggest ways of reframing our writing processes to accommodate work that ‘fails’ or is not visibly ‘productive’. In addition to talking about how what seems like ‘failure’ is an integral part of making writing that’s worthwhile, I’ll offer strategies and concepts—the multiple, the telescope—that help me keep writing despite unhappiness with my work or the feeling that others are ‘better writers’ (meaning ‘more productive’) than I am.
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2 responses »

  1. I just completed a final project/article paper for Methods in Public Health Research… Yes, it was challenging. Taking a break from my usual writings about food as I complete the MPH program and prepare for the doctorate program. The transition in writing utilizing the APA style was daunting, initially. Are you using any writing Apps? I plan to follow you as a resource… Thank you. JFG

  2. I’ve been trying out a few writing productivity apps. The most useful one on my computer is Pacemaker Planner. On my phone I have Writeometer. Both are not quite what i want but I have still found them helpful to keep my mind on a writing project.

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