An Argument for Unproductivity

As the pandemic as drawn on, I have come across some version of the following statement a number of times:

“Due to the pandemic, I have been able to…”

This is usually followed by some super cool thing that they were able to do because they had the time to do it. This has been true for many creatives as well. Writers, musicians, and artists have in some cases had more time to focus on their work, coming up with remarkable results. To me, this is wonderful, that they had the time to create, and during that time they were inspired. I am certainly happy for all of them.

Photo by Sander on

However, the ability to be creative during the pandemic is in itself a privilege that relies on several very important things:

  1. The artist actually had the time. Many people still had to work, especially people in ‘essential’ jobs. Many of these jobs, such as retail clerks, are pretty low-paying. Many people lost their jobs, forcing them into work that pays less.
  2. The artist and their family were healthy. For many people, the pandemic was nothing more than an inconvenience, but for many more it involved life and death struggles with the illness. Looking at the numbers of deaths and cases provide clues to just how many people have had to deal with this.
  3. The artist had the mental space. Let’s face it; we have had a rough year. In our own ways, we have all faced and dealt with trauma and fear. These things clutter the mind. For some it inspires action, but for others it causes us to shut down.

If you have been productive, congratulations. You should be proud of your accomplishments.

However, if you did not have the time and mental space to take on projects and be creative, that is okay. It really is. Do not compare yourself to what those around you accomplished. And don’t let anyone bully you into believing otherwise. You did exactly what you needed to do.

In the words of the old prayer, “Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and stars.”

Telling the Truth: What Motivates You?

Recently, I had to watch some training videos for work. In one of them, they asked a question that took me off guard: “What motivates you?”

What does motivate me? Why do I keep creating? What do I hope to achieve?

There’s no simple answer to that. Certainly, I have a desire to be heard, that maybe something that I say will resonate with someone and make their life a little easier. That connection, across time and space through art, is so important to artistic endeavor.

But then there’s the reality of wanting compensation for my work. There’s validation that comes with a payday for all the hard work I’ve put in. Some artists will tell you that if you’re doing your work to be paid, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons, but in a world where money denotes value, if our work isn’t worth anything does that mean it has a no value?

And of course, there is the ego, that part of me that likes the little pats on the back I get for even my smallest accomplishments. I get a poem published? I get a pat on the back. I post about getting that poem published? I get more pats. Maybe its my way of proving to myself “I matter!” Maybe we have to fish for that encouragement because we don’t know how to get it otherwise.

And then, way off in the distance, is fame. The more people who are exposed to my work, the more famous I am. It’s a grown up version of who was more popular in high school, and even though fame is a pipe dream for most of us, does it drive me in some Hollywood kind of way?  

I’m not writing this for answers or to solve a problem. It seems though that the question is more important, that we ask ourselves why we do what we do? What do we really seek? What do we WANT? And we continue to ask, assessing how our goals change, how we change. Even if our answers are uncomfortable, they help us be honest with ourselves, and they might even help us get to where we want to go.

What motivates YOU?

New Work, New Poem “Grief”

With my book having come out recently, I’ve been spending a lot of time posting and talking about it. However, that doesn’t mean I have not been working on new stuff. I’ve been putting down some new fiction, and even writing some music. As for poetry, I have a bunch of poems and partial work composed in my journal. I almost always write things first by hand before I type and revise them. Here is a peek at sections of a poem I’ve been working on called “Grief.” Excuse the handwriting – it’s pretty bad!