Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Product in Productivity

In a work world increasingly squeezed by the idea of more work in less time, with the understanding that technology is an aid, the productivity of a writer is measured like any other metric.

Take for instance an article on "Measuring Technical Writer Productivity," published at This article makes the case for using a spreadsheet to balance the workload and the capacity of each writer to complete that load.  The variables measured by the authors, Pam Swanwick and Juliet Wells Leckenby, include: an estimate of the number of topics or pages required for an end product; the complexity of a project based on a value from one to three; the percentage of new or substantially revised content, such that starting from scratch provides a value of 100 percent; and any special projects that a writer has taken on in addition to the regular workload. It's actually a great the workplace.

Although I understand and appreciate this need for a product that can be measured in the corporate world, the push in writing advice to quantify the productivity in personal and fiction writing makes me cringe. Writing outside a job you get paid to perform is more organic, or should be.

Some days life gets in the way of completing, or lends itself to, a short story, poem or song. No one is looking over your shoulder, or at least I hope not, in these moments. You can move between a blog, cooking a meal and finishing an article on your own. A writer can spend a whole afternoon working on one paragraph to perfect a chapter in a novel or spin a narrative off the cuff in a spate of Tweets.

The real world inevitably knocks us back to the lists, goals and the pressure to produce. But if we can play before the next summons, we can take back and own our private creativity.  (This flower represents to me the seamless beauty of letting our own nature decide when we work best and how. It is not Photoshopped, only cropped by the GIMP program.)

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