Discover more from Inner Wilds
Experiments in Graceful Nonlinear Productivity (#1)
can i do the tasks my soul has been given in a way that's driven by curiosity, exploration, and care?
A lot of productivity is driven by coercion, self-loathing, and fear of authority. We know this. It’s a thing.
I certainly have a background with that: for most of my life, I had a machine-gun inner monologue that would rip me to shreds if I let it. I was depressed, I hated myself, I hated the world—and the main thing that gave me any respite was to throw red meat to my inner monologue and let it chew on that instead of chewing on me—so I threw it books, homework, sports, anything.
This worked out pretty well for me, externally. My self-hatred and need for distraction got me to read all the books you’re supposed to read; it got me straight A’s all through high school, kept me playing sports and working out; it made me a good employee and an obsessive writer of essays and novels—I got a lot of shit done.
Now, fast-forward a decade and change, I’ve done a lot of somatic meditation and personal inquiry, and I… well, I don’t hate myself, and I don’t have a compulsive voice in my head. That’s nice. Like, really nice. But on the other side, I don’t have access to the kind of rocket fuel I once used to, for example, rewrite my entire 100 page thesis over a single weekend, or read five Philip Roth books in a week, desperately trying to convince myself that if I read enough of him I’d find something I liked.
Now, the fuel I have access to tends more towards curiosity, exploration, and eros. Which is lovely! Great things to be fueled by, no complaints.
It’s just that—well, they seem to work differently than the old fuels. And I’m still learning how to use them productively. It’s like the old fuels (self-hatred, fear) were gasoline, and I’ve been riding around in an SUV my whole life. But now, I lost the SUV and have to work on the fuel of my own body—and the first step is learning to ride a bike.
That’s what I’m getting at here, with “Experiments in Graceful Nonlinear Productivity.”
Before getting into anything else, I just want to address the non-coercive elephant in the room—and explain why I’m gonna mostly keep ignoring it, moving forward.
I’m aware that what I’m talking about shares overlapping territory with the Non-Coercion movement. Over the past couple years, I’ve seen tons of non-coercive productivity advice going around on Twitter, and it’s never really landed with me, for a couple reasons.
‘Coercion’ doesn’t feel like a frame that describes my own experience with this mindset. I could get into the reasons behind that if I need to, but for now let’s just leave it there: the frame doesn’t resonate with me.
Most of the advice I’ve seen makes some level of assumption that you are working within a coercive system—that you have managers and deadlines and projects and so on. The advice is aimed largely at navigating those systems in a way that respects your own energy and boundaries.
This second point is important. It’s where I see a lot of opportunity for myself to explore: I don’t have a boss. I don’t have deadlines. I have about a dozen open projects, and I move between them in ways that would baffle anyone who assumes I should be moving the progress bars forward in ways that make sense.
At this point, I have a lot of freedom to explore what it would mean to rethink productivity from the ground up.1 My only real limitation right now is money. The "can I pay the rent this month" impulse is definitely a factor that keeps me from leaning 100% into this stuff, but even with that limitation, that leaves me more freedom than most.
So if I’m going to leave behind the raw rocket-fuel of self-hate and scarcity, and also leave aside most of the stored wisdom of non-coercive productivity, where does that leave me? What’s my starting point?
A few things come up:
the core inquiry: can I do the tasks my soul has been given—in a way that's driven by curiosity, exploration, & care?
this work has to involve my whole being: body, heart, mind, & soul. I can’t just take the usual road of working only with the mind while ignoring or suppressing the rest.
these new sources of energy have a less mechanical, more muscular vibe to them—I’ll have to give up any reliance on brute force and instead focus on things like gracefulness, balance, and growing my capacity. Just because these muscles are fairly weak and clumsy right now doesn’t mean they have to stay that way.
(vague): something about weaving, connected with this sense of gracefulness. I work on many projects at the same time, and there’s a sense that these projects want to grow together. They always do. I can’t pluck out a single one and drive it to the finish line without doing some harm to the whole project-complex.
Those feel like enough starting points to be getting on with.
The question now becomes something like, how do I set up my days (and my weeks) to support and encourage a growing capacity for curiosity and exploration, and how do I bring every aspect of myself into these projects, while respecting the needs and schedules of the projects more than the schedules my mind thinks I should be sticking to?
For now, let’s see if I can live my way through these questions.
Like I said above, my main limitation at the moment is money. I’d love love love your support whether that’s from you buying my Somatic Resonance course, or supporting my Patreon, or just sharing some of the stuff on my link tree or twitter so more people find me.
I’ll also be starting a writing space soon, based around cultivating authentic expression, imaginal resonance, and true voice in writing. Leave your contact info on the site if you’re interested.
including a total re-do on the word ‘productivity,’ I’m pretty sure I’ll be finding another frame v soon—maybe fecundity or something like that.