Productivity Comes Before a Fall (Why I Unpublished a Novella I Released in 2020)

Productivity Come Before a Fall - Why I Unpublished a Novella I Released in 2020

Quick! Duck!
Cor, you were nearly hit by another article banging on about how to be more productive then. Don’t worry, I think the coast is clear.

For now.

Productivity articles are akin to ‘how to make thousands a month’ articles. They’re everywhere, feeding the algorithm, searching for readers who want just that; to increase their productivity and, therefore, their income.

And for some people, they work.
But I think we all need reminding sometimes that for other people, they don’t.
I was reminded that I’m one of the latter at the beginning of this year.

Remember 2020?
How could you forget, right?
I doubled my productivity in 2020. Yes, yes I was very proud. It’s a bold statement and makes for a good headline but what does it actually mean?

It means that I published four books instead of two.
Go me!

Bolstered by anxious energy, not letting myself stop for fear of thinking, I ploughed on, I forced out words, polished them, packaged them and sent them out into the world.

The penultimate book I published in 2020 was a fantasy novella. The protagonist had been in my head since I was fourteen, and for some reason, I thought the Great Year of the Pandemic was a good time to finally release her.

In my mad rush to hit some productivity targets I’d just made up, I forgot some things.
That’s not to say that the book is bad. I’m actually still incredibly proud of it. But at the beginning of 2021, I unpublished the novella.

As pandemic fatigue hit, with a good dollop of burnout for good measure, I realised my mistake: I forgot to let the character breathe.

She’d been locked away in my head for twenty years with no thought or concern. My subconscious hadn’t been planning away on her story. I’d had no epiphanies about her for two decades.

Until 2020 when one idea about her hit me, and I ran with it. I picked it up, stretched it out and got writing without letting the idea develop and grow and fester and join with other ideas.

By the beginning of 2021, I realised I’d gone wrong.
The story isn’t bad but it isn’t right. The character is there and fully formed, but she could be so much more.
Then, naturally, the other ideas started to flood in. The potential, the opportunities, the places this character could go and the things she could do.

Her story hasn’t changed much but there’s more nuance there, there’s something more tangible about the ideas.
It’s more exciting.

In this haze of always needing to be fast, to speed up, to be productive, how much potential are you missing out on?

I think we need to start something new.

Instead of telling writers over and over how to be productive, how to write faster and how to churn out their words, what if we instead focused on being creatively productive?

Using our time wisely not just to write, edit and publish, but to think, daydream, consider options, to wait for the right ideas to smack us over the head.
Using that time productively to let the ideas and characters and words develop, in just the right way, in their own time, so that we can write, edit and publish without regret.

I’ve unpublished that novella but I will be writing that character’s story as a novel, and it will be so much better than the anxiety-fog, hastily written novella because by then I’ll have given her time to breathe.

We all need that right now.
As we duck and weave around articles telling us what we should be doing and how we should be doing it to make sure we hit the word counts of gods.
We all need to breathe and find our own pace.