An Ode to Unproductivity
You Can Just Not
I’m back from my week-long residency at The Spruceton Inn, which has my heart forever, and I’m happy to tell you just how productive I was there. All the words I wrote, all the books I read, all the pages I edited.
Frankly, I was pretty productive. I finished reading one book for research and watched House of Gucci. I wrote about 4,000 new words and added another 2,000 in from previous writings. I edited 99 of 222 pages. I caught up on the Gilded Age and ate a lot of candy. I went on one (1) hike.
This is so much stuff!!! This is so much wonderful, fulfilling, useful, productive stuff! (Especially House of Gucci.) But moment by moment, I was worried I wasn’t doing enough. I finished the first full shitty draft of my book on the second day, and that alone was enough! But I went into the experience wanting to master it, to be the best resident who ever residencied. To crush it.
Turns out, I also needed to sleep. It was so dark so early in the Catskill mountains that I was basically in bed by 8:30pm every night. (Bliss.) I sometimes didn’t get out of bed until 8:30am the next morning. Some days I did a few hours of work and then went outside or read a (non-research) book or, like, looked at Instagram. And I beat myself up about this! I wasn’t doing it right! I was wasting this time!
But I wasn’t. I was doing just what I needed to be doing. My normal day-to-day life is so hectic, my brain soaked up all the simplicity and downtime it could. I barely had to think about food because I’d only brought so many choices with me. I only had to choose between the limited clothes I brought to wear. I didn’t even have to think about what to watch in the evenings because the wifi was only so strong and they made us promise to download what we wanted before we got there. This residency wasn’t just time to write and read and think, it was the freedom from decisions. I didn’t have to care for anyone but myself. I didn’t have to decide what was best or what to do or when to do it, except for myself from very limited choices. I came home wanting to throw out all my stuff in my house and have a capsule wardrobe and never buy anything ever again. (Just kidding, I ordered like three things in the first hour I was back home, lol.)
I got a lot of work done on my book last week. It was wonderful. But I also practiced listening to my brain and body and realizing that less is ok, even better, and I don’t have to maximize everything I ever encounter in life. Less is more. Rest is productive. And I don’t have to be productive if I don’t wanna, anyway.
So thank you, Spruceton Inn. I needed that.