Production: Mowing the lawn.
Production Capacity: Maintaining the lawnmower…so that you can mow the lawn in the future.
I’ve been reading Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which I strongly recommend, but only when you’re ready to have your life critiqued, blown apart into tiny bits, and stitched back together. (I had to stop after Habit #2. You’re just paused, I tell myself, scraping together some semblance of self-respect. You’ll get back to it, after you master Habit#0 and Habit#1.)
In Habits, Covey talks about Production vs. Production Capacity. Production is getting stuff done; Production Capacity is the maintenance that builds the capacity to produce in the future. Covey uses the fable about the Goose That Laid The Golden Egg to demonstrate the difference: the eggs are the production, the goose is the production capacity. Both are necessary and important.
I excel at Production. See my life vitae.
I sucketh badly at Production Capacity.
In Real Life
I’m too embarrassed to list all the ways that I suck at Production Capacity in Real Life, so let’s just focus on one example. I’ve always had a black thumb, meaning I can’t keep plants alive. I’ve killed a cactus (seriously) and long ago gave up keeping anything alive in the house besides humans, cats, and the occasional cheese mold. I suck at keeping plants alive because it requires maintenance, and I’m just not any good at remembering to water the plants. I cringed when my wonderful father-in-law gave me a beautiful planter of geraniums for Mother’s Day. I mean, I’d already killed the rose bush he gave me last year. Grandma understands the problem because she put Dark Omen in charge of watering, but the driest summer on record in Illinois looked ready to doom even that hope. When I realized that this plant was dripping with symbolism of my inability to build productive capacity into my life, I became determined to rescue it. I snipped off the withered blooms and watered it every day. Sure enough, the thing came back from the dead.
Moral: it IS possible to teach an old dog new tricks.
How This Relates to Writing
Writing, unlike any other endeavor I’ve tackled in my life, requires a lot more Production Capacity that I generally manage to muster up during my head-long pursuit of ever-more Production.
Production: Writing. Editing. Publishing. (I do not include marketing.)
Production Capacity for Writing/Editing: Reading. Watching TV/movies. Free writing. Studying bestsellers. Writing classes. Any kind of craft study. Staring out the window daydreaming.
Production Capacity for Publishing: Marketing. Social Media. Writing Conferences.
From the beginning of my writing career, I’ve excelled at getting words on the page, logging ridiculous amounts of wordcount, but also lots and lots of revisions. Fortunately for me, this is also one of the best ways to start out. A high Production rate continues to be important for a writer as they mature down their writerly path.
And I’m not as bad at Production Capacity in writing as I am in Real Life: I continue to create craft study programs and examine bestsellers, as well as invest in publishing production capacity like social media and marketing. But I skimped on the production capacity that directly fed my creativity (reading, free writing, daydreaming). And as I get further down the writing road, I realized that this, almost as much as the writing itself, is vitally important to my writing career in the long haul.
You see, I want to have a career in writing that spans decades, not just years. And to do that, I need to be continually watering that plant and bringing forth new blooms, or I will either burn out or stagnate – neither of which is acceptable to me.
So, this summer I’ve been reading a lot more. I’ve been free writing in the mornings several times a week. I even allow myself to daydream on occasion. 🙂 Plus I’m working on all those pesky Productive Capacity things in Real Life, so that I can keep up my stamina for writing Production as well.
And I can feel the difference when I sit down to write: my Creativity Well is full when I dip my pen into it.
What do you do to feed your writing Production Capacity?