July 1st, 2009: Muscle-Bound Log #9: Production vs. Productive Capacity
When I unwrapped Jean Carrieres’ Christmas gift to me, I shouldn’t have been surprised. He’d been talking about “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and when Jean believes in something, he brings his friends along for the ride. Now I’m not much of a fan of self-help books, but there were some elements of Stephen R. Covey’s work with which I agreed. There was also something that struck a chord with me, the notion that you had to balance production with productive capacity.
In other words, it wasn’t just about producing results, which is how we live our lives (always about the outcome). It was about finding a way to produce while maintaining the machines on that production line… in other words, how we care for ourselves. Focus your output on producing all the time and, eventually, the machine breaks down from neglect. There has to be a balance or the entire operation crashes to a halt.
This became a significant epiphany for me, because I felt that if I were a factory, I was indeed faltering. My foundations were cracking, my support beams were rusting, my machines were breaking down, and my production would soon dwindle and evaporate. As a writer, I was so focused on getting the words written that I was grinding my engines to dust. What then? I burn out? I wait to repair the damage and feel like I’ve fallen behind? I heal and stumble into familiar routines and bad habits?
Something had to change, and I knew that if I wanted to continue writing (producing), I had to take care of my body and my mind (productive capacity).
It was at that point that I reached a decision. I’d been going to the gym sporadically, my three times dwindling to two or even not at all for weeks in a row. Already 6 months had lapsed on my year-long membership and I was no closer to healthier or happier. That’s when I decided that exercise was no longer something I’d “try” to fit in, which usually meant when it was convenient (and which meant it was usually inconvenient). I changed my habit so that the morning belonged to the gym. That’s when I normally wrote, but now, I was splitting my time between production and my productive capacity. My sometimes-a-week-habit became four times a week… for ten weeks in a row from January to April. That was when I decided I had it in me to go full bore and hire a trainer.
It took a while to get over the guilt of sacrificing what I considered critical writing time for exercise. We writers can be a masochistic lot, delighting in our personal negligence, but the gym was every bit as important as my work. Actually, I now consider it a part of my workday. My job is to write and that means ensuring my muscles get the exercise I need and that my brain is vital and active. An assembly line doesn’t run on its product alone, but on the maintenance of its machines and employees as well. That’s part of the job.
I’ll admit, though, that it hasn’t been completely smooth. Before, I’d write in the morning and procrastinate on the gym until it was too late to go. Now, since I’ve allotted the morning for exercise, I’ve fought to retrain myself to write in the afternoons. After all, I did it with the gym, so I can do it with writing. Some days are good and some are a struggle, but then I suppose that’s the balancing act that comes with any full work day.