Productivity vs. Anti-Productivity Wars Are Dumb
And they remind me of the useless extrovert vs introvert debate
|Ines Bellina||Apr 8, 2020||1|
The weekend after I moved out from my shared home with my then-husband, I went to my regularly scheduled therapy appointment at 8:00 am. They were that early because I didn’t want my precarious mental health to disrupt the 9-5 schedule I had at the time and I also didn’t want to have to explain to my new office job why I needed to leave the premises for an hour a week.
“It’s ok to take the day off, you know,” my therapist said. “This is a completely justifiable reason to blow off work.”
“I know,” I answered because I can think of about a thousand friends who would have wanted to blow off work and I would have told them to give capitalism a middle finger and do what they needed to do to survive. “But I don’t want to. Work is a distraction. It’s a relief. For 8 hours a day, I don’t have to think about how awful my life is.”
My therapist didn’t insist. I went off to work. The next 8 hours I numbed my feelings by proofreding advertising copy, translating more mindless advertising copy, making small talk with my (thankfully) boisterious co-workers, and genuinely feeling like I was being granted a minor respite from my turmoil. It was only when I got home that I fell apart. My attention, no longer beholden to whatever mundane task lay before me, suddenly had all the time in the world to satisfy its hunger for wallowing. It didn’t make me feel any better.
This was my routine for months. I started going to bed earlier and earlier, just to avoid the part of my day where I had to deal with myself.
This was also around the time that it became “cool” to call yourself an introvert. Memes everywhere about canceling plans, hating fellow humans, and prefering the passive exercise of streaming crap to actual interaction were celebrated. Since I was willing to claim anything except pity, I took to that trend like a TikTok teen takes to a new dance challenge. After all, I have certain introverted tendencies. I am, for the most part, an indoor kid. Give me a book, something to write on and I can entertain myself for hours. It’s true that I like the quiet calm of being alone after spending a weekend with friends.
But in all honesty, I was never the shy, loner kid. I’ve always had lots of friends. My teen years were marked by going to a lot of clubs and parties and sleepovers and basically anywhere I could hang out with friends. My college years were another blur of working hard and playing hard. One of the reasons I hated grad school so much was because the workload made any type of social life unsustainable.
As the Twitter wars raged on about how extroverts were this and introverts should be valued and extrovers ruined x and introverts were better about Y, my deep-seated depression lifted. It took years. When it did, I was craving any sort of gathering that allowed me to breathe in fellow humans. Truly. I spent a good year of my life partying with the most debacherous group of guy friends I ever had because too many of my girl friends were deep in the “I hate people/I’m tired of bars” mentality. (I reserved my need for cultural outings and brunch with them.) People were surprised by this change. I repeatedly had to tell them that I wasn’t an introvert. I wasn’t an extrovert. Like most people, I was a bit of both. What had happened during those years of emotional isolation was simple: I was extremely depressed and going through shit.
Fast-forward to now and our current age of physical isolation. After the initial WTF wore off, articles about working from home and staying productive popped up. Then shit started getting real and some people made some memes about using this time-out to learn a language or write King Lear or whatever. Then shit got more real and there was all this pushback against productivity because capitalism and feelings and I get it, surviving should be our number 1 priority. Then shit kept getting too real and all of a sudden, if you showed any type of can-do initiative, you were somehow not feeling as scared as the other person or you were bored and selfish or whatever.
CAN WE ALL JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP FOR A MINUTE?
I spent the first week of the shelter-in-place order scared to death because my mom got sick with COVID-19. I also lost a contract the day before and I was negotiating with my ex who got the dog during the quarantine. I cried every single day. I did have to ask for an extension on a project, because so much had changed, so quickly, that I wasn’t able to work at my regular speed.
But then, as the days passed and my mom didn’t die and my dad, who also got it, also didn’t die, I entered a new rhythmn. My parents seemed to have the kind where they just need to stay at home, monitor their temperature and rest. I slowly began tackling my projects, less out of a sense of “LOOK AT ME, I’M PRODUCTIVE'“ and more because I’m a freelancer and I don’t have the luxury of relying on a salary to get me through this. The only way I get paid is if I hand shit in.
The thing is, though, that the more I worked, the more my mind was engaged, the more I felt better. I remembered that my coping mechanism has always been work. After a major college heartache, I threw myself into my studies, until the idea of thinking of him didn’t cause me immediate pain. After my dad was diagnosed with cancer the first time around, I devoted months to grad school applications. During my divorce, I went to a job I hated down to my very core but that I prefered to thinking about my broken marriage.
We are all doing the best we can. I honestly don’t care what you do during this time as long as you stay 6ft away from people—and do your part to stop the shame spiral. I suspect that you are probably a bit of both: productive in some things, and less productive in others. Like most of us, who are neither extroverts or introverts.
I don’t feel superior or better or more accomplished because of this weird emotional tool I have. If it matters, this is the first time I’ve written anything creatively because my artistic mood has been shot. I’m glad I’m doing it though. Because at the end of the day, I’m fighting not to be alive. I want to fight this to live.
A few days ago, I cut into a forgotten orange I had lying around and was met with the most delightful surprise. This wasn’t a regular orange. It was a blood orange. The kind of orange you see in pretentious bars with mixologists or listed as an ingredient for some body cream that costs a minimum of $275. I marveled at its ruby flesh. The scent transported me to whatever tropical location that god-awful Secrets Resort ad was filmed in. If I didn’t want to sink my teeth into it so much, I would have probably drizzled its juices on my head.
Open something in your home you may have forgotten about our neglected. See where it takes you.
State of My Wallet
February: Invoiced: $3066.25
March: Invoiced: $3754.66
I am grateful for any money coming in right now, to be honest. My first Q1 this year was so much better than last year’s—almost 3 times as much. BUT THEN THE PANDEMIC CAME, YAY! As I mentioned, I did lose a contract as a direct result of COVID-19 and my infamous overdue client, who was paying me $500 a month for a good several months, has now gone MIA again. I’m fine for this month. Not sure what will happen with work in May though since two big projects I have now will be done by the end of this month.
2020 Progress Report
What progress? I spent the first two months of the year with a severe case of SAD and then this bullshit happened. I’m taking baby steps though. I finally managed to pitch again this past Thursday. I consider this a huge victory. My novel rereared is over and I can start on edits. That’s the next big hurdle…
Tiny List of Small Victories
I taught via Zoom for the first time! It was fun! It was harrowing! I shared too many screens! Everyone’s cameras were off! All to say, I’m so thanful for the brave souls who came to my Social Media for Writers workshop at StoryStudio. For those who are NOT in Chicago, StoryStudio has moved all their classes online for the time being and the catalogue is fire. PLUS, they’ve created a series of Pajama Seminars—virtual 2-hour intensive sessions—with some of THE most exciting authors right now like Amber Sparks, Manuel Gonzales, Danielle Evans, and so many more.
Talking about virtual gatherings, I’ll be performing at my first virtual live lit show this Monday! Friends from afar, this is your opportunity to see me! Is This A Thing will be hosting their monthly storytelling show via Zoom on Monday, April 13 at 7pm CST. The theme: Wish You Were Here. (Accurate.)
Some of us don’t have the luxury of staying at home and breaking into the emergency chocolate stash—think every single member of a hospital staff. For Chicago Magazine, I wrote a list of excellent restaurants near major Chicagoland hospitals that offer delivery so you can send a care meal to your favorite doctor/nurse/caretaker.
My friend Lindsey Eanet and I will be discussing the Real Housewives of New York via Instagram Live. At sporadic times for now because I already committed to too many Zooms. (What is wrong with me????) But the plan is to do it right after new episodes drop. Follow me at @ines.bellina to join!
My Tarot virtual readings have also been a blast! If you want to schedule one, just send me a note or slide into my DMs. Donation-based!
I have friends who have asked me to show them how to retweet. I have former students who didn’t know how to turn on Facebook notifications on pages. My mom likes watching Instagram stories but doesn’t know how to make one. If ou can relate I’m offering individualized social media consultation services for each platform. I can also give you a crash course on all three. We are now doing everything online—for real this time—and getting the hang of things can really make a difference in your artistic life, your business, or just your ability to socialize. For more info, just reply to this newsletter with your needs and we’ll get started!
The economy is extremely rocky right now (UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR) and you might find yourself needing to freelance, whether for extra cash or to make ends meet. I’m offering consultation services on how to become a freelance writer for $50, which includes up to one-hour of a conversation tailored to your needs and a follow-up email. For those who have been laid off, lost gigs or under financial duress, I’m offering it for $30 until April 30. Just let me know that’s the case. Reply to this email to schedule a call.
Links That Made Me Happy
Roxane Gay, of course, so eloquently states why this pandemic is about power. Let’s take her rallying cry to heart because I, for one, refuse to go through this only to get the same shit society in return.
For those of us who really need baby steps to be creative right now, writer Jane Friedman has thoughts on how to write when you can barely keep yourself afloat.
For those who are like “YO, TELL ME MORE ABOUT CHANNELING CHAOS INTO SOMETHING”, artist Jerry Saltz has thoughts and tips.
Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy
Wherein I recommend a bunch of stuff, with zero justification.
All of these books:
Knock Down The House:
“Delete Forever” by Grimes
Bread from a bakery
Small gestures that feel like big love
The Charlie Report
I am a writer looking for her next project. If you want to collaborate or think I can be of service, please feel free to contact me by replying to this email. You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram.
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To err is human and I do a lot of it when I'm writing on the fly. My apologies for any typo or grammatical mistake.