Nice Isn’t Nice for Your Writing Productivity
No. 145 | By Christine Carron
For me—and for Goodjelly—the three pillars of sustainable writing productivity are smart process, grounded power, and inner kindness. It never occurred to me to make the third pillar inner niceness.
Indeed, I’d never really thought deeply about the difference between kindness and niceness until I read an article a few months ago in Oprah Daily* by Elise Loehnen. The article is about words women might want to stop using due to the emotional weight they carry.
Nice was one of those words.
The etymology of nice is a “hot mess,” Loehnen writes. She isn’t kidding. Here’s an excerpt from the nice entry in the Online Etymology Dictionary:
late 13c., "foolish, ignorant, frivolous, senseless," from Old French nice (12c.) "careless, clumsy; weak; poor, needy; simple, stupid, silly, foolish," from Latin nescius "ignorant, unaware," literally "not-knowing" . . . By 1926, nice was said to be ". . . converted it into a mere diffuser of vague and mild agreeableness." [Fowler]
What is the word Loehnen recommends as the alternative? Kind.
Going back the Online Etymology Dictionary, here’s what kind’s origin story looks like:
"friendly, deliberately doing good to others," Middle English kinde, from Old English (ge)cynde "natural, native, innate," originally "with the feeling of relatives for each other," from Proto-Germanic *kundi- "natural, native," from *kunjam "family" (see kin) . . . The word rarely appeared in Old English without the prefix, but Old English also had it as a word-forming element -cund "born of, of a particular nature" (see kind (n.)). Sense development probably is from "with natural feelings," to "well-disposed" (c. 1300).
Deliberate doing. Innate. Natural. Well-disposed.
Much better associations for productivity.
Vague Agreeableness is a No Go
After reading that article and diving deeper into the meanings of the two words, I was seriously grateful that it had never occurred to me to go with Inner Niceness as Goodjelly's third foundational pillar. No way is foolishness, ignorance, neediness, or carelessness, and the like going to help any writer be more productive.
So nice from a productivity perspective is a total non-starter. (Pun intended.)
Productivity requires writers to be aware. Aware of what they got done. What they have left to do. If they are blocked. How they like to work. What gets in the way of their progress. What motivates them. What aspects of the writing comes easier to them. What aspects come harder.
The list could go on.
Goodjelly’s Jam process is steeped in metacognitive processes that help writers cultivate this kind of awareness. Such clarity can at times be confronting, even discombobulating, i.e., not necessarily nice.
When writers have the courage to hang with that process of deepening awareness, however, there is a great payoff. The development of a process for getting their writing (and all their writerly work done) in a way that is fully aligned with how they like to work as a writer.
That’s when productivity (and the entire writing adventure) becomes easier.
You Matter in Your Productivity Equation
Aligning your productivity practices with your own preferences is key. True sustainable productivity comes when you have a process that supports how you like to get your writing (and all your writerly work) done.
The kind qualities of innate, natural, and well-disposed support that truth.
I must have sensed that connection, as—long before I read Loehnen’s article—I'd written the following into Goodjelly’s business plan:
Every writer has a natural creative rhythm. Goodjelly’s holistic approach frees a writer to discover (or recover) and claim that rhythm. When they do, blocks dissolve, productivity soars, and delight takes hold.
From a productivity perspective, many writers end up working against themselves instead of with themselves. I certainly have done so. I believe this is because so many of us have integrated a belief that our natural instincts around our creativity and getting our writerly work done are somehow suspect.
Don't even get me started on how deeply ingrained the notion is that we must suffer for our art.
In retrospect, creating Goodjelly was me officially declaring: Why must we?
Experiencing a healthy struggle with one's art that allows you to learn, grow, and refine your craft is one thing. Suffering, i.e., forcing ourselves to tolerate something bad or unpleasant, however, is something else entirely—and is a something that Goodjelly is designed to alleviate.
When writers learn and integrate Goodjelly’s Jam process, yes, progress gets easier. Yes, creative confidence increases. And, absolutely yes, the constant soft (or screaming) din of creative suffering falls away.
The reason why is pretty simple. When your process fits you, you get Goldilocks productivity: just right.
From (Nice) Passivity to (Kind) Action
And then of course there is the action piece of the puzzle.
The vague agreeableness of niceness has an air of passivity. And I am not just talking the passivity of not rocking the boat to keep others happy and comfortable, though we writers can certainly do that. An even more powerful barrier to healthy productivity is when we prioritize our internal comfort by avoiding the sometimes challenging, sometimes confronting work that is required to reclaim our creative confidence and power.
Sometimes you have to rock your own boat on the writing adventure. Try something new. Deal with a block. Face a fear. The passivity of niceness most likely isn't going help you take the actions that are needed to make your writing dreams come true.
Many writing productivity approaches recognize this, but instead of going to kind as the alternative to nice's passivity, they lean into harshness, strictness, and restrictiveness. Acting as if every writer is the same, that every creative block will be solved by butt in the chair, and that any resistance to such harsh approaches is an indicator that the writer is weak and weak-willed.
What if that supposed "resistance" is our kind inner knowing declaring that those harsh productivity techniques simply aren’t our jam?
If those harsh approaches haven't worked for you, know that the research is on your side. While harshness may create an initial burst of productivity, studies show that in the long run it kills productivity—and takes creativity out, too. (See, for example, Proof That Positive Work Cultures Are More Productive by Emma Seppälä and Kim Cameron, Harvard Business Review.)
Remember that kind, however, carries that quality of deliberate doing. Action. Opposite of the passive agreeableness of nice but with no harshness required.
And integrating kind action is absolutely how you can make inspired progress, Goodjelly-style, toward making your writing dreams come true.
Kind Your Way to Greater Productivity
Awareness. Alignment. Action. These are the qualities of kindness that I intuitively knew where there even before I consciously knew they were there. They are the qualities that explain why Inner Kindness, interwoven with Smart Process and Grounded Power, is so effective for increasing your writing productivity.
So, yes, please ditch the nice, and claim the kind. Your writing will thank you. Your creativity will thank you. And I am pretty sure YOU will thank you, because kindness is both revolutionary and revelatory: it enables you to create a writing adventure you actually enjoy being on.
Wahoo to that!
* 5 Everyday Words Women Should Banish, Elise Loehnen, Oprah Daily.