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Jan 9, 2019

‘The Writer’s Brain’ on Productivity vs. Creativity: Part One

Welcome back to another special edition of The Writer Files called “The Writer’s Brain,” a guest series with neuroscientist Michael Grybko, and in this episode we’ll dig into the inextricable link between productivity and creativity, and the Catch-22 so many writers face as a result. 

This all began when Michael and I started a conversation about why we need to rethink our definition of productivity.

As busyness, the cult of productivity, and multitasking seem to take over our lives, it’s easy to forget that the origins of the word productivity comes from the Latin, productivitas.

Translation: creative power.

Creativity — a topic Michael and I have discussed at length — is the beating heart of change, progress, and innovation, but our work-life scales are bending dangerously toward more busywork, distraction, inefficiency, and overall dissatisfaction.

Truly scaling creativity requires productivity, so a balance must be struck between the two. Writing is a great example of this push and pull in the human brain.

Luckily, research scientist Michael Grybko returned to the podcast to help me find some answers from the perspective of neuroscience.

If you’ve missed previous episodes of The Writer’s Brain you can find them all in the show notes, in the archives at, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you tune in.

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In Part One of this file Michael Grybko and I discuss:

  • How neuroscience views the complex interplay between productivity and creativity
  • Why writers often struggle to finish longer projects
  • The great irony of the “10 year overnight success”
  • How memory plays such a big part in productivity
  • Why so many writing instructors prescribe “life experience” for great writing
  • How always on, open concept workspaces can actually hinder both productivity and creativity
  • And the close study of musicians, artists, and the pitfalls of mapping creativity in the brain

The Show Notes: