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  • Writer's pictureRogene "Jeannie" McPherson, Country Notebook

Intentionally Unproductive

Updated: Mar 29, 2023

Country Notebook by Rogene "Jeannie" McPherson

On Wednesday afternoons, I drive to Fort Scott to participate in what is called Wednesday Writers. No specific qualifications are necessary other than to enjoy writing and making new friendships. Suggested unassignments are often given. An unassignment simply means it is elective. In other words, write if of interest. Don’t write if the topic doesn’t appeal or apply.

Some very good stories or poetry come out of this unassigment. I often don’t get the writing completed due to lack of time, not lack of interest. I am assisting a friend with another large project, and I have to prioritize how I spend my time. The idea of being intentionally unproductive, this week’s topic, is not part of my Type A personality. I am a workaholic, staying busy until physically or emotionally in decline, while still keeping a mental list of my daily achievements. For example, doing double-duty, I’m writing a story for the Linn County Journal.

My first reaction to being “intentionally unproductive” had me thinking about a recent morning when I cleaned my kitchen and did laundry all in what was likely an effort to put off doing something I really didn’t want to do. In retrospect, this was instead being intentionally unproductive. I may have been delaying, but my kitchen did need cleaning and clothing laundered, all productive activities.

Thus, the problem of how I define intentionally unproductive, still existed as I began work in my woods doing what I call grooming the forest. Along my driveway are cedar trees that seeded too closely to each other, resulting in lots of dead branches on the lower parts of the tree. I’ve spent the last twenty years cutting, cussing, and clearing out the debris, but in reality I love doing the work and the resultant view. My kids question “why?” and I tell them it is to reduce the fire hazard. In reality, I hate cedars and their ferocious attempts to take over the world, or at least my property.

I’ve now expanded my efforts by trimming lower branches off the native trees like oaks, walnuts and redbuds. And I’m picking up fallen branches and logs while still cold enough to safely do this work. I am running out of time as I know it is only days until the snakes keep me out, but they are one of the reasons for this productive action on my part. Last year a rather significantly large snake slivered through my iris patch, which happens to be on the edge of the forest. I took care of Ronny, the rattler, but I’ve theorized that decaying logs encourage them to hide. Thus, I am reducing the resting place for another Ronny. In my mind, I am productive.

Others may proclaim, “That’s silly and unproductive.” I realize, like house cleaning, the work is never done, but I don’t stop house cleaning just because it has to be accomplished all over again the next day!

After an afternoon in the woods, I viewed the meaning of intentional unproductivity. Hauling my last load of brush to the burn pile, I looked over to the pond and spotted two beautiful Canadian geese swimming leisurely in the center of the pond. I’ve seen them trying to nest along the edge of the water, but not swimming slowly in circles. They didn’t seem to be paddling under the water and they certainly weren’t ducking for fish or insects. It was just a lovely day enjoying the scenery, exactly what I took time to do while watching what are probably a future mama and daddy resting before goslings come along.

Like so much of our world, there is a lesson in nature. We just have to be intentionally unproductive occasionally to observe how life should be.

Rogene “Jeanne” McPherson is a writer who lives outside of Centerville. She recently published a book about her experiences entitled Posts from the Country, Adventures in Rural Living. It is available online in both virtual and printed editions. Copies are on the shelves at all Linn County libraries, and it can be purchased at or

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