0144 – reading in the mornings and the joy of decluttering

Yesterday was a glorious day for my head. I published a whole bunch of vomits all at one go, that I had done from March to May. I think I have a few more to go, but my wife suggested that I quit while I was ahead and get a good night’s sleep. I chose the opposite path the last time I was in this situation, so I picked the other one this time. For science.

Morning conundrum

Oh before I get into the details of the vomits, I want to quickly get out what I think is a solution to my morning conundrum. This is something that happens over and over again- I wake up at 8 or 9am, and it feels too early and fresh to get out of bed. I tell myself I’ll take a quick nap, and the next thing I know, it’s 1130am and I’m going to miss lunch with my colleagues.

A while ago, I started keeping a book by my bed in the hope of facilitating a rekindling of the reading habit I had as a child. This wasn’t enough- I learnt that I only read if I go to bed early and fresh. If I’m working late, I get to bed tired and grumpy and I’m just thinking about how little sleep I’m going to get before the next day.

I went to bed fresh and early last night, so reading was the natural choice of action before bed. I started getting sleepy and had to stop halfway, so I put a pen in the book (I scribble in all of the books I own) and went to bed.

So this morning when I woke up, I found myself thinking “I really want to go back to sleep, but I know deep down that I don’t really need to, and that I’ll regret it if I do.” And then a thought crossed my mind- I haven’t finished reading! And I was filled with joy and glee, because here’s an elegant solution to my problem! If I read before bed, I will be inclined to pick up where I left off on the morning. So that’s an incentive to read at night, which in turn is an incentive to be more efficient in the way I work. At least that’s how I hope it’s going to play out.

The vomits

I had totally forgotten that I had a whole bunch of vomits done and waiting in March. I hadn’t really titled then properly, so it wasn’t clear what they were. They could’ve been drafts. Lesson learnt: title vomits properly.

I had been all clogged up because of shitty bookkeeping- my already-published vomits were misnumbered and repeated, and the screwup upset me so much that I simply didn’t have the heart to move on. Or the know-how, really. How do you move forward when things are stuck? Do you just keep going? On hindsight I think I did what ought to be done- fix the misnumbering and remove the repeats, and explain confused chronology as addendums. But it wasn’t clear until I let it kick around in my head for a while. And it was a little too depressing to address directly. Maybe. I don’t know. I’ll have a clearer (but maybe less accurate?) picture with more hindsight. Oh well. Reality is messy.

I’m thankful to my past self for writing vomits even when the bookkeeping was clogged. I think that’s progress, I think that’s something I didn’t do when I was younger and my present and future selves lose out from the lack of historical data. (By that I meant to say that I used to go completely dark when the going got tough, and I wish I had more accurate records of what I was thinking then so that I don’t have to rely on unreliable recollections.)

I’ve been keeping all my writing on Evernote, which feels like a repository, an extension of my mind. The problem is that it’s rarely entirely clear where I’m going with my vomits- I only really know what they’re about when I’m going through them after I’ve written them. So if I’ve written a whole bunch of stuff and I haven’t ordered or processed them carefully, and real life starts getting in the way, I start feeling really uneasy and anxious. It’s like having a really messy house.

I know, I could throw everything out and start over, but I don’t feel like I could bear that- even though I know that this whole 1000 vomits structure is completely arbitrary. I want to keep and use everything while I’m going through this process- even the messy, ugly stuff- because I think the bad or ugly stuff is necessary as part of the overall statement. I can discard everything in future projects, but not this one. It would be a little disingenuous, inaccurate, even dishonest. And if I may be honest- the idea of having to start over just breaks my heart. So I’ll just keep going the way I’m going.

Joy of decluttering

It feels so incredibly good to go through the vomits in my drafts on Evernote and to publish them. As I re-read them, I feel more clarity about my thoughts. It’s like having all these really fragile, shaky towers of thought that need scaffolding and foundation to be properly secured- if I don’t secure them by publishing them, I feel like I’m constantly trying to keep all of them up in the air, and that’s incredibly draining. It keeps me from being able to devote my full focus and attention on the task at hand.

And again, I know that I theoretically have the option of just letting everything go- (let it go, let it go)- to let it all collapse, and then start over with the rubble. It’s not like anything is particularly important. But I just have an inkling that that would be terribly wasteful, a tragedy of sorts. Scorched earth is something you do when you’re utterly desperate, right? And I don’t want to do that. So I’ll just keep going.

So right now my priority is to declutter and eliminate the rest of the notes and drafts that I’ve accumulated in my extended-mind repository, so that I can clean that out and see what the floor actually looks like. And once I do that, I think I’ll be able to see new connections that I haven’t quite noticed yet. Reminder to self: There won’t be any single silver bullet that makes everything better all of a sudden. Rather, I’ll have to work at it bit by bit, piece by piece. But that’s somehow really exciting and fulfilling. I know what I must do, and I’ve done the basic groundwork necessary to begin the heavier lifting. I’m glad to come to this.


I tried to keep a thought alive in my head while I was on the train on the way to work- and here it is: When things got ugly, messy and strained, I did contemplate giving up. It would’ve been easier. It felt like nothing was coming out, and I entertained the thought that I might’ve been done, that this was it. That I had finally run dry. But another part of me told me not to be so certain, that I don’t have enough information, that I can’t predict the future. After all, Dan Gilbert convinced me resoundingly that we lack the imagination to make accurate predictions about our future selves, and that we change way, WAY more than we can even conceive. So I’m betting on me overcoming all of these things- or at least most of these things, or at least ENOUGH of these things- to make my life look very, very different from now. You have to believe, because the data shows a very different picture from the flawed, biased projection created by the limited, small-minded human.

Heh. Funny how that sounds almost religious. I’m guessing that’s what the more enlightened trust-in-God folk mean when they say what they mean. You just have to protect yourself against the downside, too. We’ll see.

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