0273 – ask yourself questions about what’s holding you back, and answer them honestly

I have been trying for years now to solve a problem (or set of problems) that I have not been able to adequately define. There a a set of questions that seem relevant to this problem.

  • What is keeping me from being happy, healthy, fulfilled?
  • Why do I not wake up raring to go, to confront the day? (Prospect of painful, unfulfilled obligations, usually.)
  • Why am I often reluctant to go to bed? (Feels like I haven’t done enough, haven’t done the day justice.)
  • Why have I not been able to keep to a stable exercise routine? (Feels underwhelming, maybe. No external, environmental stimuli, maybe.)
  • Why do I not seem to be able to keep a group of friends that I find stimulating? (For the most part, most of the friends from my childhood were inherited through proximity, propinquity, happenstance. I should CHOOSE friends, and ask them out.)
  • Why do I not enjoy my work when I recognise that it is a joy and privilege?
  • If I do have ADHD, why have I been unable to remedy it?
  • Why do I seem to be running out of things to write?
  • Why have I not modified my environments to suit me better? (I don’t know for sure what exactly will be better, and so I need to experiment randomly, and I worry that the early experiments will look silly and stupid to anybody else around me. I worry about peer judgement.)
  • Why am I struggling for so long with procrastination, laziness, work-aversion?
  • Why do I not seem to be able to confront my fears and demons at a more regular, face-to-face level?
  • If I am afraid, what am I really afraid of, exactly?
  • If I’m not afraid, what am I waiting for, exactly?

I know that purpose will not mystically fall out of the sky. I know that to experience flow, mastery, autonomy, purpose and all of that good stuff, I first need to struggle. I need to put in the work.

Put in what work, into where? What am I supposed to work on?

What is the struggle that I must undertake? [1]

What is the central problem of my life, and how do I solve it? [2]

One way of framing the central problem, I feel, is a lack of meaningful/valuable output. I had some segment of this figured out at some point– thanks to Quora and the SG blogosphere and my friends who supported my writing– I figured out that my job and goal and role is writing. I’m a writer, that is my vocation.

That’s why I came up with the idea of writing 1000 vomits. I realised at some point that the sheer volume would give me what endless deliberation would never be able to– refinement of craft.

But after 270,000+ words, I started to flounder. (Maybe I’ve floundered several times in the past, but this one feels a bit more… oomphy?). It started to feel like I had written myself into a corner. I have said most of everything that I’m comfortable saying to the general public, which means self-censoring the hurtful, gratuitous stuff that only damages others. That’s fine by me right now, though a part of me does suspect that there’s a killer story in there somewhere….

But still, I don’t feel ready to write novels and stories. [3]

I’m still clueless and there is a lot of reading I must do, many movies I have to watch, albums I have to listen to.

Well, why haven’t I done all those things? There are mundane things like the fact that I don’t sleep very well. I’m making a half-hearted effort to change that, by writing on pen and paper before going to bed instead of going online.

But that feels like a symptom, not the disease. What is the disease?

It might be this– I have not yet figured out properly how I ought to allocate my resources in the long run, outside of these vomits (and even in these vomits… it feels like my decision is stated strongly but executed half-heartedly. I allow myself to let these things slip.)

I have not decisively chosen, and so I play this rather tragic waiting game, allowing my cognitive resources to burn out slowly through a thousand cuts rather than apply myself forcefully in any direction that might fail.

After many months (years? a lifetime?) I find myself thinking (again) that enough is enough (again). That I have suffered enough fictional pain and deaths. It’s time to decide.

What is the decision? “How should I spend my time.” What is the single most important thing that I ought to be doing?

The answer is schlep work. Glorious, laborious schlep work. I am a content labourer. Just as a regular labourer takes pleasure– is entitled to nothing else!–in his labor, I have to find pleasure in creating output for work. Many many bricks of work.

And I’m not talking about my personal word vomits anymore. This is something I will continue as time goes on, and eventually it will be completed and I will learn and grow and change along the way. But this alone is not enough. It’s like meeting the same friends after school or work every single day. After a while you have nothing new to say and you’re just keeping each other company and trying to make each other (and yourselves, by extension) feel better. Cooperative delusion.

That’s what these vomits are, in a sense. I get better at writing myself into a personal delusion. That’s something I need to avoid.


[1] At least, I think to myself, I’ve finally acknowledged that a struggle is necessary. That life without struggle is boring, painful, tedious, frustrating… it’s purgatory. But I haven’t gotten around to actually struggling.

[2] (Is it really simply a matter of meditation, exercise? Would that alone be able to solve the problem? If so, why haven’t I gotten around to it? Should I really just get into a deal with somebody who becomes my commitment buddy– would that really make a difference? If so, why haven’t I gotten around to trying it?)

[3] And Ray Bradbury didn’t write Farenheit 451 until he was 30, anyway. He suggested writing short stories instead, one every week. Maybe I should do that. I’m trying to do to much all at once. This is a recurring thing for me.

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