0519 – obliterate your subconscious taskmasters

Day 4 of the new year. Didn’t publish a word vomit yesterday. It’s interesting to think about the psychology and practice of missing days, breaking chains. On the first day I believe I published 3, and on the second I published 1, and 0 on the third. I’m writing one now, so it’s likely that I’ll publish at least one today.

What I was thinking was– it isn’t so bad to miss one day, it’s fairly trivial to make up for it with two the next day. But once you miss a day, it’s easy to miss another day– the new day becomes “just like yesterday”. And now to make up for it you need to do 3 the day after, which is a little more daunting. It’s 3 times the usual amount. And so that’s where it really begins unravelling. That’s the real cost of missing a day– not that you can’t afford to do two the day after, but that it gets so much likelier that you’ll miss another one. When you fall of the wagon, you either have to immediately run after it to get back on, of you fall completely and have to build another one, which takes energy that you might not necessarily have. Alternatively, you can wait for another wagon, which takes time– time in which things might depreciate. And even if things don’t depreciate, ie you don’t get any worse at your craft because you haven’t been practicing, there is opportunity cost– you forgo the better-you-would-have-gotten.

Of course, we’re not robots or machines [1], so we need breaks and rest. And those things should be planned and scheduled.

As I say all of these things, I find myself thinking, surely that isn’t always true for all cases. There have to be some times where you literally just screw all your plans, all your bento-box management and just roll with it, just improvise. The thing is, it feels like I’ve really romanticized that idea my whole life to avoid doing any real work, to avoid doing the boring scheduling stuff. But the output is never all that interesting. I have had few great adventures, most of them have been pretty boring and predictable.

Skilled improvisation requires practice. Spontaneity requires practice. Otherwise we fall back into the same patterns, same routines. I have been noodling with similar patterns on the guitar for years, just as I used to play SimCity and Grand Theft Auto badly, and die, and repeat the same patterns over and over again. Maybe there’s something calming or reassuring about the repeating of a bad pattern, even when you know it’s a bad pattern. Amusingly I’m sure I’ve already written a few vomits about this in the past. About how the horrible-familiar is often preferable to the unknown.

I was reading a little bit about Portia de Rossi’s struggle with anorexia, and she had a very powerful way of describing it– like she had some sort of horrible taskmaster / drill sargeant in her head who would yell at her in her subconscious, before she was even fully awake. I relate to that in my own way. That there are things under the surface that are in control of me, that hold me in line one way or another. It might not be a specific, tangible thing, it might be more of an idea, a way of seeing, a habit of mind. A superficial instantiation of this would be the way I check social media on my phone every morning when I wake up. Why do I do that? Nothing good ever comes out of it. But I suppose there’s a sort of addiction/craving mechanism for that variable reward, of seeing notifications, of finding out the unknown (even if the unknown can be assumed to be trivial nonsense).

I described that as a superficial [2] example. What’s a more substantial example? I suppose it’s my entire way of being. If that’s too abstract– my entire way of thinking. The way I perceive. The things I choose to focus on. (I find myself thinking “Oh my god, I need to go on a silent retreat.”) How, when I’m writing these vomits, I must be circling around a few things over and over again. What Christopher Alexander was talking about when he said that, practically speaking, life can be reduced to a startlingly few set of patterns that we live out.

Tired of a lot of my patterns. Tired of saying that I’m tired. Tired of that, too. Tired of having been here before. Will this be the last time that I say this? Probably not, but I’d like it to be. At least, the next time I return to this set of thoughts, I would like to be a very different person. I would like to be a lot more than I am right now. (Aside: I’m listening to old music. I suppose I’d like to listen to some very different music.)

Whoops, I got a little derailed there. Ended up on YouTube or something. Oh well. Let’s just finish this one up. Actually a lot of this is just flourish and fluff, which is okay for the context of this writing project still… maybe, if I say so. But if there’s something I want to take away from this, it would be… just make sure to break lousy patterns and to just “exit” often so you can start over with a fresh mind. I get stuck in things too easily, long after they’ve lost their utility. So I should just “get up and leave” often, and return fresh.


[1] And even those things typically need some sort of maintenance… might be more accurate today to say “we’re not just software.

[2] What’s the opposite of superficial? The “super” is latin for above, and the inverse of that is “sub”. So “subficial”? There’s a band called that. But that doesn’t feel right. What about… substance? Yup, turns out it means “under / stand”. And isn’t it interesting how understand means understand? Anyway.

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