0520 – know what you want and go get it

I woke up pretty early yesterday, I think. It was probably around 7 or 8 am. I left for work at 9-something, got to office at 1030 and actually got quite a bit of work done before lunch.

I got home really tired and fell asleep at about 1030pm or so. I awoke momentarily at 1 or 2 am, and later at 515am or so. I spent about 40 minutes looking through my phone, then went down to buy coffee at about 620am. I then came up and sat outside and watched the sun rise, which was a really beautiful experience. I sort of just took it slow, went and showered, and now it’s 750am and I’m sitting down on my sofa, looking at the sky, writing this word vomit.

I’ve had a few false starts [1] with the past few attempts at writing, possibly because I’m trying to wrap my head around something larger than I can currently grasp, or because I’m not focused enough to stick with it through the full thousand words. Probably both.

Today though I’m awake, well-rested, have some time to think and write, and I don’t really feel like doing anything else in particular, so it feels like I have a good shot at writing something (or a couple of things) that I’d be okay with publishing.

Let’s start with the sunrise. I like witnessing sunrises and sunsets. I find them to be appropriately awe-inspiring and humbling. They remind me that I’m just a little human in the grander scheme of things, and they remind me that great, beautiful things are possible. It’s like a mini-version of the Overview Effect, which I have often said I’d like to witness.

Theoretically speaking, the sun has risen over 9,000 times in my lifetime so far, and set just as many times. That’s 18,000 events. How many of these have I witnessed? Definitely fewer than 1,000. Probably a couple of hundreds, tops. How many do I consciously remember? Definitely less than 100. Maybe less than 50. That’s 50 out of 18,000. That’s 1/360, which is less than 0.3%.

So I have to confront something that I think is symptomatic of a broader problem that I’d like to solve– the gap between what I say I want and what I actually act in order to get. It’s a subset of the circle of influence vs circle of concern problem. If I like sunrises and sunsets, why don’t I take the time and trouble to witness them? I know they’re good for me. I know they make me happy. I know they make me feel like writing, which is another thing that I say that I want to do.

This really does feel like one of the central challenges of my life. Bridging the gap between what I say I want and what I get.

The easiest way to make a big dent in the problem is to eliminate many of the things that I say I want, by examining them closely to see if I really want them, and eliminating them if I don’t. Working backwards (because examining everything I’ve said would take years)– I think the things I want the most are– to become a really good writer, to live without guilt and fear and anxiety [2], to be physically fit and strong.

Okay, wait, even here I feel a need to pause. What do I actually know for sure? I know that I like words, and that I can spend an indefinite amount of time just learning about their history and studying how they’re put together and so on. So it makes a lot of sense for me to want to be a writer. I love the smell of a beautiful sentence. So that’s easy for me. But what do I know beyond that? Should that be the central thing in my life around which everything else is organized? What would that even mean, what would that even look like? How can you purely pursue a craft for the sake of craftsmanship if you don’t know what you’re doing it for? What is the point of writing? I suppose the clue is in the second thing– I might be writing to resolve guilt and fear and anxiety, to resolve the neuroses and tics I inherited. Why do I want to do that? Because those are just really unpleasant things that get in the way of me appreciating and enjoying life.

I guess a simple heuristic might be, “I want to earn my own respect”. That would be nice, and the opposite case would be not-so-nice. What do I respect? Effort. Focus. Discipline. Conviction. I was watching the entire Rocky movie series a while back and I was intrigued to realize that while I value intelligence and smarts, I admired Rocky a lot despite him not having tonnes of it. What he had was HEART, and I found that very admirable. This will to just keep going on, to not quit, to not give in. To keep trying. To persist. Why do people do that? What’s the point of doing that? There isn’t any, but we do it anyway. So that we can look back on our lives, maybe, and say that we stood for something, we tried something, we made something of ourselves with the clay we were given.

TBC, I haven’t answered the central question yet.

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[1] Anyway I think the simple solution for dealing with half-written drafts is to just get rid of them and rewrite them altogether. When I read old vomits, I find myself amused and disappointed by vomits that are a bunch of haphazard thoughts just stitched together. Those aren’t very valuable to me. It’s far more valuable to either ruminate on a single idea or to follow a single train of thought, even if it deviates and diverges significantly (like this one).

[2] There’s a line from Les Miserables that makes me really want to read it, about the protagonist seeking and attaining redemption.

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