0521 – next steps for writing and work

The last vomit ended with “I have not answered the central question”. Probably because I didn’t ask it clearly enough. So what IS the central question? Something like “How should I live my life?” What should I focus on? How should I direct my limited resources throughout the remainder of my life? What should I spend my time and energy doing, and what should I NOT be doing?

I know I should be writing, and so I am doing that. The two questions that follow are, how so, and what else?

How So:
Right now I’m just going to keep continuing with the 1,000,000 word project just to make it to the end and finish what I started. This is primarily so that I can convince myself that I’ve done something substantial. Not necessarily SIGNIFICANT, but substantial. That’s just an interesting thing to have in my mind when I go on to write anything else. If you can write a million words, you can write pretty much anything.

Beyond that, I find myself thinking vague things like “I want to explore ideas”, “I want to write fiction”, “I want to solve problems”. I don’t necessarily want to be the best in the world at any of those particular things for its own sake, I think that would be a little… I’m thinking “extremist” or “putting the cart before the horse”, but that’s not quite accurate. It’s more like… it would be me putting myself into a structure that I don’t necessarily agree with, and I might end up optimizing relentlessly towards an end-state that I don’t actually desire.

But I’m also aware that if I don’t pick anything, it’s possible for me to just languish without making any progress. That’s definitely happened before. So I might spend some amount of time doing “problem-solving” writing, some amount of time doing “idea-exploring” writing, and some amount of time writing fiction, and seeking to get better at each of those things as I do them. But I also think that I don’t particularly want to define myself as a person who does just one of those things. I don’t know for sure, it might be a little premature to think about this in too much detail. But it’s good to at least be aware of it.

What I do know is that there are a lot of gaps in popular writing. Some of these gaps were filled by people from decades or centuries ago, but people generally have this odd obsession with current affairs and so there are a ton of really good books and really good material that never get appreciated in present day, beyond a small audience of purist fans. A part of me thinks that I’d like to just sit around and read and review old books in a non-pretentious way. But is that what I should be doing with my time? Maybe, why not. We’ll do a bit of that and see how it goes.

So I suppose the short answer to “how so” is to just experiment with different things and see what I learn from each thing. I may spend some time doing intense head-down study and review, analyzing books written by other people. I may spend some time writing strange free-association things that don’t have a particular voice or narrator. I may do some of that within the context of these vomits, or I might not. The thing is to just kep moving forward.

Alright, that much is fairly clear.

What Else:

To keep writing I need to take care of myself physically, emotionally, financially. Those are to some degree also good ends in themselves, but I’m not sure if I want any of them to supercede the writing thing.

Often I find myself worried about money. I have a house to pay off, and the loan lasts 30 years. I’m 3 years in now, so theoretically I would be done in 27 years. Who knows what’s going to happen over the next 27 years?! Life is unpredictable. I might die from an accident or from disease or from something otherwise unforeseen or unexpected.

So how much time and energy should I devote to worrying about money? How am I going to make more money? My primary source of income right now is from my full-time job as a marketing guy for a tech startup, which I do enjoy. I’ve learned a lot.

A thought I have is, “If I could do whatever I wanted, I would stop working and just read and write myself silly”. While technically that IS an option, it isn’t necessarily a good or optimal one. My mind just operates in simplistic absolutes when it comes to intuitions. What does that thought really mean? Am I sick of work? No, I like my work. I just wish I spent more time reading and writing. Okay, is that achievable? With the 24 hours I have every day, can I get work done ANd do reading and writing? I think subconsciously I feel like that’s not possible. Subconsciously I feel like I’m not working as effectively as I could or should, and that I should devote even more time and energy to work– and that that will limit the amount of time I can spend on other pursuits.

But zooming out, what’s the reality of the situation? Am I effective as possible at work? No, absolutely not. I think and I believe that all I really need to do is 4 super-focused hours of work every day. Yesterday I managed to do maybe an hour to two hours, and that was pretty good. If I can do 4 hours a day, I believe I should be able to “be ahead” of my obligations, and then I can read and write for pleasure with no guilt. [1]

How do I do more focused work? I need to be more aware of distractions and deviations, I need to be more clearheaded about my priorities and what needs to be done, I need to make sure that I’m lucid, awake, constantly re-evaluating what’s going on. So it’s really important that I keep track of the work that I do, and the time that I spend on doing that work, and how that all plays out. I’m currently doing that on Trello and Google Calendar. Yesterday was my first day at work in 2016, and today will be my second. So my single main goal today is to keep track of the 30-min blocks that I spend at work and make sure that I devote them to the right things.

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[1] I think what I need to learn and realize is that the guilt is really just an internal compass, and my problem isn’t so much that it’s there or that it exists, but that I haven’t learnt to navigate by it.

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