I suspect that I might have already written a word vomit about this but another one won’t hurt, since I’ve found myself circling around this same insight out of necessity and desperation.
It’s 11:47pm on a Monday night. I just got home after a long day at work and an art showcase I visited with my colleague / co-founder. I didn’t really get very much sleep last night, and I’m hoping that I get some good quality sleep tonight at least. I’m hoping to write a word vomit or two before I turn in, because I realize that writing makes me happy, having written makes me happy, and not writing for an extended period of time makes me feel tired, dreary, stuck, grim, morose, even depressed. So I need to revise my mental model of what writing means to me. It isn’t just a passion or a project. It’s a way of cleansing myself. Clearing my mind. It’s a form of survival.
Earlier on Twitter, I semi-joked in response to someone else that “the difference between wants and needs is this– a need, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away”. Paraphrasing Phillip K Dick’s point about reality (what doesn’t go away when you stop believing in it). And I realize… when I spend time not writing, I get really miserable. I get tense and tight and just generally unpleasant. So I should write daily, I should write all the time, and I shouldn’t give a shit about whether or not the writing is actually going anywhere.
I think that’s where I often get stuck. I pile expectations upon myself. I expect the writing to be good, to be moving, to be somehow insightful and worldchanging. But not every piece of writing needs to be that. Sometimes writing needs to carry you from one checkpoint to the next, sometimes you just need to pour dirty water out of the firehose before you get to the good stuff. That was one of my starting principles when I first started doing these word vomits, something that got a little muddied and lost along the way when I picked up more responsibilities and obligations.
But writing is joy. Writing is cleansing. Writing sets me free. I need to constantly ruminate on this, and bring myself back to this. I have loads of obligations as it is, but I need to be constantly making progress on my first obligation to myself as a maker of things (in this case word vomits). If the number on the word vomit counter has been stuck for a few days, I start fidgeting.
Well, we’ve got half the vomit left. How do we improve on what we’ve got in this vomit? Well the question is not so much “is writing good” or “should I write”, but WHY do I repeatedly forget, and WHY do I repeatedly allow it to slip, and how do I make it easier for me to jump back on the wagon and keep this thing going so that I can finish it (the word vomits) more quickly?
The instinctive response is “the habit is sorta weak”. I have a generalized habit where I do it every so often, but I don’t have a super strong habit where I churn out vomits day after day for weeks on end. In fact I still haven’t been able to write vomits every day for a month yet– this has eluded me. My next opportunity to do this will be in April. The last time I almost did it was last July. There’s clearly something here. If I want to take this to the next level I need to increase the frequency.
I’m thinking now about my experience as a walker. Literally, as a person going on walks. I like to think that I’m reasonably fit, but I’m not as fit as I imagine. I can comfortably walk for maybe 5km or so, but beyond that things start getting a little dicey. My feet start to hurt. My skin starts to chafe. I need to be wearing shoes rather than slippers, because at that point the slipper straps start cutting into my skin.
Which I find interesting. I remember when I was in Bangkok with the wife, we used to walk long-ish distances almost everyday. I think we averaged 7-10km per day, maybe. And I burned off quite a bit of fat from all that, so much so that I could make out my abs in the mirror. As a working adult, I spend most of my time sitting in chair. This is bad for me. I need to spend more time walking, running, lifting weights, playing sports. Firstly because it’s fun in the short term and physicality is good for human beings, and secondly because it boosts health in the long run. I don’t want to be an old man who cannot walk properly. I want to be mobile and strong all the way through. So I need to take more walks, at the very least. I bought me some new shoes. I’d like to wear them out as soon as I can.
(Lol at my love of wearing things out– word vomits, pens, notebooks, and now shoes). I guess it’s just a very physical reminder / proof of work done. I spent so much of my life bullshitting myself and others about the quality and quantity of the work that I did, one way or another. But some indicators don’t lie. And so I need to fall back on those indicators, so that I can develop a trusting relationship with myself. A few days ago when I was reading old vomits, I came across a passage where I wrote something like, “It doesn’t matter that I don’t understand this now– I’m not writing this for me, I’m writing this for Future Visa.” And there I was, “Future Visa”, reading what I had written in the past and appreciating Past Visa for it. It was a very nice feeling, one I’d like to feel more of. And that is part of why I want to write. It is correspondence with the most important, closest person in my life: Me.