How to Queue

Last night Dena and I spent almost as much time waiting in line for a rental car as we did flying to Denver. I’m not interested in naming the company or analyzing what went wrong. This is just setting the scene.

At around the one hour mark, I struck up a casual conversation with the man behind us in the queue. The usual small talk about where you came in from, why you were here, what you do, etc.

We didn’t seem to have much in common, but we kept talking. We were both stuck in the same line, and had the attitude that it was a better way to spend the time than fuming about something we couldn’t change.

And then he mentioned that he studied film in college, even though he never went out and made a career of it.

Boom. There was a stronger connection.

That sent us off on a whole trajectory where I found out he took classes taught by Stan freaking Brakhage.

So yes, I was exhausted when we finally got to our hotel, and dinner wound up being a sandwich from 7-11, but I ain’t mad about it.

I got to hear about the time that Stan Brakhage showed Jean Cocteau’s *Beauty and the Beast* to his class and then pivoted to using it to denounce Walt Disney’s filmmaking. Or how he loved to show Orson Welles movies and talk through them.

As Dena remembers it, “Yeah, you fanboyed hard.”

I did. It’s true.

We weren’t the only two people having that kind of conversation. I caught snippets of conversations from people jammed together in line who decided they could spend the night angry, or meet a new person.

There was time enough to move past the obvious differences and meet somewhere in the overlap on our personal Venn diagrams.

All because we were stuck in the same slow-moving line.

500(ish) Meditation Sessions

This morning I sat for my 500th meditation session since starting to use the Timeless app.

Screen grab from Timeless meditation app on iOS. Current Streak: 23 Days. Best 92 Days. Sessions: 500
Yes, I am mildly peeved that I didn’t sit for one more minute today to make it an even 3 days and 20 hours.

I’ve been meditating at least semi-regularly for around ten years. I’ve cycled through multiple apps in that time, so I don’t really know how much total time I’ve spent sitting.

But I know I started this some time ago, and I still do it. Almost every morning I wake up ahead of everyone else in the house to make time for it.

I know the day feels different if I don’t make time for it. Not necessarily worse, but different.

I know that it’s something I’m comfortable doing even though I’m not sure I’m doing it “right.”

The effort itself helps.

It’s a steady presence. Even though no session is the same as any other, the act of sitting, breathing, and not trying to restlessly chase some kind of input to fill the time… It’s a reminder that when I need to, I have tools to help me step back and find my balance.

Seeing the numbers used to make me feel like I was doing something wrong. That breaking the chain was a failure of character.

But the timeline is longer now. I can see I don’t need to be perfect at it to get value from it.

Every session is practice, even after ten years.

Gatekeeping and Level Grinding

“…you used to be able to do ALL the reading. You could read all the essential science fiction books before you wrote yours. You could watch all the key movies before you directed yours. You could understand all the current thinking in a field of medicine before you prescribed a drug…

No longer.

—Seth Godin, “On doing the reading

As someone that loved movies, went out and got one degree in movies, and then decided he needed another degree on the subject… I feel a little called out.

The inner gatekeeper might be more insidious than the person telling you that you don’t know enough minutiae to be a “real” fan, or that you don’t have the right experience or connections.

You can look for ways to circumvent a person trying to keep you on the outside in ways that you can’t with a voice inside your own head.

That voice inside telling you to wait a little bit longer. Do something else first. “Not yet,” it whispers. “You’re still not ready.”

“I refer to this as the difference between being in motion and taking action. The two ideas sound similar, but they’re not the same. When you’re in motion, you’re planning and strategizing and learning. Those are all good things, but they don’t produce a result.

Action, on the other hand, is the type of behavior that will deliver an outcome. If I outline twenty ideas for articles I want to write, that’s motion. If I actually sit down and write an article, that’s action. If I search for a better diet plan and read a few books on the topic, that’s motion. If I actually eat a healthy meal, that’s action.

Sometimes motion is useful, but it will never produce an outcome by itself. It doesn’t matter how many times you go talk to the personal trainer, that motion will never get you in shape. Only the action of working out will get the result you’re looking to achieve.”

James Clear, Atomic Habits

When I had time for video games that asked 60+ hours from you, I played a decent number of RPGs. I was never in a rush to complete the story, and often started off with a lot of level-grinding.

The thought was that if I build my characters up enough early on, it would make subsequent challenges easier.

Usually it worked out. One time it failed spectacularly.

I made it to the final battle of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and realized I’d chosen a path for my character early on that set them up as someone wholly unsuited to take down the last boss.

Learn as you do would’ve been a better model to follow.

The further you are from your goal, the more speculative your questions are. They could lead you down a rabbit hole in an unhelpful direction.

I try to remind myself of this any time I’m doing something new, or stretching outside the comfort of my wheelhouse.

Learn a little, do a little, repeat.

I tell myself I won’t know what questions to ask to get where I want to go until I’ve made a few mistakes or hit some dead ends.

Sharing and Collecting Thoughts

Looking through johnaugust.com for something to add to the Inneresting newsletter, I saw this post from 2006:

WriteRoom 2.0 is in beta, but there’s nothing spectacularly different or better than plain old 1.0. Either version is worth checking out.

As for the inevitable question:  Could I write a script with it?

Yes, no, maybe.

I’ve actually had conversations with two gurus of web markup about creating a simplified screenplay markup that could be imported into “real” screenwriting applications like Final Draft. 

John August, “I heart WriteRoom”

It’s a post that predates the first version of Highland. It’s the seed of an idea.

It’s almost 15 years since that post, and finding it now gives perspective on the work that happened between then and now on Highland.

Imagine how hard it would be to get that sense of perspective if that rave about WriteRoom had been a tweet.

It’s not easy to archive or look back on tweets. The service is designed to encourage a focus on the immediate present.

I’ve thought a lot about the value of having my own blog, and what social media is really good for, and this moment clarified something for me:

Having a blog is better for a person to be able to look back on what they were thinking. It’s a way of sharing something with your future self.

I need to remember that time spent questioning if something is possible to do is often better spent trying to actually do it.

It’s like being a pundit, looking at your life from the outside.

It’s better to trust my ability to work than my abilities at precognition.