It’s the illusion of control for me

With a new bullet journal notebook, a day fits neatly between straight lines guided by a ruler and dot grid. It has form. Order.

It doesn’t make the day itself conform to this shape, but the map is realistic enough to represent the country.

Each event logged takes up no more space than it’s allowed. The moment transfers to the page without the emotion.

This is what I planned and this is what I did. No judgement. No regrets.

When it feels like all I can control is my reaction to events, putting a name to every reaction and giving it a place to live outside myself helps me find balance.

I can’t just doomscroll. I have to pause and write down that I’m doomscrolling.

If I’m going to have any chance at getting back to navigating my own path, I need to find my bearings first.

Back on my bull(et)shit

Yes, I know that my penmanship hasn’t improved since middle school. Thanks for reminding me.

I bought a new paper notebook.

I’ve tried bullet journaling on the iPad, and it’s fine. But I wasn’t consistent with it.

I’ve tried going fully digital, or using 3×5 cards for a daily to-do list.

I’ve tried a lot of things, okay?

While it doesn’t always stick around forever, I tend to find a better headspace when I start a fresh notebook for keeping track of things.

I need to tell myself it’s okay not to have the best long-term answer if I at least find a good answer for now.

I wrote before about craving simple solutions. I didn’t see how simple things could be.

I need two lists:

  • The things I can do
  • The things I am doing

One is for remembering hard due dates or where my progress is at with a larger project. This one’s digital.

The other is to make sure I know where my time goes, and to remind me that I have more time than I think, but not enough time for everything. That’s the notebook.

Every part of it reminds me that there’s only so much time. A page is only so long. A notebook has only so many pages.

And every page I use can’t be taken back.

It’s always sitting there, asking the question: What’s next?

Your perceptions might be wrong

In a BBC 6 radio interview, Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien explained why they left the song Lift off of the album OK Computer:

“Lift” is a funny song. We played that live with Alanis Morrissette, and it was a really interesting song because the audience, suddenly you’d see them get up and start grooving, it had this kind of infectiousness about it. It was a big, anthemic song. If that song had been on that album, it would have taken us to a different place, and we’d have probably sold a lot more records…

For perspective, OK Computer sold 7 million copies to Jagged Little Pill’s 25 million.

In that sense, the band may have been correct.

But they still made an album that sold almost seven times as many copies as their previous one and is regularly included in lists of The Best Albums of All Time.

It reminds me of a line from Thich Nhat Hanh’s How to See:

We should not trust our perceptions too much—that is something the Buddha taught. “Are you sure of your perceptions?” he asked us. I urge you to write this phrase down on a card and put it up on the wall of your room: “Are you sure of your perceptions?” There is a river of perceptions in you. You should sit down on the bank of this river and contemplate your perceptions.

Radiohead attempted to predict the reaction people would have to their song.

They couldn’t know for sure, but they had trust in their perceptions of the audience when they played the song live.

I always find points when working on something where I’m trying to judge the potential reaction of its intended audience.

Points where I tend to struggle come when I lack that trust in my perceptions—second guessing what people will think when the work is in front of them.

It might be worth remembering how Radiohead sought out the benefit of taking their work out into the world.

Uncertainty about how other people will react can’t be removed by hiding the work from other people.

What work will last?

Every week I edit a newsletter on writing and other things interesting to writers for my job.

Each issue is a new collection of links centered on a different theme, with other interesting nuggets at the end.

I’m always looking for ways to avoid linking to things people have already seen in the past week. If I’m just echoing what’s popular, I’m not offering much value.

Recently I stumbled onto a site that gives you the oldest existing results to your search.

It’s useful-ish.

It reminds me that there’s more to the internet than what was published days, or even hours, ago.

Many of the most frequently read posts on this site are things I wrote one or more years ago.

Yes, it’s a limited data set (I could/should post here more regularly), but they’re also posts on fairly evergreen topics.

If I write an engaging tweet, I’ll know in a matter of hours. When I publish something here, I might not know for a year or more if it has value to other people.

But the tweet will be difficult to find in a few days.

If I’m going to measure what’s a better use of my 4,000 weeks based on how many people find something useful in what I do, it makes sense to spend less time shouting to be heard in a big party and instead work quietly on making things that are available for people when they’re actively looking for them.

Clicks and eyeballs aren’t everything, but they’re a thing.

Interrupting the depression cycle

This is the Groundhog Day feedback loop I get stuck in:

Step 1: Depression tells me I’m worthless and nobody wants anything to do with me.

Step 2: I withdraw.

Step 3: I see that nobody is around me.

Step 4: This reinforces the depression-based observation from Step 1, returning me to the beginning of the loop.

I don’t know if my depression got stronger as I got older, or if breaking this cycle got harder.

Someone craving external validation that others see value in them is easier to push aside when things like school and shared activities surround you with people on most days.

Not every day would be great, but I was more likely to bounce off others and get some positive feedback to keep that cycle from completing.

It was easier to interrupt the cycle at Step 3.

Now that’s not as much of an option.

I’ve written before about acknowledging that I survive with depression, that I’m working at it, and that some things like medication are a useful tool.

But those things don’t always interrupt the cycle at Step 1.

Which isn’t to say I plan to give up on them.

But I need to start thinking about how to interrupt the process at Step 2 and put myself more out into the world.

So.

Hi again.