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.

Medication is a 1-Up, Not a Warp Pipe

I recently switched Doctors to find someone closer to where I live. I also wanted someone who might be more responsive to my questions and concerns about my mental health.

After our first appointment, we adjusted my medication in order to address some generalized anxiety along with the depression I’ve already been working on.

I’ve been gradually adding the new medication into my routine over the last two weeks. It’s still too early to tell what kind of impact it’s going to have.

I tried explaining it in a tweet:

Medication isn’t the whole answer. Like a 1-Up, it gives me another chance to get things right. It’s not going to take me to the end of my mental health journey without any effort on my part.

I welcome the opportunity to keep working at this.

Button doesn’t care how often Mario dies

We tested Button for COVID this week (thankfully, it turned up negative), but two-and-a-half year olds don’t like sitting still to get their drippy nostrils swabbed.

I suggested we let him play some Super Mario Bros. while I collected the test sample. He watched me play the other day, so I let him try pressing buttons for a few minutes. He wanted another chance to try.

He doesn’t understand the mechanics of the game, but he loves watching Mario jump and move. He’s in control.

In the time between getting him ready to test and waiting for the result, Button let Mario die around 40-50 times. Every time, he wanted to start again.

He’s not worried about getting to the end of the level, or saving the princess. The narrative and the game itself don’t mean anything to him.

He doesn’t feel the need to be good at it, because he doesn’t have a conception of what being good at it even is.

He sees a little guy in overalls who runs and jumps. He bumps blocks and sometimes lands on Goombas. Mostly he runs into things and falls off the screen.

Button just wants to play with a toy.

If he keeps wanting to play games as he gets older, he’ll probably get a little better and want to do more of what the game asks of him. He’ll feel more of the tug-of-war between skill and desire.

For now, it’s a nice reminder that games don’t have to be about 100% completion, speed runs, or tournament play.

Many things can be fun in the moment, taken on their own terms. Finding joy in the doing, not the striving or the achieving.

Thinking about teaching perspectives

A flawed teacher leads students to believe that they will suffer the same way the teacher suffered, and that there’s no alternative.

A good teacher helps students learn to overcome the same challenges they themself once faced.

A great teacher prepares students to deal with challenges the teacher may not have personally experienced, but knows are possible.