This is Hubris: 31 January 2021 edition, the newsletter where I have the audacity to think I’ve written something worth reading.
Hubris: 31 January 2021
Someone said something incredibly powerful to me the other day. They said that my anxiety stems from trying to think my way out of problems. I’m not being present in the moment, seeing the actions available to me now. Instead, I’m looking at all of the possibilities and permutations, and trying to formulate a plan to deal with each and every one of them.
It is the most true statement anyone has ever spoken about me.
This week I started going through the apartment and gathering up things we never use. Of course, I run everything that’s common property past Katie first. I’m not touching any of her things. Mostly I’m ditching a lot of kitchen stuff we’ve inherited. There are a lot of dishes and cookware we don’t use. I’ve cleared my closet of clothes I never wear.
Next I need to go through office supplies. Pens I don’t use. Notebooks with information I don’t need to keep. Things that are useful, but have not been and will never be useful for me. Fortunately, there are places where this can be donated. It’s easier to get rid of things when you know they won’t just go to waste.
At some point we’re going to move. Whether it’s to a slightly larger apartment here in town, to another country, or back to the United States, I don’t know. Nor do I know when. With so many things outside of my control, I need to focus on what’s in my control. And that’s the fact that even though I don’t own much, I still own too much stuff.
Shifting Toward Essays
Saying one wants to be an essayist in 2021 is a lot like saying you intend to become a blacksmith. There’s not a lot of call for it, so the few big gigs are filled by the best of the best. People look at you as if you’re crazy when you say it’s something you want to do.
When I revamped the site, I said I was cutting the blog back to this weekly newsletter and periodic essays. It’s the essays that I most enjoy writing. I am keenly aware of how mediocre I am in this field, but I want to be good at it. This year, I’m going to put effort into it.
Against all odds and sage advice I figured out a way to make a modest living in my current publishing niche. A small and specialized field where people constantly complain that it’s impossible to earn enough to live on. Surely I can find a way to make this work.
Negotiating with Myself
Last week I talked about my daily bullet journal categories. Write, read, research, web, journal, clean. For each category I pick from 1 to 3 tasks for the day, depending on how big those tasks are. What I didn’t get into was the reason I do this. It’s about negotiation and failing forward.
Say I’m supposed to be laying down word count for the work-in-progress, and my mind starts to wander. Which happens to everyone, but I have cognitive function issues, so I’m going to assume it’s a little bit worse for me. If I can’t focus, or I just need to do something else for a little bit, I can switch over to something else in the list.
This serves two purposes. One, it keeps me from mindlessly surfing the internet. I’m not seeking distraction on YouTube or getting sucked into something on Netflix. Two, I’m giving myself permission to do something else. As long as it’s on my list, I don’t beat myself up about it. I’m not writing, but I’m reading a book, or cleaning out a drawer, or outlining next week’s newsletter. It’s still productive.
I’ve found that when I give myself the leeway to do something else, in this controlled fashion, it’s easier to get everything done in a day. I know which tasks take priority (writing; it’s always writing) and I always get back to it. Not putting pressure on myself to have to focus allows me to relax so that I can concentrate and get back to my core work.