Mental Seasons

I’m over the forced one hour of journaling. I’d been a good experiment but it’s becoming an impediment now. I need to recognize that my thinking is moving into a different season. It’s far more important for me to allow myself to write in shorter more fragmented bursts. I continually go through these phases, or seasons, but this is the first time that I’m actually taking notice of them. I wonder if there is any correlation with the actual seasons. Is my mind more conducive to long continuous stream-of-consciousness journaling in the autumn & winter? Am I more focused on short fragments and making connections in the spring and summer? I would not be surprised by this at all knowing how the weather affects me in so many other mental and emotional ways. The most likely outcome for forcing myself to journal for one hour bursts is that I will actually quit all together before I reach 66 days (which is entirely arbitrary now anyhow.) I find it simultaneously easy and difficult to recognize when to force myself to maintain a goal and when to let it go. I think it’s just about how I feel when I’m done with each repetition. How do I feel after forcing myself to sit down and write for exactly an hour? If I feel good, like I conquered something, then I’m doing a good thing. I’m displaying grit. I’m facing laziness and apathy. But if I feel like shit after I finish; if I’m more frustrated than when I started; if I start hating the whole process, then something is wrong. It’s time to adapt. It’s time to listen to myself. It’s time to listen to the ache before it become a pain. With a week left I’m starting to journal later and later in the day. I’m starting to dread the hour of blocked time. This is the flashing neon sign. EXIT. If I listen now then I can adapt and alter and find a way to propel forward with this new energy that is burgeoning. If I hold out and ignore the suffering that I’m creating then I will burn out and quit. I won’t make it. And I won’t care.

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Let’s Get Deliberate

I’m definitely rebelling. 8:09 pm and I’m just sitting down to journal now. I think this is actually a healthy sign in that what I’m craving is a purpose for when I sit down to write. The time for Abandon is passing. I’m craving structure and reasons for doing the writing. I believe this is a development. I’ve gotten over my fear to start writing again. Additionally, the practice of free writing is now a tool in my arsenal. This means that I can follow the more purpose-driven path for as long as it is fruitful and when it passes, I can move back into a free writing mode. I never again need to go through periods of no writing at all. The enemy. it turns out, is not bad writing, the enemy is no writing.

One of my favorite quotes on writing comes from Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life:


A work in progress quickly becomes feral. It reverts to a wild state overnight. It is barely domesticated, a mustang on which you one day fastened a halter, but which now you cannot catch. It is a lion you cage in your study. As the work grows, it gets harder to control; it is a lion growing in strength. You must visit it every day and reassert your mastery over it. If you skip a day, you are, quite rightly, afraid to open the door to its room. You enter its room with bravura, holding a chair at the thing and shouting, “Simba!”

I also need to remember that this journaling was never intended to primarily be about the writing craft itself. Rather it was more about all the other things that sprout from the daily practice. I’m wondering now roughly how many words the three prescribed pages in morning pages actually are. Maybe Julia Cameron had it right in setting that as the bare minimum. I think after next Friday I will aim for that three page threshold instead of an hour and see how it works.

Also, how the hell did I forget all the lessons I learned about blocking the same time every day? The practice became automatic when I was doing it at the exact time every day. I didn’t have to put any thought into it. For the past few days, that’s what my struggle has been over, not if I will do it but when. If I remove that from the equation again, I believe I will fall back into the phase where this whole thing was easy. It’s just like what I wrote a few days ago, “…I simply need to create systems of automation that actively remove my volition.”

On another note, before sitting down to write this I did something that I haven’t done in a very long time, I played my acoustic guitar and sang along. I wasn’t playing or singing anything in particular but just trying to separate the neural pathways for singing and for playing. It’s something that I’ve struggled with for decades but was unwilling to put in the extremely frustrating effort to work out. I think I made a breakthrough tonight. I small one, but it happened because I was determined to do nothing by that one thing. This is what people like Anders Ericsson, Cal Newport, Thomas M. Sterner call “deliberate practice.”

What’s funny about deliberate practice is that every time I hear or think that phrase I picture a guitar player trying to learn a tricky new lick. He’s doing the same lick over and over, starting slow and getting a little faster every time. He continues to push himself to do it a little more rapidly than he can competently do it. Eventually, he masters it.

The reason this is funny to me is that I’m not making it up. It’s something I think I’ve seen, though I’m pretty sure I’ve never watched a video or documentary specifically on deliberate practice. This means that it’s an anecdote from one of the many books I’ve read that have covered the topic. That image is so strong that 1) I feel like I’ve actually seen it & 2) I think of it every time the topic comes to mind. That’s powerful! If only I could remember what author to credit with it!

I’m confronted here with the strange way my that brain works, or more specifically, with the strange way that my brain works on journaling. Several paragraphs ago when I switched to talking about playing my guitar I thought I was moving on to a completely separate topic than my journaling progress, yet here I am talking about deliberate practice. Without knowing it at the time, deliberate practice is exactly what I was getting at when I was trying to explain the type of writing that I’m now craving.

For 57 days I have been free writing for an hour every day. This is the equivalent of picking up my guitar for 30 years wishing I could sing and play at the same time. Until I made a deliberate choice to practice that one thing, I remained stuck. For nearly two months, I’ve been journaling aimlessly, which has given me the ability to turn off the internal censor, but now I’m ready to practice with deliberate purpose. I’m ready to employ my skill strategically.

I don’t know what that looks like but I think the use of the Daily Self Inventory is a good place to start. I’m also drawn to the idea of reading my old journals to surface questions out of them. I would then use those questions as writing prompts. There are things to be said, but telling myself that I don’t know what they are, is the same thing as saying that I can’t sing and play. It’s not true. I just need to exert effort. (I’m also feeling a strong pull toward my novel right now.)


Side note: moving my journals from paper to Roam Research has been great for context. If I thought of a related quote when I was journaling on paper I would either have to stop journaling, walk away, and look up that quote if I wanted to use it, or I’d have to say screw it. I always opted for screwing it. The momentum of a journal is more important than pulling up a quote. But, with Roam I can just type (( and it will pull up block search, the I can type in the few words from the quote that I remember, and BAM there it is right in line. No loss of momentum. This exactly what I did with the Annie Dillard quote above. The word I remembered was “Simba!”


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Want Wins

With every passing day, I’m starting to understand the 66-day median when creating a new habit. I have 10 days left before I reach this threshold and today has honestly been one of the most difficult days to get in chair and journal. I feel like I’m rebelling. And I keep thinking about something I read in Mason Currey’s Daily Rituals: How Artists Work in which Joseph Heller says he doesn’t beat himself up if doesn’t write every day. That is a dangerous thing to let into my brain when I’m trying to build a habit. My brain is lazy by nature, and it will take a small thing like that and build it out into an elaborate justification to quit.

Obviously, if I’m writing this I’m not going to quit. No matter what. I will write for one hour a day until March 26th. That’s a commitment I made to myself. But I am curious if I will continue after that. I’ve discovered a lot of things through the process so far:

  • I can write every day and not run out of things to write about
  • The internal censor can be shut off
  • I’ve been making a bigger deal out of blogging than I needed to
  • My handwriting is atrocious unless I slow down
  • I’m decent at touch-typing but I need much more faith in the process. I don’t look at the keyboard because I’m unaware of where the keys are, I look at the keyboard because I don’t trust that I know where the keys are.
  • It takes a very long time to build a habit

Not only does it take a long time to build a habit, but a long time of repetitious action is not guaranteed to build a habit. Next Friday I will cross the 66-day threshold and I’m not sure what will happen after that. (I certainly intend to continue writing daily but I suspect I will not aim for an allotted period of time or a specified word count.)

Going back even further I can look to 2016 when I was vlogging on YouTube. I recorded, edited, and posted a video every day for 200 days. Even if I was traveling. Even if I was sick. Even if I was drunk. But even 200 days did not mean I’d built a habit. I burned out and quit. I never looked back. Five years later and the idea of editing video still turns me off.

There is something I failed to consider when thinking about habit-building: proper fit. Am I actually building a habit that fits who I am and what I want? Am I actually building a habit that benefits me? Am I actually building the habit I want?

That last one is a weird one because it draws a line between what we think we want (or should want) and what we truly want. If you asked me eight years ago if I wanted to build a daily jogging habit, my answer would have been yes. Of course, I would say that. It’s what I was supposed to say. It’s what I was supposed to want. But, it wasn’t what I wanted. What I wanted was to be skinny with no work; to be skinny without sweating. What I wanted was to get thin while smoking cigarettes, drinking lots of IPAs, and never ever running. 

When we struggle with a habit what we are facing is the truth of our desires. From the first day that I started smoking, I would say I wanted to quit every time I started coughing. You know the words. You’ve probably said them yourself. “I know. I should. I want to.” But that wasn’t the truth for me. I absolutely did not want to quit smoking. What I wanted was to quit coughing. What I wanted was to keep smoking without having consequences for smoking. And that’s what I created. I continued to smoke for 18 years but pretending there weren’t consequences; by ignoring them. My true desire was to smoke cigarettes. 

Then one day in 2014 that changed. I actually wanted to quit. I wanted it completely. So I did. I stopped smoking. I quit. I picked the habit up again a week later and smoked half a cigarette. What I discovered as I dragged on the cigarette was I didn’t want it. I thought I did. I asked for one because I was convinced I wanted it, but with every drag, I kept hearing “nope” in my head. After enough of those nopes I realized “Hey, I don’t really want this thing.” So I stamped it out and then I was done. I was no longer a smoker. In the seven years since that day I haven’t had a cigarette or even a drag. Not out of willpower but out of disinterest. I didn’t do anything special, I just actually truly wanted to quit, so I did.

My recent experiments with jogging (see Body Kinks and Jogging Fears) show something very different. They show my rising desire to jog. I’ve never had that desire before in my life but then suddenly one day there it was. It’s not moral superiority. It’s not willpower. It’s just the alignment of what you want. It’s a true fit.

A true fit is a peculiar thing because a true fit is easy. There is no resistance. It’s what you want to do; what you really want to do, so you do it. I jog short distances on my walks because I enjoy it. No other reason. I’ve made no bargains with myself. I haven’t set goals. It simply happens. A similar thing happened with flossing many years back, after a youth of struggling with the habit one day I started wanted to do it and I haven’t had to think about it since. (It bears saying that I’m not prescribing anything here. I’m simply trying to unravel my personal experiences. I am acutely aware that things like alcohol dependency and mental disorders involve many more factors than something as simple as a true fit of one’s desires.)

This is probably a shitty thing to read for people struggling with habits. But what I’m saying is that when we struggle with habits it’s not the habits we struggle with, it’s the truth of our intentions. We aren’t being honest with ourselves. We continually try to shoehorn ourselves into behaviors we wish we had; behaviors we wish we wanted. So we have to battle. We have to lie to ourselves. We have to trick ourselves. We have to create elaborate systems. We have to buy books and hire gurus. We have to force ourselves. We have to suffer. But regardless of what we do, repetition will never alter desire. The only thing that alters desire is having it. We can’t fake our way to it.

Today, like most Americans, I received $1400 from the government. By 11 am I paid $1100 to the bills I’d fallen behind on due to COVID, and then I went to the store and spent $154 on three bags of healthy food. I didn’t even think about it. I didn’t debate. I didn’t weigh whether I should buy a new computer. I didn’t consider doing anything frivolous with the money. Not because I’m a good person. Not because I’m responsible. But because I wanted to. I wanted to be square with my bills. I wanted the stress to go away. I wanted them to stop calling me. And I wanted food that I could feel good about pigging out on. That’s it. Want wins.

What we often refer to as “habits we want” are just aspirations. These are the things we wish we did so that we could be the type of person that does them. In a recent episode of The Talk Show with John Gruber, the host asks his guest John Siracusa. If he ever wished he still wrote his yearly reviews of the Mac operating system. Siracusa’s response is that he misses the experience of having written them, but he doesn’t miss the act of actually writing them. He misses be being the person whose name is attached to the reviews, but he doesn’t miss being the person doing the work to write the reviews. This statement is incredibly insightful because it points out how ass-backward our views of habits truly are. 

We think if we suffer through something it will transform us. We think if we set twenty alarms to wake up at 4 am every day, that eventually this will change us into a person who likes getting at 4 am every day. We think if we endure we will no longer need the alarms, but we can’t whip ourselves until we want something, we have to want it first. 

Here’s the screwed-up part: I’m not sure how we go about it. Even though I’ve gone through it; even though I quit smoking, I can’t tell you how it happened. With that said, it seems to me that rather than forcing ourselves into endlessly painful routines to build habits, our time and effort would be better spend identifying what our aspirations are, why they are appealing to us, and discovering ways to actually want them. Because when we want them nothing will stop us from creating them.

I wish I could remember exactly what it was that transformed me from a smoker into a non-smoker. It’s been too long to remember what changed but if I were to guess, it was fears over the health of my heart. That was about the time that I first started to experience regular panic attacks and I think they scared the shit out of me. I stopped being able to ignore the consequences. While the panic attacks weren’t a direct consequence of smoking, I didn’t know that at the time. All I knew was something was wrong. It’s not the best way to quit: waiting until you’re afraid that it’s too late, but you’ll take what you can get.

That’s something difficult to think about, isn’t it? How do we learn to want something? It’s not about how many days it takes or what affirmations I need to say, it’s about wanting. So, how do we build a ferocious hunger for something inside of ourselves? And can we?


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Freeze-Ray of Debt and Despair

I finally sat down to tally my monthly expenses. I found that I will have less disposable income than I thought—which is not to say that I’m worried about “fun money” but rather that I will be paying my debts off 50% slower than I was hoping to. Don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely grateful to again 1) pay my bills in full every month and 2) have enough money left over to make payments toward my debt. Unfortunately, I am worried still worried because slow debt payment can be debilitating. It takes so long that you stop thinking it’s important and you start allocated less and less toward it. It also means that I will have less flexibility. If an unexpected bill comes up, like the crown that I need right, I’ll have no money to put toward debt reduction for a month or two. This is how you get stuck in a situation where you are frozen in your debt. But I’m doing my best to focus on gratitude for having survived the financial tsunami that hit me in 2020.

I definitely need to focus on gratitude. I’m not sure why, but some of my anxiety has been bubbling up lately. If I don’t head that off at the pass, it may overtake me again (which scares the hell out of me.) There is an excellent episode of The Blindboy Podcast called Fanta Hammer, where Blindboy talks about preventing his anxiety and depression. 

Before listening to this, I never considered this possibility. For most of my life, I, like many people, operated on the assumption that anxiety and depression were like storms. They just happened sometimes, they were beyond our control, and the best we could do was to find healthy ways to weather them. But Blindboy makes a very strong argument for root causes. He argues that flare-ups are precipitated by smalls actions or lacks in action from the preceding months. He beautifully breaks down what a gestalt is (which is quite difficult to do.) I will forgo trying to re-say what has already been said well, instead I’ll explain in the context of a real-life situation.

I have yet to do my 2020 taxes. It’s on my to-do list. I see it every day and I avoid it. I avoid it because until today I didn’t have the money to pay for my CPA to do the taxes. I’m still avoiding it because I also need to have a crown put on my fractured tooth. I don’t have money for both. So rather than making a choice, I’m sitting on them; I’m avoiding them. (This is classic depressive behavior—hope things will go away.) This creates an incomplete gestalt and that lack of completion; that lingering choice will fester over time. The more I wait, the more the stakes raise. And over time this will lead to me avoid other things that stress me out. I will avoid them because of a form of fatigue—the fatigue that comes from an incomplete gestalt. For as long as I avoid my taxes and the crown they will weigh on me, and with each additional thing I avoid (like going through my mail or fixing my chair) the weight will only grow heavier. One small avoidance eventually snowballs into full-blown anxiety and depression.

This explains why the daily self-inventory I used to do would help me when I felt about to spin out of control. Rather than feeling constantly behind on things, the self-inventory forced me to be on point. In turn, being on point lead to healthier thought patterns—because let’s be honest the things we say to ourselves when avoid things aren’t kind (“Loser!” “Worthless.” “Bag of shit.” ) The sooner we stop feeding those voice the sooner we are freed from them.

The Daily Self Inventory

  • What are three memorable moments from your day?
  • What was your focus/preoccupation today?
  • What things worked in your favor?
  • What things did not work in your favor?
  • What wasted your time and gave you little value?
  • What goal did you work toward and how?
  • Kaizen; what little things can you do to improve upon today?
  • Did you have any big ideas?
  • What did you eat?
  • Did you drink enough water?
  • Did you exercise?
  • Did you meditate?
  • Did you read a book?
  • What did you do for others? If nothing, what prevented you?
  • What are three things you’re grateful for today?
  • What could make tomorrow great (dream big and crazy)?
  • Check your inboxes and communications for tasks or promises you made
  • Plan your day for tomorrow

What’s useful to me about this list is that it doesn’t cover just one area. I made it intending to cover mood, mindset, productivity, health, and mindfulness because they’re all connected. Is your mindset really healthy if you mediate but forget to pay your rent? Are you healthy if you jog but you allow the same obstacles to impede you over and over without crafting a solution? Are you really present if you can think of three things you to be grateful for but you’ve managed to go through the whole day without doing something for someone other than yourself?

Yeah, the more I write about this, the more I realize that I’m talking to myself. I’m convincing myself that I need this right now. I need to go back to doing this every day. I think I’ve been hiding from it because I’m scared to see how far off-track I am, but I felt the same way about tallying my expenses. It’s like ripping off a band-aid. It’s terrifying but it feels better once you can see it for what it is. Ha! Wow! I didn’t realize that this connected to yesterday’s entry. I guess the idea of externalizing things and seeing their shape is more universal than I thought.


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Obstacles of the day

a.k.a. reasons I could avoid sitting down to write

  1. It’s cold and I just don’t want to move, which also means I don’t want to think
  2. The incessant leaf-blowing going on outside my window
  3. The little boy next door who screams like he’s being skinned alive
  4. The return last night of the skipping heartbeat sensation
  5. The annoyance that two clients have yet to pay invoices 
  6. The stress of phone calls from creditors who I’ll gladly pay when my invoices are payed
  7. The feeling that everything I do is for nothing
  8. The lack of confidence I have in my last podcast episode
  9. COVID-19

I could go on and on. That’s the problem with this kind of thinking. I don’t even have an accurate word for it, but I do know that something happens when I start listing these thoughts out; when I put them in the spotlight. I wouldn’t call it a cure. I would maybe call it shaming my fears; exposing them and seeing if they can stand up to scrutiny.

  1. It’s only across the room. And if I avoid sitting or lying in one spot where I get overly comfortable then there is less pull on me. It’s easy to avoid not wanting to get up by simply not getting down in the first place.
  2. earplugs
  3. earplugs
  4. Get good sleep. Avoid sugar. Relieve stress. Hug my dog. This is how I overcame this last year. I know the formula, I just need to follow it.
  5. They will pay, I’m just being impatient because I want to pay these creditors. I hate being past due.
  6. See above.
  7. This is just how I feel. I go through this often. Ride the wave.
  8. Focus on the next one, not the one that’s already done.
  9. Do I have a cure? Can I find the cure? No. Then shut the fuck up and feel shitty about it like everybody else.

Of the nine things, two of them are dealt with by removing the illusion of choice that I have in each. I have no control over when people pay invoices nor do I have control over COVID-19. Sitting around imagining that I do have control of those things is taking pain and transforming it into suffering.

On the other hand, to prevent the rest I simply need to create systems of automation that actively remove my volition. If I maintain good sleep, a low sugar diet, focus on stress-reducing activities, and hug my dog ten times a day, then I won’t have to deal with a tumbling chest. It simply will never arise. Every time there is noise outside the window, I should automatically reach for my earplugs. On cold days, avoid sitting still. Stay active. Keep busy. Plan a routine of activities to add on cold days, like an emergency plan. Have it pre-set and just follow it. And it the case of mood and confidence I simply have to practice acceptance. I have look forward not backwards. I have to focus on my internal motivation; on why I do things. If I enjoy something, then regardless of everything else it is not without meaning.

It seems simple but in a way, it all connects back to satisficing, which in the simplest terms is accepting what is good enough when it cannot be determined what is best. “Do I need the best pencil to write a note, or will a decent pencil do?” As Daniel J. Levitin says in his book The Organized Mind:

Satisficing is one of the foundations of productive human behavior; it prevails when we don’t waste time on decisions that don’t matter, or more accurately, when we don’t waste time trying to find improvements that are not going to make a significant difference in our happiness or satisfaction.

(p. 4)

I’m gonna drive myself crazy worrying about things that don’t really matter much in comparison with larger, more important things. And if I’m smart and I find a way to remove volition from these situations, I can save my limited supply of free will and sanity for the those important choices.


I’m hoping that writing things like this will hammer them into my brain. I keep telling myself that journals are a place where things collide, but journals are also a place where I convince myself of better truths (and yes, sometimes, better fictions.)

While I can see on a daily basis that there is a functional difference between debating something in my mind and debating it in a journal, I don’t actually understand why. While some of it certainly does relate to my ideas regarding the necessity of form, that still begs the question. If journals work because they bring our thoughts into tangible reality, and it’s useful to bring thoughts into tangible reality so that they are forced to take a shape, then why is a thought having a shape important.

We can see that a shape is important when dealing with physical reality. Of course, sculpture can only become sculpture when it leaves the mind and enters into a lump of clay, but what about thoughts? Why must thoughts be transmuted into something other than pure thought for us to process them?

I think that we can look at it as a sort of filtration process. The thought must leave the mind and becomes words on page or a screen. They must be expelled from the source. Once outside of our minds we can see them as outside of ourselves and separate from ourselves. Once externalized we can not only understand them from an observational perspective but we can shave, snip, and pound away what doesn’t belong. And then we can accept them back in.

This is very similar to one of the cognitive defusion techniques that Stephen C. Hayes recommends in his book Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life. The technique is called physicalizing:

  • take a feeling and imagine it out of your body, 4-5 feet in front of you, and place it on the floor
  • decide what shape and size this emotion would have if was a tangible object? What about color? basically imagine every psychical characteristic it would have from weight to texture
  • Try to experience the object you are imagining for what it is. This requires working out any issue that you have with it. See it for what it is.
  • Imagine picking it up and putting it back inside of you. You have to accept it for what it is and then accept it as part of you.

Is this so different from writing in my journal that “I want to be more grateful” or that “I will pay off my debt?” Doesn’t writing, and in turn reading what I’ve written put my thoughts through the same process of acceptance?

It presents interesting questions about what a thought actually is and about the existential differences between inside and outside of our minds.


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Re-reads and First-passes

I’ve recently re-subscribed to Scribd which despite its strange and unexplained rules regarding which audiobooks are available to you at a certain time does still give me access to a lot of audiobooks each month for only $10. (I would gladly pay $20 or even $30 to allow me access to all audiobooks at all times. Even at those prices I’d still be saving a fortune.)

I’m currently playing with what I call “first-pass reading.” The basic idea of the first pass is to read a book once through in a more shallow and entertainment-focused way before deciding whether it is a book worth note-taking and more careful examination.

Approaching things this way relieves me of one of my chief concerns about audiobooks: I like to listen to them while walking the dog or relaxing, but it’s kind of a hassle to do either when I’m concerned with taking notes about the books I’m listening to. With first-pass reading, I can ignore that completely and just figure out whether or not I like the book or if I find it valuable. I can then decide to move it into the re-read queue based on how important I find the information in it. “I want to know this stuff but do I want to know it right now? How about in a month? Or a year?”

Actually, as I write that, it occurs to me that I could steal a bit from GTD methodology (or maybe it’s stealing from spaced repetition) regarding my re-reads. After finishing a book I can then decide when in the future I want to approach a book for a deeper examination and then schedule it. This could be very useful for books which my opinion of may evolve over time, i.e. reading a book about the electoral college every four years, prior to the presidential election. How might the person in office alter my feelings on the subject?

Currently, the way that I approach re-reads is through the use of index cards. I have a box full of cards and on each card in the name of a book that I’ve read. On the back is a list of every year that I’ve read that book. (I find only the years matter.) I then have the box separated into four sections based on my interest in re-reading the books:

  • Section 1 – Books that I want to continually re-read and study. These are not necessarily my favorite books but rather the ones I find most valuable.
  • Section 2 – Books that I enjoyed and would like to read again.
  • Section 3 – books that I don’t feel a pressing need to re-read frequently. The difference here is just a difference in frequency with Section 2. I’m not in a rush to get back to these books even if I enjoyed them.
  • Section 4 – books I disliked or books that I don’t think would be worthwhile to re-read. (Yes, I even re-read books I didn’t like. Books deserve another chance. It’s not always the book’s fault that I didn’t like it, often it’s who I was at the time that I read it. I’m convinced that one day I will re-read Don Quixote and understand why people enjoy it. I’m just not there yet.)

The books in each section are arranged chronologically with the most recently read ones at the back and the most distantly read ones at the front. Each year I draw four cards from Section 1, three cards from Section 2, two cards from Section 3, and one card from Section 4. Then I re-read them, add a year to the back of the card, and move them to the back of the appropriate section. This is also the time when they may move between sections. Perhaps reading a Section 1 book three times is enough for a while so I may move that book to Section 2 or 3.

There’s a lot of good about this system but it relies more on the randomness of my initial chronology. For the most part, I’m continuing to re-read books in the order that I first read them. This is somewhat problematic because it may be providing a context which biases my reading. Maybe I would get more value out of re-reading Dune if I were next time to re-read it following a re-read of  The Foundations as it’s said that Frank Herbert wrote Dune as a response to Asimov’s book. This is where I think the idea of scheduling re-reads might be a valuable addition.

Another point regarding first-pass reading and the use of a service like Scribd: I will no longer waste money on books that I don’t like or books that are not what I thought they were.


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Moving Dirt to the Other Side of the Yard

Moving all my notes over to Roam Research from Obsidian is a pain in the ass. It would be a pain in the ass just to be moving notes, but it’s about ten times worse because of how I had everything split up in Obsidian to try and replicate the modularity of the block system in Roam. Not to mention the fact that I have no system in Roam whatsoever, so as I’m moving stuff over I’m continually confronted with questions like “How am I going to deal with X?” For the most part, I trying to keep things as simple as possible. No templates. None of that shit.

When using a tool like Roam Research it’s surprisingly easy to get caught up in the fantasy of building some epic database. I think in my head I’m imagining someone hovering over my shoulder while I show off my elaborate note-taking system. There are two problems with this fantasy:

  1. I’m never really going to build it up to the point where it’s impressive.
  2. Nobody thinks note-taking systems are impressive. Nobody ever wants to see your note-taking system (unless it’s on YouTube and it’s other people having the same fantasy and wanting to steal part of your fantasy.)

Here’s the truth: 95% of what I need to do every day will work with search and Roam has incredible search. So, any optimizations that I do will be to make my searches more fruitful.

I’m still kind of sad to be moving from Obsidian to Roam Research because Obsidian is so beautiful and Roam is just butt-ugly. I’m being extremely practical. For my work style, the block system in Roam cuts my efforts by about 50%. So that’s pretty hard to argue with.

Also worth noting:

  • I was using Roam Research before Obsidian
  • I switched because COVID19 made finances extremely tight and $15 was too much for me at the time.
  • The switch is a pain in the ass, but my guilty pleasure is that I enjoy it. I like having a little busy work to kick around. It gives me something to work on a little every day while I listen to podcasts and audiobooks.

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