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The Tinkered Mind

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November 11th, 2022

For about one thousand two hundred days, Tinkered Thinking was a river of content. A post and a podcast every day. And then the river ran dry. Not because inspiration was lacking but simply because another project got kicked into high gear during its final mile before launch. 

The river ran dry because a hiatus turned into an antihabit. This was also the fateful juncture where I decided to A/B test my life regarding a meditation habit, and reinstalling that habit in my life proved much more difficult than I anticipated. I quite literally had to build a new habit tracking framework into the forthcoming meditation app in order to solve my problem of building back up my meditative practice. So while the experience was very illuminating and yielded some potentially invaluable innovation, it definitely wasn’t comfortable. 

Another thing that has remained uncomfortable is the absence of writing in my life. The Lucilius Parables were generating themselves for a while… but the antihabit of not writing every day seems to have gained its inflection point and now the usual bullshit rationalizations that accompany a mind now accustomed to not pushing itself in some particular area are constant. 

Most rationalizations are merely psychological mechanisms for fast tracking towards emotional stasis. They are elaborate excuses to not do something. There’s likely a pretty good evolutionary reason for this. It’s just easier: a little self-deception is just more efficient than refusing to acquiesce to one’s own bullshit and demanding the extra mile. There’s quite literally less energy expenditure. But as with most things in life, this only makes sense in the short term. In the longer term the variables flip positions. Going the extra mile often invigorates the body, mind and spirit in a way that makes an additional mile possible, if not downright attractive. This counter-intuitive law seems to exist everywhere. Even this very post: I didn’t plan to go in this direction. I envisioned something much shorter, but the simple act of getting started generates momentum which can then be used to cover more ground than initially envisioned. It’s fascinating how consistent effort compounds due to the caching mechanism of momentum…

It’s a toss up which is harder: getting started or staying consistent. Perhaps that’s not the right dichotomy. Perhaps consistency is just a matter of getting started every day. Just focus on getting started each day.

So where now for Tinkered Thinking? Well for now it’s just a matter of (re)starting. I’ve A/B tested my life enough with and without writing and it’s definitely better when I’m writing everyday, however useless or low-quality it is. I was rationalizing that I want to keep writing until I have 5 volumes of Lucilius Parables but that was a rationalization that missed the real point, and it’s totally counter to the original strategy and philosophy that got me to 3.5 volumes of short stories in the first place. I was never aiming for finished books. I just wanted to write everyday. Because I like it, and it feels healthy in a brain-cleaning sort of way. It’s harder to believe your own bullshit if you’re actually reading it.*

Again, the momentum of this post has taken me to an unexpected place. This is what I love about writing. I had a vague idea about laying out a plan for the future of Tinkered Thinking, but instead it’s been an exercise in incentive-cleansing. The question was: what am I doing here on Tinkered Thinking? And through the process of busting out a couple of paragraphs I realized I was asking the wrong question. A better one is: Why does Tinkered Thinking exist?

This makes me curious about the relationship between incentives and questions. No doubt there’s a couple decent posts probably wrapped up in attempts to explore this curiosity. But hey, let’s try a one liner about it and say: The right question can realign incentives by reorganizing the reasons we do things. Bleh. That feels obvious in light of the last paragraph. So I’ll copy and paste the first sentence of this paragraph and leave it for myself as mental-bait for tomorrow’s post. Hmm. Mental Bait. There’s a post in that concept too…I suppose a good writing habit is much like a great conversation: constantly jumping around leaving loose ends that we can always return to in order to make even more cross-connections during the conversation. Writing is just a conversation that you have with yourself. There’s a post there too…

Unwittingly, this post seems to be arming my writing habit with the energy and bait to live on through tomorrow. It’s as though the latent and unrealized desire to just spitball words at the universe is desperately trying to capitalize on this fleeting opportunity. Like a wily lover playfully stealing a possession in order to guarantee a future reunion. Oh, you left your hoodie! Mmhm. Yeah, ok, I’ll be back tomorrow.

The question does occur to me if a dedication to original incentives is incompatible with some planning and goal-aiming. For example, there’s a novella with Lucilius at it’s heart which has been outlined and drafted for a couple years now, but the project has stagnated. I’ve accidentally written additional collections of short stories on the fly, but I haven’t been able to make this dumb little novella materialize. There’s also the content for the meditation app The Tinkered Mind (by the way, I’m not super crazy about the name, so if someone has an idea for a better name, my DM’s are always open on the bird app). Creation of this content has been intermittent, which is a problem.

There’s a combination of problems here, but when viewed correctly askance, they resolve as solutions for one another. I have a whole bunch of writing content that I’ve wanted to work on, and I’ve also been wanting to restart a writing habit? Well that sounds impressively dumb. Funny how so many of our problems are really just Rubber Ducky problems: issues that are remarkably easy to solve if we just externalize our thinking, either by talking to someone or by writing. What was that bit about believing one’s own bullshit? Most issues aren’t even problems, we just feel a certain way and it’s the feeling that needs to change. The actual issue often has a mindnumpingly straight forward answer - uhhh, just do the thing? ( I’m looking at you productivity hackers: you’re all snake oil salesmen selling elaborate forms of procrastination garnished with good feelings. )

So I’ll be changing up exactly what I post on Tinkered Thinking. Daily musings will certainly continue, but I’m also going to use it as a drafting table for the content I’m talking about. Just as I challenged myself to write a short story every Sunday, I’ll augment this original (and highly effective) challenge by having one story a month be a chapter from the novella I’ve referred to. And at least once a week, I will post a draft of content intended for the meditation app. Perhaps on Mondays. “Monday Meditations” has that kitschy ring to it that makes me chuckle at its inanity. This altered strategy also gives me a bunch of breathing room regarding the difficulty of jumpstarting a habit: a lot of this content is drafted, so on days when I’m struggling to find motivation, I can post something from these nascent bodies of work to get my brain rolling in the right direction. 

So. Let’s see what happens to a dead river when we through a little rain at it…

*This does not appear to be true for many people on Twitter.

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