This Machine Gets in its Own Way and Eventually Needs to Reboot
There’s something John Green said about his book, The Anthropocene Reviewed, that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately:
“I wrote the book because I wanted to write my way back to wonder, and hope, and sustained attention, and it gave me that gift…”John Green – YouTube – Saying What I’ve Needed to Say to Hank for a While
That video is on a YouTube playlist I have called “Watch When Sad.” If you’re not familiar with the work of Hank and John Green, I would highly recommend checking them out. A Google search will give you as much info as you’d like without me taking up too much more of the attention you’re still graciously giving me, so I won’t wax poetic here about how awesome they are. Although I definitely could.
The attention thing isn’t a non-sequitur–you know me better than to think I would ever drift off-topic–but we’ll come back to that.
Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that I haven’t posted here in a little over 4 years. I recently caught up with somebody I hadn’t talked to in even longer than that, and at one point one of us asked the other how they had been doing. We both recognized the humor immediately. It’s like asking somebody how their marathon was.
Oh yeah, I ran a marathon. That’s a thing that happened. Somebody said to me, “How was it?” And I was like, “It was…long. It was a lot of things. It was fun, and weird, and interesting, and exciting, and painful, and it sucked, and it was triumphant.”
Alright, Josh, let’s stay on topic, shall we? In the time since I last wrote here, I became a pretty serious runner (did I mention that I ran a marathon? I ran a marathon!) and then also fell out of the habit and at this point would probably struggle to complete a 10k.
Life is weird.
I’ve been trying to get back into the habit of running regularly, and really struggling to do so. Back when I was running most days, if I went for a long run, even by myself, it was pretty easy for me. Don’t misunderstand: a longer run would be physically difficult, but the mental effort I needed for it was easy. It wasn’t any trouble to find things to notice and be interested in, sometimes experience monotony but be OK with it, and spend maybe hours alone with my own thoughts — often these things were even pleasant.
These days, I’ve mostly been running in my neighborhood or on my treadmill and getting bored to tears, utterly unable to be present in the moment. Last week I tried to break out of it by going somewhere I really loved to run. So I dug out my running gear, drove over to my favorite park, and set out. And I quickly got bored. All I could think about was the other things I needed to get done, what I wanted to watch on Netflix later, work the next day, blah blah blah. It was frustrating. At this point it’s easy to feel like I’m not much of a runner.
But then I think about the fact that I went almost 30 years without being a runner, until I worked to become one. I’ve done this before. I’ve done it multiple times, with different things.
I wasn’t always a writer. The argument could be made that I’m not one now, I guess. But then, here I am: tap tap tapping away once again, this time at my kitchen island instead of a coffee shop. And this time looking over at a bowl of cereal and my water bottle instead of the plate of crumbs left over from a huge scone.
Life is weird.
I think one of the major things that has changed for me now is that my capacity to obsess has diminished. I once wrote in this blog something like “either I write regularly, or I don’t get to call myself a writer. That’s it.” And I think that kind of draconian, no-days-off, all-go, no-quit approach worked for me back then. But as my current definition of the phrase “long run” (and my current word count) demonstrate, it wasn’t sustainable in the long term.
That’s a little bit of a bummer, because a more tempered approach is going to yield slower progress. But then I guess all progress is incremental. Even big milestones had lots of incremental steps that led up to them. And they’re called milestones. It’s right there in the name–a goal and a step all wrapped up into one word. Huh.
So now I’m trying to balance my desire to re-establish and solidify the habits that have been so positive and rewarding in my life with a need to not be mean to myself. I’m just now remembering that I used to have the “You want to work here? Close.” speech from Glen Gary Glen Ross as my alarm sound. Jeez. I wonder why so much of my self-worth is tied to what I produce.
Anyway, I think that any kind of sustained attention (see? Everything is related. It all comes full circle…) is probably a good way to start. So I’m going to try blogging regularly again. The details of what that is going to look like will probably become clearer in the next few days or weeks. Because, you know, planning to make a plan is always an effective way of accomplishing goals, right?
But seriously: let’s just see what happens!
A quick note about this entry: Writing casually and publishing off-the-cuff does not come easy to me. I don’t want to be overestimate the usual quality of my writing on this blog, but this entry is certainly a bit rough. I mentioned that I haven’t posted in four years, but in that time I’ve started a bunch of drafts. They all remain unpublished. In an effort to help myself get back into the habit of writing here regularly, I think I need to be a little less obsessive about the entries before I publish them, at least for a while. Hopefully the quality won’t suffer too much!
Regardless, I am grateful to all who read this blog. Thank you for coming on this journey with me, however halting and frustratingly incremental it may often be.
Thank you for reading. Have a great day.
More to follow.