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David’s Latest Manifesto

So, there are some things I should think about:

  • I am a natural-born hacker. It’s completely natural for me to find escape hatches within systems, and exploit them to my advantage.
  • I also design systems. I’m good at this. I can’t stop designing them, here in my head where I live.
  • But I cannot design a system that I cannot hack. It’s not possible.
  • Being a hacker is a major strength for me. Being unwilling/unable to be constrained long-term is a major strength for me.
  • It is therefore illogical for me to be upset that I cannot design a system that will successfully constrain my future self. Of course I can’t. It will never happen. I’ll just do something else. Anything else. I might as well try to be happy about this. It is what it is.
  • I have quite often, and perhaps always, been primarily driven by a sense of responsibility to others. It is highly unlikely that I will ever be able to “tune people out” or become indifferent to their presence. Or their perceived needs, regardless of who’s doing the perceiving.
  • Habits are systems. My only enduring habit, and one of which I should be proud, is that I tend to escape from systems. This is not actually optional for me. So, habits will not save the day. For me.
  • My energy levels are adversely affected by un-discharged responsibility.
  • My energy levels are adversely affected when I judge myself harshly for the “crime” of failing to remain constrained within a system. Or a plan. Note: these are the same thing. Plans suck donkey balls, for me. Most likely they always will, and I need to move past the idea that they might be useful.
  • I cannot shut people out in order to escape from them. Even attempting this sets up massive cognitive dissonance. People must actually be absent, or undemanding, or both–and even then I may not be able to focus on imaginary realms. This will always be true. Doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of it.
  • I cannot force myself to act/write/imagine via the exercise of willpower. Perhaps briefly, sure, but in the absence of a crisis this is essentially pointless. It neither scales nor persists.
  • My creative energy is recharged when I am truly alone, thinking my own thoughts. I know of nothing else that works. I am not strongly motivated (to write fiction) by external pressures or rewards. Instead, pressures and rewards get in the way of the stories.
  • I am INCAPABLE of forming a habit of obedience or compliance. Even to my own desires or goals. I will always seek Exit. Pretending otherwise is unhelpful now, and always will be.

Therefore there is no writing system or writing schedule that will always work for me. Screw ’em all. In an ideal situation, in which I might actually write a story…

  • I will feel free to do as I choose, in the moment, as moments occur.
  • I will not feel constrained to do as others wish, or react to their existence.
  • I will not feel constrained to remain within the same location, however that is defined.
  • I will not attempt to reach any sort of scalable/measurable goal. Thus, word counts, hours spent writing, novels published, and all other metrics must be eschewed.
  • If I am writing, it must be because–in that moment–it is what I want to do, for its own sake.

Sounds…idealist. Obviously. But that’s the thing: I need to respect my own boundaries. I need to understand that I can never set up a system for myself that will continue to work over time. Nor can I successfully tolerate any sort of accountability based on obligations to other people–not as motivation for writing fiction, anyway. The obligation weighs too heavily, making “escape” into fictional realms very close to impossible for me. Other people are far more important to me than fiction. Fiction can only happen in the absence of their needs. If I were the sort of writer who could write to a plan, and only needed to put in the hours, it would be different. But I’m not. I feel my way, as I go. It’s only optional in the sense that I can either do it my way or fail to write at all. Writing to a plan sounds great in theory. In practice, my brain utterly stalls.

Given all the above? I need time for myself. I need to be able to shut myself away from others, with full understanding by all parties that this time is to be inviolate.

That time is not necessarily “for writing”: that time is for me. Chances are good that I will use some of it for writing. But if I want to think instead, or play solitaire, that’s fine. Writing also happens in the back of the mind. It requires downtime, as well as effort. General happiness also requires both energy and downtime.

If I want to sit or pace in the office, that’s okay. Back yard? Fine. Go somewhere in the car? Sounds good.

Naturally, all this will work better the more I can keep others from interrupting me. Thus: no phone calls, few texts, probably shouldn’t check email, and so on. I will, however, flagrantly stomp all over those rules from time to time. I will not even attempt to do any of the above every day. There is no opportunity to form a habit anyway. Time is just time. It comes, goes, and flows as it will. I can be receptive, to myself, or not.

There is a difference between (a) attempting to maximize my productivity and (b) attempting to appear busy. I would choose to maximize productivity. But I can’t coerce it from myself via butt-in-chair death marches, or regular scheduled writing, timed “sprints,” or any other method of which I’m aware. Not for long enough to matter. I have to be me. Whenever possible. If I cannot get this time alone, the time I need, it is natural that I will also not write stories. I owe significant stretches of time to myself. I will either honor that, or not, and the consequences will fall out as they should.

To anyone but me, this probably sounds self-indulgent as all fucking hell. Maybe to me too. But that can’t be allowed to matter. It’s still what I need. As far as “results” go…well, to a large extent results are irrelevant. I truly believe this is the best approach I can come up with. There may well be results, which may be good. But I cannot focus on that end of things. Not during me-time, at least. Maybe not ever. If this is the best I can do, it’s what I need to do.

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