Ideas, I’ve had a few....
A few million?
I often listen to a podcast and hear a comment or story that triggers a response, one which I’d love to discuss and/or debate with the speaker, but doing so directly is not possible. Wouldn’t my little corner of the Internet be the perfect space?
I export a link to the clip to Things, my overburdened task management app. My idealized scenario (GTD influenced) plays out as so: Later that evening, I go through my Things Inbox, find the link with the clip, and process it into a task to complete, namely, “Write post re: XXXX.” Then within the next couple days, during my allocated blog-writing period, I write a quick draft that the following day I clean-up and publish.
What a sleek., streamlined procedure. Dare I call it beautiful? So smooth. So productive. Makes perfect sense.
Ideals are such silly things. I may not remember that much from my undergraduate literary theory class, but I never forgot our ongoing discussions around the “Platonic Ideal.” In fact, as our society continues falling deeper into polarized idealogical-driven beliefs and actions—as opposed to reality-based ones—I think about my own perfectionist and idealist tendencies, especially how their primary true commonality is unachievable impossibility. Something close to my “Ideal,” sure. But “perfection”? Never.
Back to that podcast clip: Achieving that idealized process consistently actually isn’t that hard. The steps—aside from the actual writing, I suppose—are not so cumbersome. And yet, almost inevitably, when I send that link from my Overcast app to Things, I may as well have tossed it into a black hole, but a special one that taunts me by allowing me some ability to see inside and consider the idea, even as the gravitational force remains too strong for me to fully retrieve and act upon it..
The ideas that I force myself to sit, focus, and expel onto my digital page only to ... run out of time. I don’t finish even a quick draft. Duties of the day and other events interrupt my flow, and returning to it later or the next day feels Herculean.
Maybe I actually finished a draft, the rushing river has arrived at its serene terminus—let’s say, a lake?—and it’s all there, just not clean or coherent enough. Too often, once I leave the keyboard, diving back into that freezing, glacier-fed water to complete something I consider readable—or at the very least, not embarrassing—becomes too high a hurdle.
If I can’t scale The Wall from Game of Thrones all at once, I too often don’t return to the headspace of wanting to climb it all. Of course this contradicts my inherent consciousness of never doing performing well—much less extraordinarily—without ongoing work, adjustment, and improvement. I want to see myself ascending The Wall in the manner of those insane climbers who attach a tent halfway up an enormous rock face so they can calmly (while suspended hundreds of feet high) take the necessary rest break before finishing the next day.
I doubt I need to explain why finishing any larger projects—i.e., screenplays and such—has proved even harder, especially once I have a “complete” draft that requires a lengthy rewriting/editing undertaking.
When I began this post, before its introduction morphed into yesterday’s, and the preceding paragraphs also transformed into their current state, I planned for this space to briefly comment on the contents of all those “Unfinished OOF Drafts”. Some of these files contain lengthy pieces that I never realized I had left unfinished.
For example, start near the bottom, traveling back to Oct. 2012 with “Panic Attack DETROIT,” which focuses on a performance of a Playwrights Horizons production called Detroit. The file contains over 1500 words, and it appears relatively coherent even while remaining obviously unfinished. The piece focuses less on the play than the mammoth panic attack I experienced beginning about 20 minutes into the first act, explaining why this unpublished (and unedited) post begins like this:
When I think back to The Sopranos, rarely do I think first of the inaugural season’s prime conceit: A physically imposing and strong mob boss begins having panic attacks and decides to go see a psychiatrist.
I continued for over 550 more words before even mentioning the play. Then I explored why the non-panic attack-related experience of the play that I recalled was so different from the contemporaneous reviews I read.
I never reached a specific conclusion, and though those 1500 words remain “obviously unfinished,” they were pretty close to complete. And yet, I didn’t return to it, nor nine years later could I tell you precisely why, but before I knew it, the show had closed, and I can remember silly me felt publishing no longer made any senes.
Glancing at almost every title in that list offers similar memories. I saw Red Dog Howls at New York Theatre Workshop just two weeks after going to Detroit. I didn’t have another anxiety-induced episode, but I remember not liking the play, which irritated me due to its inability to better fulfill it otherwise worthy and promising premise.
To my eyes, its greatest misstep resulted from its overt and counterproductive manipulation, which led me to write this (again, unedited, mind you) paragraph:
People often complain about how manipulative plays and films are, but what we really complain about is how easy it is to identify specifically when and how the responsible artists are manipulating us. The art of storytelling in all its forms is grounded in manipulation. If the book, play or film does not grab hold and manipulate the audience’s emotions in some way, it can’t help but to have failed. But when there is no mystery to that manipulation, when you can see the puppet’s strings, few things are more tiresome.
“Space for SPACIOUS” focused on my love for the late, why-didn’t-I-think-of-starting-that-business co-working space company that turned restaurants into coworking spaces during their non-operating hours. Spacious would outfit the location with power strips as well as fast, stable WiFi. They would offer free water, coffee, and tea, and since the locations were mostly nice restaurants just serving dinner, the bathrooms were generally clean and comfortable, plus you could walk away from your stuff without fear of having it stolen, regardless of getting punched in the face.
I utilized Spacious regularly for well over a year, and in those earlier days, they also seemed to want to create a community among its members, most of whom seemed to be ambitious young startup entrepreneurs. Ironically, that too changed as the company grew, obviously becoming less integral to their plans. For instance, their Member-oriented Slack workspace suddenly disappeared.
But like too many startups that find quick success, they also grew, maybe too quickly, at least in terms of how they also transformed (and arguably abandoned) their initial business model by focusing less on the restaurant spaces and more on leasing vacant locations they could turn into dedicated coworking spaces able to remain open later in the day. The whole thing revived sad memories of the late, oh-so-great-for-its-time, pre-Netflix Kozmo.com.
At the end of Aug. 2019, shortly before becoming notorious for something other than its lovely, large, amenity-flooded coworking spaces, WeWork acquired Spacious. I had planned to write about Spacious for nearly the entire time I utilized it. I kept thinking that I might create a guide to all their spaces, rating each location and describing any special features not necessarily at every location. (For example, some spaces offered seltzer water too!)
However, I only began that still-living-in-my-“Unfinished”-folder draft about a month after WeWork’s acquisition. Maybe more importantly, it was just three months before WeWork’s Dec. 2019 announcement of Spacious’s shutdown, which made irrelevant my hosanna-filled, yet still critical, thoughts and plans.
If there’s one thing I don’t want to be, it’s irrelevant. (Note: Good memoir title!)
Don’t worry: I do not intend to address each of that folder’s files, nor all the other ideas revealed by a Things deep-dive. I may return to some of them and both contextualize and/or “finish” them, posting them here. Eventually. Or maybe not. But ... no promises, duh.
This post, too, came dangerously close to sitting in the digital dimension of my hard drive. I began moving my fingers across my keyboard on Monday. I thought I might be done, but of course, I ran out of time to proofread, edit, post, blah-blah-blah. Determined to shift out of my inertia and accelerate towards more active and directed momentum, I planned to return to this screen and proofread/edit/post/blah-blah-blah Tuesday morning, leaving myself the afternoon to work on (and maybe finish) a much more recent occupant of this folder: “OOF-Draft_COMMUNITY CORONA-INTRO,” the first of a short series that certainly remains “relevant,” but in far different ways than when I first put words-on-screen.
Somehow, returning to this post Tuesday felt—for lack of a more complex or detailed description—scary. So, naturally, I put it off, symbolically dangling several carrots and sticks in front of me. So tantalizing were those carrots and so terrifying the sticks, I succumbed to the easiest and most comforting action possible.
I took a nap.
Naps don’t alter inertia. So I woke-up, returned to the computer after 9 pm, and suffered the consequences of not going to bed as early as I had hoped. Still, it came with the satisfaction of knowing that I would push these words into the universe and move this file out of that dreaded folder, while gearing up to dive back in. And then, that connected but different collection of words commandeered my fingers yesterday.
A fine line separates momentum from inertia, and I have spent years hopping across or often straddling it, struggling against the “Resistance” that too often wins our Tug-of-War.
Now if I can just stay on the better side long enough that my momentum accelerates, creating a habit that hurts more to skip; that wins the battle of instant gratification instead of capitulating to fear and insecurity.
Yeah ... that would be something!