The Algorithm for Fulfillment
When I started my 365-day blogging experiment last year, I just wanted to see how long I'd last.
I didn't expect to actually complete it. I certainly didn't predict that I'd be left so unsettled when it ended on January 1st.
From then on, I'd see a pretty sunrise and think, "Good. Something to blog about." And then I'd remember that I no longer had to blog each day, and I'd feel not relief but a pinch of loss. I'd trained my inner circuitry to seek out stories in everything. Would it atrophy without the artificial push of a public writing regimen?
It has and it hasn't. Saying goodbye to daily blogging has opened up time for other pursuits. Deeper relationships. I have a different kind of presence now: I still seek out stories, but have no obligation to share.
I am also deeply conflicted.
"Committing to having a point of view and scheduling a time and place to say something is almost certainly going to improve your thinking, your attitude and your trajectory," Seth Godin wrote in 2015. He's been blogging daily for nearly a decade.
"A daily blog is one way to achieve this. Not spouting an opinion or retweeting the click of the day. Instead, outlining what you believe and explaining why."
Tim Ferris, on his podcast, said:
"Everyone should write a blog, every day, even if no one reads it. ... If you know you have to write a blog post tomorrow, something in writing, something that will be around 6 months from now, about something in the world, you will start looking for something in the world to to write about. You will seek to notice something interesting and to say something creative about it. Well, isn’t that all we’re looking for? The best practice of generously sharing what you notice about the world is exactly the antidote for your fear."
I want to own my opinions, however nascent, and open myself up to dialog. But I open the door and all the other voices come rushing in, algorithmically pushed, and suddenly my thoughts are not my own but someone else's. I find myself working under unquestioned assumptions about what I should write and how, and when I should edit and how soon I should be done.
How do I create fertile ground for new thoughts and opinions? How do I use technology to my benefit without succumbing to the endless scroll?
"Some of the most important musicians of your generation -- people like Lauryn Hill, Andre 3000, D'Angelo -- had long periods where they went silent," David Marchese said in a recent interview with Erykah Badu. "Is there any unfulfilled potential among that group?"
"When you say unfulfilled potential, wouldn't that have to be determined by the person?" Badu replied. "Whose fulfillment are we talking about?"
Her question stopped me cold. Whose fulfillment are we talking about? In my 34 years, I've never thought to ask. But Badu's words yanked all the unspoken assumptions of Marchese's question into the open.
Productivity is a cultural construct. Originality, too. A toxic framework of implied value, bestowed upon a chosen few.
How do I live outside of those constructs? How do I determine my own value?
That's what I'm learning, in this silence. I've come to trust the silence. I'm cautious about returning to this digital space. But occasionally I see a pretty sunrise and I want to capture it somewhere. To share it with someone.