Burning out the cruft

“They don’t think the game be like it is, but it do.” – Oscar Gamble

This is my fifth attempt today at starting to actually write something. I had some good back and forth on a reddit thread this morning and afternoon, and I even tried to compile all of that into a single post. But it was all a bunch of Q and A, so I got sick of looking at that and trying to thread it all together into a cohesive piece. Besides, it was about corporate developer culture, which I really just don’t have much interest in, certainly not lately.

Here’s the post if you’re interested in playing along from home. If you can’t figure out which responses are mine then, well, I can’t help you. (Well I could, but you ought to be able to figure it out, so I won’t.)

It’s the cost of having fallen off the writing wagon over the last week and a half. No no, I’m not blaming my lack of writing on the smoking lounge, only on my weird binding of the writing process to sitting in this chair smoking cigars and sipping slowly on a diet soda.

That’s really not good enough unless I’m going to do it a few solid times a week. Frankly that’s just not enough to do more than keep my head above water when it comes to writing.

The speed at which crufty bullshit starts accumulating on my brain is really quite alarming. It’s almost impossible for me not to think of it in terms of analogies which may not be analogies.

In order to keep mentally fit and organized I’ve got to at least do “morning stretches.”

Someone in some book on writing I read decades ago suggested a practice of writing “morning pages.” The idea was to get up in the morning, grab a pen and just blast out three full pages of whatever the fuck came out of your head.

I’d done it for a while back then. Hell, I still have the notebooks. But three pages is a damned endurance trial, especially longhand.

It’s time to take it more seriously again. I did something close to promise myself that I wasn’t going to get in to this kind of post again. But dammit I need to blow out the lines about it so you’re gonna have to suffer through it. I need to write it more than I need you to read it after all so, tough.

The last couple weeks have, all things considered, been really good. Last Thursday I wasn’t here because I went to a friend’s house for a “fish fry” where I absolutely jammed my face full of fried fish. Holy shit was it delicious. We all sat around for something on the order of five hours (not actually SO much time) bullshitting around a fire, smoking cigars and listening to music on the shore of what I think was a tributary of the Cumberland.

Unfortunately when I woke up on Thursday morning I was at my lowest weight ever, 196.8. When I woke up on Friday morning however, I was up at 202 something. So I’ve spent the last week fighting myself to get back down there. I’m just about successful (or will be as of tomorrow’s weigh-in I’m sure) having clocked in at 199 something this morning.

But I promised myself I’d see 18 by May 31. So I’ve got a rough week and a half in front of me.

Monday I mowed the lawn then was kinda surprised at 11:30 when I realizee that was my big goal for the day. It ended up being gorgeous out so I hit Johnathan’s for the afternoon, which was a great day in the sun with cigars and vodka sodas. Just…so many vodka sodas. I think by the end of the day I ended up drinking 10 of them, more than a couple were in the happy-hour window which made them doubles. But I met a couple interesting people I wouldn’t have met otherwise, a couple friends came by for one while they went back and forth having their days, and I got to clear up something that had been eating me alive for a while. BUT…I don’t like to brag about shit that shouldn’t be public consumption so I’m not going to talk about it here, unless I do. So call it 15 vodka sodas. Well it was spread out over about 9 hours so it wasn’t all THAT bad. But there was just no sleep to be had on Monday night. I think I ended up sleeping from about 5 am to 7:30 or so, when my alarm went off.

I came down here on Tuesday, per usual and lasted about two hours before I just had to go home and recoup. And to add insult to injury I had snacks at home, a rookie mistake I know. But I ended up just chowing the hell down. Having written nothing about basically anything I just kinda drooled at the computer most of the day. I did get down into the shop and built some shelving, cleaned some stuff up (which always takes far far less time and energy than I anticipate when I look at the mess.)

And yesterday I just coded a bunch of stuff. Just blasted away all day on some project work that really needed doing.

Concerning that: I’ve been working on an automated trading system that would run any number of trading bots for…hell, maybe 15 months seriously. It’s not like the coding would take THAT much time and energy if I’d really been on my game.

But one of the things that I love about writing software which may be true about any creative endeavor is that it forces me to have a clear head and to get out of my own way emotionally. This trading software is something I’m hanging an awful lot of energy on as far as goals, identity and such.

Now I can imagine a big “uh oh” reaction to that. But it does have some utility. When you bind that much your identity to a project like that it works both ways.

For instance: I kept getting what I might guess is about 93% of the way done with the framework. Then I’d stop and think “well, I really should be storing the data differently so I can get to it more easily” or “the gap fill code needs to be smart about the trading calendar so it knows what weekend boundaries are” (the stock market is closed on the weekends, so if you’re looking for consecutive dates you’re gonna have a problem.)

But it turns out all of that was really just my own terror at getting close to the finish line. Yeah, it took me a few months to actually see what was going on. But once I DID? (last Friday morning) I was able to work through and past it, which has the side-effect of having worked through that fear and those hangups that I had about the process. So like I said, the symbiotic relationship actually ended up serving me since one highlighted the other and I was able to get to it.

IF instead I’d somehow noticed “I’m afraid of having this because of reasons I can’t even really put words to” I’d have had a screaming nightmare of a time trying to work through what was going on and why. I’d have stopped myself and gone back to my childhood and asked how I got in to this position where I feared my own potential, how it represented potential for failure, etc.

Marianne Williamson, nutty as she is, has gotten a couple/few things dead on. One of which was her oft related quote, the first stanza to her poem “Our Deepest Fear”:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.”

That’s true as far as it goes. But she stops shy in her poem of illustrating why that’s so.

We fear our own power not for its own sake. We fear our custodianship of our own power, that we will use it in a way that’s worthy. All too tempting is the ability to acknowledge and embrace that power and yet fail with it, owing to a personal failing. After all the nature of THAT kind of failure is one we can’t blame on a lack of ability

It still doesn’t get to the heart of the issue. But for me, having a tool that I can use to develop trading bots easily and quickly, test and deploy them is a dangerous dangerous thing.

Let’s say I succeed (and I succeeded yesterday in putting this framework together to a point where I can start using it.)

I am now absolutely on the hook as I implied, for any success or failure in being able to build such a tool.

If I fail NOW (and I mean fail, not “try a bunch of things that don’t work”) then it can only be because I simply don’t have the acumen or discipline to succeed at what it is I’m attempting.

THAT would be a crushing, though far from fatal, blow to my ego. Yeah yeah I should be more mature than that. But I’m very very long past pretending I’m more mature or evolved than I am.

It’s one of the big reasons, I think (though am actually not sure) I write in such fits and starts to begin with. In this case it’s the Peter Pan syndrome: I’m endless potential. But until I actually carve away all but one or two of the paths of potential I can always pretend that I could do anything. Well sure. That’s about as safe as you can be.

It’s an illusion, a straight up lie, and it can no longer stand. People here at the cigar lounge call me a writer which frankly I find adorable. But I’m not going to bore them into narcolepsy by talking about my programming projects, so “writer” it is.

Writing though, despite the number of words I’ve blasted out on to the page over the last…shit, 40 years maybe, is something I don’t REALLY know my way that well around so I find it a lot harder to use as a tool to work through and past my own hang-ups the way I can with a software project.

I’m at the point where I think I wouldn’t be poorly served by taking what I, in the depths of my hat rack, call the “Throw Momma From The Train” approach.

That being: Just start where Owen Lift started: “The man in the hat killed the other man in the hat.” And just expand on it, a line at a time until I have something of a few hundred words and see where that takes me.

At least to put “something that is not nothing” into a state of nominal completion.

I’m not sure how I could do MUCH worse than that.

Dammit it’s something I just keep being pulled towards, hence my little previous post about Character Dossiers. Not knowing how to write fiction, not really, I end up either gravitating back to software projects, the well worn track of mastery I’ve achieved in the last 40 plus years.

Or, I end up writing posts like this, which might seem like “writing.”

But it’s really just thinking.

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