Tiny Revolutions №87: It's Time to Underthink It
less plotting, more monkeying around
My friends and I joke that the pandemic has driven everyone insane in their own specific ways — ourselves included. The prolonged period of intense stress has forced us all into our own coping strategies; some healthy, some not. But here’s one way I’ve noticed the culture has gone insane: we are overthinking everything.
I’ve written about this in the past — how I’ve noticed that a lot of the people I interact with online feel like they need mental models or frameworks in order to do things when what they really need is faith in themselves. And I’m not knocking systems as a rule — they can, of course, be helpful. But I don’t think that’s what’s going on a lot of the time.
I asked Twitter for some examples of things we’re overthinking at the moment, and here are some of the responses, along a few of my own:
Our skincare routines
Our exercise routines
How many emails are in our inboxes
How we pack our suitcases
Our note-taking processes
What to work on next
Our “to be read” pile
What we wear
How we spend our free time
How we parent
The list could go on and on; I’ve overthought most of the things on this list at some point or another. Which is why I feel *really good* about saying what I’m about to say right now: y’all, it is time to underthink it. We’re still in a pandemic and inflation is rising and horrible legislation is being passed daily and there’s an escalating global conflict occurring and many people I know desperately want to quit their jobs and just lie down for an undefined period of time.
So can we all just chill out with the thinking that there’s any one correct way to do anything?
I don’t know; if you’re reading this newsletter, you probably don’t need me to tell you we’re in an epidemic of perfectionism. Which is incredible when you think about it — the world is a total fucking chaos machine, and yet we somehow manage to cling to the idea that if we just do more or try harder or make *the right* choices, we can get everything in our lives to be just the way we want it to be. It’s wild. As one researcher put it: “Perfectionism isn’t a behaviour. It’s a way of thinking about yourself.”
We’re a nation of little control freaks, aren’t we? It’s comforting to think it’s all up to us. So comforting that we’ll continue to labor under that delusion despite all evidence to the contrary — and despite the fact that it’s making us more miserable than ever.
My life has been fairly chaotic lately, which is why this topic has been on my mind. There’s a lot happening — some wonderful things, some horrible things, some (most) things that are somewhere in the middle. I’ve had less time to spare and therefore I’ve been a bit more lax with my usual levels of thoughtfulness in how I operate. I’ve been making more mistakes and sending out more less-than-A+ work and letting people down a bit more than usual. And you know what? It’s been fine. People get it. I myself get it, even if I don’t love it. It’s fine, and it’s OK for it to be fine. Fine is fine for now. Fine is enough.
On to some other things I found worth sharing this week.
The weird shit rule of parenting
“Let’s talk about the weird-shit rule of parenting. It’s a principle that I just made up. Here’s the gist: Provided that you have the means to satisfy your child’s basic needs, and assuming that you aren’t acting in a way that’s flagrantly abusive, the only way to really change her life—to alter her nature, for better or worse—is to do some weird, outrageous shit. I don’t know exactly what that shit would be; I guess it could be pretending that your baby’s French, or depriving her of toys, or suspending her inside a window cage. (To be honest, even that shit might not be weird enough to make a difference in the long run.) But otherwise, in the absence of weird shit, the weird-shit rule stipulates that as long as you love your kids in more or less the way that normal parents do, and try your best to be benign, you’ll be pretty much irrelevant.”
A great read from Daniel Engber about letting go of worrying so much about your parenting style.
Less perfection, more you
“Always make it as personal as you can because you are a miracle, that you’re even alive. Then your art will be a miracle because it reflects stuff from someone who there is no other one like that.”
Loved this profile of Francis Ford Coppola, who is still chasing dreams at 82.
A great newsletter recommendation
One of my favorite newsletters is Stew’s Letter, written by the inimitable Stew Fortier. I met Stew through his work as co-founder of Foster, an online community of writers I belong to, and am always excited to see his name pop up in my inbox. There’s always something in it that surprises me and makes me think, and there’s always something in it that makes me laugh. Just to prove that life is indeed chaotic, I’ll contradict the essay above and say you should read one of my recent favorite issues: “Make striving cool again.”
More of this energy, please.
A Tiny Assignment
Wing it this week and feel good about it. You’re alive. That’s enough. Besides, your gut knows way more than you give it credit for.
Thanks to all of you who became paid subscribers to Tiny Revolutions after the last issue! WOW. Grateful to you for helping me keep this thing going, imperfections and all. Haven’t subscribed yet? You can do that here.
See you next time.
p.s. Just trust me.
p.p.s. Share this with a friend who might need to hear it.
Read Stew's newsletter (thank you for that), which was timely because as I was driving home from dropping my kid at school I was ruminating on not having touched my laptop for the last two days straight. I don't know the last time that happened. I'm always working on something. Which makes sense as a freelance creative with bills to pay and a life to keep moving forward. The only treacherous part seems to me when we spend so much time striving that we lose sight of the fact that what we *do* and who we *are* are not exactly the same thing. We (I?) can get easily drawn into fruitless attachment to things that are either impermanent (which is a losing game) or unreal (also a set-up). And yet, like Stew, I didn't grow up with money and I sure as hell have very little now, so I can't afford to be blasé about striving to manifest the life I want. It's a tricky balancing act that, as you say, I have to accept I'll only ever be fine at.