You've probably figured out that tools are important to me. I spend a lot of time thinking about them, and I like to write about them too.
Problem is that most of the tools I rely on every day are, predictably enough, software, and there's already a big crowd of people who write about software and getting work done. There's Sven and there's Patrick and there's Sparky and there's Eddie and there's Drang and there's Brettsy von Terpington and there's Merlin and there's Merlin and there's Merlin and there's more besides. I don't feel like trying to duplicate their success.
I was ruminating on this the other day when I had made my third failed attempt at a post I still haven't given up on about how I use alerts and notifications to emulsify awesome sauce. I found myself slipping into doing some variation on the sort of thing I read in my RSS feeds every day, and let's face it, if I do that, there's really no point to this place.
That got me wondering what the point of this place is, and I was surprised at how difficult that question was to answer. I thought on that for days, and then a very scary career opportunity presented itself, and the answer tumbled out of my skull.
I was trying to get work done but had just finished one of those conversations that completely derails your brain with scary possibilities, and as a result, I was worse than useless. I was literally experiencing a mild fight-or-flight response thinking about it, swept up in a mix of exhilaration and the sort of terror one feels when confronted with the dead-eyed ghost of a six-year-old Japanese girl.
I had anti-focus. I knew I had to process it before I could get anything done, so I started typing, and eventually, the following came out.
A note before we dig in: Please pardon the grandiosity (and random perspective-shifting). I tend to tinge purple when I'm brain-dumping and I hadn't intended it for public consumption, but I don't think I should edit it too heavily, for honesty's sake.
This is what I wrote:
The thing is that you are meant to do something on this earth. You are meant to change things in some small way. That is why you were given hands and a mind and a heart and legs. You were meant to do things that make people's lives better. You certainly were meant to always be working to make yourself better. This [opportunity] is the devil you don't know, sure. But would you rather be impotent and underused?
This thing in me that wants to live, I want to let it, and I'm not sure of how. I worry about the costs. But I desperately want it to live. Sometimes it seems I can physically feel it burning in my chest, and I don't know if that's real or not, but I damn near don't care because it feels alive.
The job's not going to give me that. No job is, unless it's a very special one. I'm not sure that even necromancing my old dream of being a decently-paid writer would do it for me, not really. Once you're doing what you love, the trick is to keep loving what you're doing. And how many people get paid to write what they want?
That sense of being alive, I've found it in music and art and books and women and movies and funerals and Jennifer and the birth of my children and I'm hungry for more of it. I want to find it in me, in my life.
"Your life is coming to you," I hear that thing say, and I think, it's here. I'm living it. What else is there?
To build something, for starters. To feed and amplify wonder. To make others feel a hunger and longing for that feeling and to be lost in it.
You can write about OmniFocus. You can write about notifications. You can write about clutter and focus and tools and tricks, but it should always be connected to your heart and your fear and your life and your longing for something you're not sure exists. That is your blog. The intersection of tools and dreams, usefulness and impracticality, fear and longing and love and sex and giving and meaning and failure. A glorious Kurt Vonnegut butthole-shaped crossroads of life.
That is The Tool Shed. Looking for a way to build dreams and change out of the things of this earth. Talking about the stuff we all know but don't say. Finding a way to help that thing live. Not a whole lot of blogging about that.
Now look at notifications and OmniFocus and tools and your job in THAT light, fucker. Where are the angels and goblins in your contexts?
Woof. Is that Bill Shakespeare? I don't have my glasses on.
But I hope the gist is clear: that thing at the center of me lies mostly beyond my comprehension, but I'm pretty sure it is at least partly a call to do work. Not necessarily my job, not even necessarily an avocation like this place, but something that matters, something that changes things in some small way. I can't quite shake that loose.
I'm only now starting to get comfortable with the idea that all life is searching, that when you feel like you've arrived, it's pretty much all over. So if this site really does last and is to be anything, it is to be a chronicle of that searching, with a keen eye on keeping it bullshit-free.
I'm encouraged by the surprising level of reaction I've gotten from people who have read this site and the new friends I've made because of it, but the real reason I know this place is on the right track is that every time I write something like this, I'm choking down panic. That means it's worthwhile, because it means I'm selling my heart.
Now I think I'll call my shot: Spinning the Wheel of Topics, the next post will be about trying to spend more time acting and less time reacting.