Coming Full Circle

I have not written many new blog posts this year.

This is disappointing for me; I wish I had converted more time and thoughts into blog posts. For two years, like magic, a new mindlevelup post would appear every Friday. This past half year, coming up with new essays has been a lot more difficult. I’ll speculate on reasons in a moment, but I want to take the moment to say that I think there have been at least a few good posts this year—A Developmental Framework for Rationality and Musings on the Medium are both crystallizations of trains of thought I’ve been harboring for a while.

I have not written many new blog posts this year.

Why?

By and large, when another Friday comes around, I feel…drained. I feel like I don’t have something blog-worth to write about. Part of this, at least, has to do with how my relationship with rationality has changed. I’m less intentional or goal driven—for example, I no longer have weekly or monthly check-ins. If I dive deeper into the feeling of not having something to write about, there’s a sort of dissatisfaction with repeating myself. I feel like the ideas in my head are just rehashes of existing essays I’ve already written.

In the past, when this sort of feeling happened, I would go meta and inspect the process behind where the feeling of repetition came from. Except, now that I’ve already written about those essays, they form new existing essays that I pattern-match my thoughts on to. For every way that I think I can go meta, my brain helpfully reminds me that such thoughts are already covered ground.

Here is an overview of my mental taxonomy of How Things I Write Are Secretly Just Reskins of Things I’ve Already Written:

Say I’m tired of all this abstract reasoning? Maybe I just want to dive into the specifics of what makes rationality concepts useful in the first place?

There’s an essay on that.

Well, am I worried about the object-level impact of this blog then? Do I wonder if writing this stuff is even helpful?

There’s an essay on that.

Huh. Say, maybe I’m wondering about the meta-level effects of writing in general? Am I wondering about the ways in which writing can affect rationality as a field?

There’s an essay on that. And another longer essay on that.

Okay. But what about abstracting over the entire process of even approaching rationality, about the different approaches one can take? Going meta on rationality itself?

There’s an essay on that.

Oh. How about abstracting over the entire process about how it feels bad to revisit old ideas in the first place? The very problem I’m having right now?

There’s an essay on that.

Um. What about how just because I think that these essays are secretly reskins, there’s actually subtle differences here, and those differences are important? That my surface-level pattern-matching is faulty?

There’s an essay on that.

Ack. What about going meta on this whole process and writing about how it’s been hard to write things—you guessed it.

There’s an essay on that (and no, it’s not this one you’re reading).

All in all, that’s already several levels of meta. It feels binding, like I’ve partitioned the space of possible essays into the above categories. For every new essay idea I come up, a part of me believes that it’s just another instantiation of the spirit behind one of the above essays.

It’s like the way that Red, in Pokemon: Origin Of Species, describes Pokemon types—if you’ve already decided that attributes X, Y, and Z slot into categories A, B, and C, how do you know when you’ve discovered a new type?

The broader question, of course, is “When do your categories fail to be sufficient to describe the territory?” And that requires attention to be paid to the little places where things seem not quite right.

Clearly, then, the correct answer to this bind of sorts…was to write yet another meta-essay about the nature of this constriction. I think putting it into this sort of perspective has helped me get a grasp for which things I might not feel too enthused to write about for the short-term future.

All that means, though, is that I’ll be questing off for some more curious things which break my conceptions and I’ll bring back something new.

2 comments

  1. I’d suggest more posts of the type: Here is an exposition how I used this or that rationality technique to win at some aspect of life.

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