Ahead on Differential



On a recent episode of Back to Work, there was a passing mention of The Hacker's Diet, which more or less boils down weight loss to an engineering problem. Weight and calories are numbers, and getting one number to another is just math. This was part of a discussion of finding a “hook” to make a habit stick. I got to thinking about long-term goals in a wider sense, and was struck by the idea of maintaining a trend.

Per Wikipedia (emphasis mine):

[John] Walker presents techniques for Excel-aided or paper-and- pencil data smoothing to allow the dieter to adjust the diet for themselves using the long-term trend and to not be discouraged by short-term fluctuations based on water retention or other factors.

The success or failure of any one given day is almost beside the point. Fucked up your routine? No sweat. Overate? It's all good. Didn't write enough? You'll get 'em tomorrow. You're playing the long game. The ultimate goal is to maintain the trend. The immediate result matters way less than your deliberate efforts.

We just started a new decade, and I can see the trend bear fruit. In 2010, I was 22 and a dumbass. Now it's 2020, I'm still a dumbass, but I have two degrees under my belt1, I'm a kinder person than I was, and I'm a better writer to boot. Days and months and years do add up, even if they are non-consecutive.

Maintain the trend.

1: This doesn't mean anything per se, I'm just proud of the work I did in school.


Truer words have never been spoken

This Sunday, I had a conversation with my longtime friend and fellow Dim the House Lights co-editor Juan Barquin about writing and pitching. Pitching is a grind. Pitching is a hustle. Pitching is functionally a second job that I would get pennies per hour to do. Just elbowing my way to the table where all the editors sit would make a giant dent in my work-life balance (which is already kind of precarious, if I'm being 100% honest with myself).

And so I had an idiot's epiphany: just write for fun, you dingus. And dig this, genius: it doesn't even have to be about movies! It can be about music or wrestling or fucking occult horticulture if that's what grabs your attention that day. You can just write what you feel like writing because there's nothing more liberating than realizing that no one really gives a shit. Says the homie Austin Kleon:

Nobody’s really paying attention. This is the big secret. Even if you think you have an audience, nobody’s paying attention. It’s depressing at first, but once you wrap your arms around it, it’s liberating. Enjoy it. Have fun with it.

When I first bought my dot-com, my modus operandi for Ahead on Differential was to make it “like Kottke, but shittier.” So far I have done a piss-poor job of jumping over even that low bar, but I endeavour to at the very least give it a shot from here on out. Obviously longer film stuff will still be at Dim the House Lights, but everything else will go here.