Weak signal

amateur antagonist
3 min readApr 7, 2024

Some days, the well feels dried up.

The fleeting surge of motivation, the momentum of progress, comes to a screeching halt, and then you’re kind of screwed.

Getting yourself moving after standing still is much harder than advertised. I guess that’s the whole concept of inertia.

It’s hard to work on something when you’re not aware of the larger picture — or if there isn’t one at all. Showing up every day is easier when you know that all the work you’re putting in is going towards something, not a series of weird missteps forward, back, left, right, just to end up where you started (or worse). Some days, writing feels like adding to the pointless shuffle of movement that leads nowhere. That brings me right back to square one.

I think the natural answer at that point is to create a larger picture. A plan. A structure so each day creates a cohesive element of a greater goal. But, damn, is that hard. Most days, the baby step to open the page is hard enough. The idea of forethought, planning, and goal setting is insurmountable. At least execution is thoughtless — follow the instructions and press send. Making the instructions is a whole different game.

At some point in any writing endeavor, I ask myself: “what is the point of writing this?”. I generally don’t have a good answer, and that can be disheartening. Sometimes, to the extent that I leave the page altogether. While it still doesn’t feel great today, I can’t give up now.

I’m going to call the purpose of today’s endeavor: shaking off the dust. I’m going to ease myself back in before unleashing the self-criticism that I have (eagerly) bubbling at all times. I’m going to be (maybe needlessly) kind to myself and my words today and give myself a gold star for showing up. Gee thanks for writing something pointless in your native language! Must’ve been really difficult!

I think part of the issue is lack of accountability for things you don’t have to do. This, of course, doesn’t apply if you’re intrinsically motivated — but if you are, get out. We’re not friends and you are not welcome here.

What I mean is that sometimes it’s easiest to operate when the things you do are serving someone or something. At work, you have responsibilities as a part of your role — you’re serving your company or your product. Outside of that, the rest of your actions are generally serving either yourself or others you care about. You watch TV because it makes you happy, you call your parents to make them happy; my point is that basically every action you take on a normal day is serving some purpose. Whether that be to make you happy, to keep your job, to maintain a relationship, it is for a tangible reason, even if that reason isn’t front of mind when you take the action.

Doing things outside of this band, doing things for an unclear or evolving purpose is difficult because it lacks that tangible subject. When I write, I’m not sure what I’m writing for. Who I’m writing for.

Sure, there are some abstract, fuzzy reasons: it’s good for me mentally, I somewhat enjoy it, etc. But there aren’t any strong motivating factors besides my self-motivated efforts. And my ability to channel that motivation is fickle. My connection to that motivation is weak and spotty — sometimes I’m just trying to poop out as many words as possible before I lose signal.

It’s odd to feel so beholden to…yourself. Maybe I’ve been gentle parenting myself too long, and now I’m spoiled. I allow myself the luxury of not using my brain far too often. I struggle to make myself do the hard things because, sometimes, I can’t find a tangible enough reason to keep going.

But, I’m going to work on connecting to that signal. Finding, channeling, and strengthening that motivation is probably the first step. I obviously don’t know though, there are no clear instructions and I’m merely the executioner. Bear with me while I figure it out.

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