Force Of Nature (a meditation on COVID Blues)


Joshua Mitchell / August 29, 2020

5 min read

sad stone guy

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

I have no inspiration to write. Feels like not wanting to get out of bed.

I meditated yesterday. I had the urge to scratch my nose, so I scratched it. I "didn't have to think about it" - it took no effort.

But right now, this is effort. Fingertip followed by deliberate fingertip. I can't remember the last time I consciously thought about my fingers being on the "home row".

What's going on? Do I want it too badly? A psychological autopsy:

I want to make this worth your while. At least, I don't want you to regret it.

Maybe if I can't inspire myself, I can inspire you. If I can't do that, then maybe we can share sullen camaraderie.

Have you ever started observing yourself when you know that you're being recorded? Or been excited to show someone a song you like and, while they were listening, tried to listen as though you were them?

Professors often find it hard to explain things they find obvious. Knowledge can be a curse. Hyperawareness, ironically, results in tunnel vision.

I became aware of my fingertips again. Are you aware of how your eyes feel sitting in your skull right now? Are they slightly dry? Are you aware of your breath?

I'm aware - undesirably so. Is this the definition of distraction? Undesirable awareness?

How does one focus when the objective isn't well defined, anyway? What is my goal? What do you want out of this?

I used to think that was my fixation: providing what others wanted.

It walks like a duck: when people tell me they enjoy reading my work, I light up.

But then, I remembered the alternative: apathy. Unapologetic, yet unintentional and innocent indifference.

Sometimes my feelings are obvious - like bleeding profusely in the middle of Times square. Most of the time they’re not.

Touching your face. Scratching your head.

Biting your nails. Cracking your knuckles.

Wiggling your thighs. Tapping your foot.

Drumming your fingers on the desk. Biting the inside of your cheek.

Checking the time. Checking social media. Checking email. Checking stock prices.

“It sucks, throw it away” can exist as a mild, perpetual feeling in your mind. Like the white noise of a ceiling fan.

I read this post on how to make a marketing funnel. They said, "do WHATEVER you can to keep your reader from hitting the back button."

I'm afraid of the back button. I'm afraid of not being worth it.

Why can't I just scratch my itch? Why do I care so much? Did my mom not hug me enough?


Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote a book called Flow that I started and never finished.

I've never wanted things to be easy. I just hate making myself do things. Getting out of bed is hard enough. I can only spend so much of that energy per day.

I still have no inspiration to write. I'm only driven by the thought that maybe you found me clever and kept reading. Or that you relate, and you're silently nodding your head.

I follow Paul Graham and Sam Altman on Twitter. I've read their descriptions of what they look for in founders.

Sam, when considering whether to invest, asks himself, "Is this person a force of nature?"

Am I a force of nature?

Do forces of nature have trouble getting out of bed?

Do they go to Dairy Queen at 1pm, order a large Wonder Woman blizzard, and eat it in the parking lot in 6 minutes?

Do forces of nature berate themselves for not being where they want to be in life when they see high school friends succeeding on their Facebook newsfeeds?

Do forces of nature have 9 Udemy courses they bought impulsively and never started?

I want to be a force of nature. I want to make my community proud. I want to go the distance.

I hate seeing things like, "Looking for talented people!" or "We only hire the best!" on job descriptions. Everyone says that. It also reminds me that I don't feel naturally talented.

That's why I like superhero movies. You know they're going to beat the bad guy. For a few hours, I get to step into the shoes of someone who will beat the bad guy.

But then, I remember that I don't have super powers and the bad guy isn't a salient, in-your-face brute you can just kill and collect your fame and fortune.

For me, the bad guy is ambiguity.

If I can't visualize it, if it isn't tangible to me, I can't get excited about it. And if I can't get excited about it, I can't sustainably get myself to do it across time.

Sometimes I think I'm a terrible person because just donating money to charity feels like throwing it into a black hole. I need to physically see them smile. I need to see the difference I made.

It saddens me that you are a faceless, anonymous reader - whose hopes, troubles, and circumstances I know nothing about. The less I know about you, the more aware I become of my fingertips.

This virus sucks, but we have to remember: we’re all in this together. Seriously. The meaning behind that phrase might be dulled by the sheer number of times you’ve heard it - often in contexts where it was just lip service - but I want to deliberately impress upon you that it is very true.

Many innovations and relationships have been forged in adversity. Not to try and read your tea leaves, but I’ll bet a lot of good things will come out of this for you.

We can do it!

Thank you to the Compound Writing members who reviewed this post: Tom White, Joel Christiansen, Stew Fortier, and Dan Hunt.

Discuss on Twitter