(Twenty) Third Time’s the Charm
Where my desire to write went to die, for a long time
I'm pretty sure at this point that I've switched my publishing platform almost as many times as the number of posts I've put out there. In just shy of three years, I've published two posts, but have put effort into building a new site no less than a dozen times.
I know what you’re thinking…that it’s way easier to just write something than it is to build a new website. And you’d be right in that. You’re probably also wondering why I would spend time on a custom publishing solution when there are, at least by my last count, an countless number of turn-key platforms. To that I would say: precisely because my brain goes after complex problems like a bear to honey.
Novelty, and the dopamine that it triggers, is something that my mind is constantly seeking. I have ADHD, specifically the inattentive type, meaning that my mind has less available dopamine to work with, a neurotransmitter that’s crucial to motivation, attention, and reward processing.
The last time that I had any amount of regularity in my writing and publishing was when I was using Medium as my platform-of-choice. It had everything I wanted, and nothing that I didn’t, and best of all it had a beautiful interface to work with that got out of my way, so writing became the focus. Simply put, it just worked. But a few unfortunate changes to the platform had me seeking alternative solutions.
That’s precisely when I started walking out into a mental minefield. In my time since publishing with Medium, I have built sites on a few different platforms, built my own sites from scratch, just about everything under the sun **except** pick a straightforward platform that would let me get back to writing.
Now, as I look back, I see a venerable graveyard of half-completed but fully abandoned sites. But worse yet, I don’t see any of the posts I told myself I’d put out there if I just had the right site in place. Hell, I kept a Ghost site up where over 3 months I put up a whopping 7 posts, but kept it running for 37, paying $1,332 in subscription fees just to keep it up. Add up the Digital Ocean droplets and countless hours wasted building custom solutions, and I can honestly say that it was a phenomenal loss of time and money.
I kept telling myself I needed some sort of perfect solution, that only I could build. Whenever I thought of something to write, I got sidetracked by the desire to finish a fancy website first. And sure, sometimes I’d make some progress on that site. But what I didn’t do was write. Ever. This screenshot kind of tells it all:
Resistance was all I put up whenever someone would suggest that I use some sort of simple tool. If my goal was to write, then I should write.
What I didn’t realize back then, that I do now, is that the rabbit holes I was digging in exploring different platforms had more to do with fulfilling a short-term dopamine hit than actually giving a crap about writing. Writing code, tweaking widgets, and seeing incremental improvement to a site is incredibly fulfilling to my ADHD brain. If something went wrong and there was an error, even that was a new path to venture down.
It was all a distraction.
Working on the sites was mental candy…a never-ending supply of problems to solve. A treadmill for my brain. An endless stream of dopamine to pull from. But a shallow one at that.
What was that War Games quote?
> The only winning move is to not play.
My mind was playing a game with me. I want to write, but my mind wanted me to build websites because it was the thing that gave the quick fix…the short-term dopamine bursts that deliver the novelty needed for that moment.
It’s so clear to me now though, that indeed, it was all a distraction. The *correct* path was standing right in front of me, and even directly suggested by friends. I just wasn’t listening.
So yesterday I turned off my Ghost blog, and cancelled my billing. I deleted the many repositories of never-finished sites from my hard drive. And I picked a box of software off the shelf (Substack) to take as many distractions and unnecessary decisions out of the equation, and focus on the thing that matters most…the writing.
And sure…at the end of the day as I write this I wonder to myself…what’s to make sure that I keep writing? I guess I can’t really say for any amount of certainty that I will, but I know one thing very clearly: that at least when I feel like I want to write, my mouse won’t gravitate towards the coding tool instead anymore. So that’s something.
I’m hoping this starts something new for me, and that I’ll write more in the future. Feel free to subscribe for when I do!