The Challenge of Relative Fun

The Challenge of Relative Fun

Every day starts with an onslaught of choices, tasks, and, in my house, attacks from clawed felines. There’s the standard issue stuff – making breakfast, ingesting as much caffeine as possible, staring at the ceiling and wishing for just one more hour of sleep. And then there’s the interesting bits, what actually gets done not by necessity but by choice.

Jobs, those burdens of our pre-robot utopia lives, tend to dominate the bulk of our daily routines. Meetings, emails, water cooler griping sessions with Jeff, they all kinda blur into a broad miasma that stretches between after breakfast to whenever the sanity is so far gone that you stop. Maybe you’re working on a line that’s a constant grind from start to finish, muscles moving in a routine that is so baked in you’re more machine than man, now.

Either way, eventually, whether in the evening or during your lunch break, you’ll come to a crossroads. A set of options, each with glaring pros and cons. I’d argue making those choices is the most power any of us have during a normal day – namely, how to spend what time we have that’s not predetermined by necessities.

More and more, I’m coming to make those choices by their degree of relative fun – a thoroughly unscientific and subjective measure. The relative in that label doesn’t just apply to the moment-to-moment comparison of, say, mowing the lawn vs. chasing said kitties around the house in a halloween costume, but also to the future satisfaction posed by those same activities.

Mowing the lawn, for example, may have less immediate joy than terrorizing the pets, but it’s going to have a greater long-term benefit because my house won’t look like a jungle ruin, and I’ll have the added boost of podcast listening time, and something of a workout. Not bad!

This also applies to things like piano, or reading books, watching one movie over another, etc.

And it also, yes, applies to writing – a fun but also difficult activity. Give me a notebook and a cafe and I’ll scribble down nonsense about alien uprisings and delusional, diabolical cat wizards that can only be defeated by an enchanted ball of yarn. Getting me to that cafe, though, over the aforementioned movie or game is much harder. Both of those latter activities offer more immediate fun, an easy grab at joy with little cost or effort – and both can have lasting benefits too, whether in cultural knowledge or by throwing popcorn at other people and thereby improving one’s popcorn throwing accuracy, a sure-to-be-vital skill in our coming AMC-dominated dystopia.

So I’ve been working through this daily battle by finding those moments where writing is easy to access, and when I’m presented with lots of mediocre choices, instead reaching a little deeper, pushing a little harder to make the long play. If, say, there aren’t any movies I really want to see, rather than settle, maybe I’ll jot down another chapter or an outline of another story. If I have a ten minute break between meetings, maybe I’ll update a synopsis or jot down an idea instead of flick to Facebook to see what ads they care to serve me today.

I’m definitely not as good at this as I’d like to be – it’s still too easy to reach for the phone instead of the notebook, but I’m trying.

One thing I do know? I never regret choosing to write, afterwards.

And, because I’m not chasing them, the cats curl up in my lap while I scribble away, which makes for a pretty good reward.

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