Enthusiasm (by )

When I was a child, I was full of enthusiasm - as a keen self-taught engineer I was soaking up knowledge about the wonderful things that could be done, and my future was full of promise; I lacked the tools and money to build many of the things I planned, so focussed on tinkering with software (once I had a computer, programming was free!). But I was confident that I would be able to turn my skills to employment and earn enough to buy tools, and then I'd build so much cool stuff.

However, it took a while to get there, and along the way, I accumulated lots of pressures on my time as well. These days, when I have free time, I'm often too physically exhausted to do much, and that enthusiasm is all gone - nothing seems rewarding any more, and I fritter the free time away.

But it's not always like that. A few times a year, a burst of enthusiasm comes to me (and I think I know how to trigger it deliberately, too).

This weekend, I did a lot of DIY. I worked on the van, tidied the house, sealed the skirting boards in the kitchen (I've learnt how to apply sealant neatly!), caught up on my emails, did some financial admin, wrote up a lot of scrappy notes I had into my filing system (re-organising some bits of it on the way), and caught up on work hours I'd missed in the week due to visiting my sick father in hospital (he hurt his knee, and is recovering well!).

The combination of dealing with emails, filing my notes, and organising my filing system, however, brought back The Enthusiasm.

Which, on the one hand, is great - I used that energy to get a lot more done than I usually do.

On the other hand, it also meant that when I went to bed at 10:30pm (for a 6:30am alarm clock start), I couldn't sleep as my head was buzzing with ideas. I wrote them up in my bedside notepad, which usually releases the pressure of thinking about them, but one of them was exciting (a really nice way of supporting HTTPS in my Web hosting stack), and one of them wouldn't stop going around in my head - I came up with a simpler design for a new desk/shelving system I want to build in my workshop, combining my computer desk and an electronics workbench. This was stuck in my head because I couldn't just think it through to completion and then record it; I was trying to visualise all the fine details to work out how it would fit together, and it wouldn't fit in my head. So about 2am I gave in and went downstairs and fired up OpenSCAD and bashed out a 3D model of it, which also spits out a cutlist of what lengths of square steel tubing and areas of plywood I'll need to make it:

Figuring out all the fine details and seeing how they'd fit together finally relieved the mental pressure, and sometime past 4:30am, I fell asleep... getting somewhat less than two hours' sleep.

Today I've been able to divert the energy to my work, which is great, as that's what I'm supposed to be doing - and using that energy to make up for the fact that I'm dog tired. But I still spent my lunch break writing up my overnight notepad notes into the filing system and doing a few of the tasks I'd thought of, including planning a comprehensive consolidation of my sewing supplies into a proper sewing box plus a tiny sewing kit for emergency repairs, that can go into my bag. And writing this blog post!

I'm confident this is not evidence of bipolar disorder, because I'm fully aware of my slightly manic state, and I'm following tasks through to completion! But it's still not an ideal situation.

I've observed in the past that The Enthusiasm can be invoked by doing "infrastructure" work - updating my filing system, tidying my workshop, building tools, maintaining the van, building software infrastructure, etc. so my plan is thus:

  1. Book out infrastructure days.
  2. Work on infrastructure projects in the mornings. Try to remember the Enthusiasm I've felt before (this blog post will help as a memory jogger) plus sheer willpower to get me started, even if I don't feel like it.
  3. Let my enthusiasm take me where it takes me in the afternoon.
  4. Do this frequently enough that it's not all backed up inside me somewhere, so just a bit comes out at a time in a controlled manner, rather than big multi-day sleepless orgy of creativity.

Wish me luck!

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