Sunday, January 28, 2024

Rule Maker Rule Breaker

Last week I made a list of rules for myself and then I broke them. I don’t think I even made it a day. Who am I kidding. I didn’t make it an hour. The rules all had to do with how I use social media and consume news, and basically, how much I use my phone. (TOO MUCH!) 

The rules seemed like really good rules. 

What inspired me to write them was I am working my way through The Artist’s Way again and there’s a chapter about “blocks.” The idea is that just as we’re starting to break through, feel more creative, and play around on whatever project we’re working on, we self-sabotage and reach instinctively for a block. Drugs or drinking. Spending money. Overeating. For me, it’s the damn phone. 

The task we were supposed to do in Artist’s Way is write a list of things we promise we will no longer do. 

I had a fun time making this list.

1. I will no longer jump on my phone in moments of boredom.

2. I will no longer scroll through the news headlines.

3. I will no longer check emails on my phone. 

4. I will no longer mindlessly watch videos on social media. 

I made the list and promptly jumped on my phone, scrolled the news headlines, checked my emails, and mindlessly watched videos on social media. 

Surely something else was going on with me. The Artist’s Way asks us to answer honestly: 

What is your payoff in holding onto the block? 

I wrote, “It confirms my worst feelings about the world and about myself. That I lack focus. That I can’t tackle a project like the one I’m working on. That I can’t follow through on anything. That I’m acting like I have all the time in the world when I know that I don’t. That it’s okay to waste my one wild precious life because who cares.” 


I shut my laptop and picked up my phone. 

Something strange happened. An old friend emailed me out of the blue, kind words about something I’d written. At the same time, another old friend texted me. And another. I’m not lying. Three people I haven’t seen in years, all saying absurdly nice things. 

Too nice. I escaped back into the phone. 

Really, what was going on with me? I had a funny flash of my fifteen-year-old self making up rules, how to act, how to talk, how to eat, how to dress, how to fix my frizzy hair. So many rules. How could I help but break them? 

"Do one lovely thing each day for yourself this week" 

is the next task in The Artist’s Way after the phone block one, and I can already feel myself making it a rule. I can already feel myself breaking it. 

But here is something I want to try: What if I don’t call it a rule, a task, a promise? What if I don’t write it down or even think about it? What if I just take a moment, right now, and do it.