P(C) vs. NP(C)
A discussion of priorities, crossposted from my Substack.
PC vs. NPC.
PC means playable character. Active participant. Read-write. Can affect and/or achieve outcomes.
NPC means non-playable character. Inactive participant. Read-only. Can share useful information that helps other people affect/achieve outcomes.
If a freelance writing gig involves comment moderation, you’re automatically a PC. If the website you’re writing for doesn’t include comments, you’re a PC during the drafting/editing stage and a NPC as soon as it is posted. (You might switch back into PC mode if the article goes viral on Twitter, but you could also choose to remain NPC—which is often the better choice.)
You gain a lot of time back when you start writing for clients that don’t require comment moderation, and even more time when you write for outlets that don’t have comments at all—because the compulsion to see how readers are responding to your work is nearly impossible to resist.
In an ideal situation, you’d be PC for what really mattered to you and NPC for literally everything else. If you don’t care about the outcome, or if the outcome is significantly less important than another outcome you are currently pursuing, the only winning move is not to play.
(I’ve still never seen that movie.)
I feel like my biggest challenge for 2022 is to figure out where I’m going to be a PC.
Freelance writing? Absolutely. I spent most of today putting together my goals for what I hope will be my fourth year of six-figure freelancing, since this is an area in which I can do a lot of work by understanding how to affect and achieve outcomes.
Teaching? Very yes. I want to teach one writing class every two months (on average), and would love to teach even more if the time/effort involved doesn’t end up conflicting with my top-level freelancing goals. I also want to do more informal teachy-advicy things like answering your questions on my Substack.
(The first advice post should go up tomorrow, btw.)
Fiction writing? Here’s where it starts to get complicated. L [aka “the great love of my life”] and I have this shared goal of becoming so advanced at a few specific technologies that we are indistinguishable from magic, and we’re dividing our efforts between storytelling (novels, plays, theater), music (piano, composition), and chess (which is really our way of studying cognition).
We’ve also decided we want to learn all of the math and science that we missed out on in school, at least to the “able to hold our own at a dinner party” level.
Which means that I am unsure, on a minute-to-minute level, where to put my remaining PC points. I can do the math on “how many points to contribute to freelancing and teaching, and how many points need to be spent on things like meal prep and laundry,” but I am not yet sure how to allocate the rest of them.
I’m also well aware that every minute I spend checking my dinks and donks on YouTube (or any other site with a dink/donk rating system) takes me away from the goal of becoming magic.
As does refreshing, replying, moderating, following, curating, and so on.
While simultaneously understanding that YOU NEED TO PUT YOUR STUFF ON THE INTERNET IF YOU WANT ANYONE TO SEE IT
And SEEING WHAT OTHER PEOPLE PUT ON THE INTERNET CAN HELP YOU DO YOUR OWN STUFF BETTER
And also INTERACTING WITH PEOPLE ONLINE CAN LEAD TO FRIENDSHIPS
And PROFESSIONAL OPPORTUNITIES
Which means going complete NPC in terms of personal magic practice (you may read and learn from me, but I shalt not interact with you) is not optimal.
Even though many of the people I understand to be this particular kind of magic have chosen that particular path.
also whoops I was supposed to help the Forward Party gain traction so that it can work towards implementing ranked-choice voting and giving us a political system that is more likely to incentivize problem-solving and less likely to incentivize autocracy
even though I am not sure what I can do at the individual level to affect/achieve that particular result
they keep saying “tweet, pls”
It occurs to me—which is to say that it just literally occurred to me—that all of this chicky-checking dinky-donking stuff isn’t affecting my freelance work or my teaching work.
Because I have chosen to put that work first—
and also because I know how to get that work done.
I’m choosing “check my YouTube stats” because I’m not sure what to do next at the piano.
I’m choosing “check that one blog with the guy who writes about productivity” because I’m not sure what to do next with chess.
But I know that the only way to win those kinds of games is to play—
literally, in these cases.
Play, observe, iterate, perform a piano recital in your living room, play a chess game with the great love of your life, get back up the next morning and start woodshedding and woodpecking and observing and iterating again and again and again.
This doesn’t really solve the PC vs. NPC problem (and I really, really, really want to make a joke about it being unsolvable), but it could help me put a few boundaries around it.
freelance work complete
teaching work complete
piano practice complete
personal writing complete
chess study complete
physics reading complete
fiction reading complete
physical exercise complete
household maintenance complete
and it is not time that you and L have set aside for each other and/or your family and friends
then you may actively participate in THINGS YOU DID NOT SPECIFICALLY PRIORITIZE.
Otherwise, go do something that’s more closely aligned with one of your priorities. ❤️
p.s. I guess that means I’m solving the “Forward Party volunteer” problem by shifting to “monthly donor,” which may work out to be better for everyone