In which I am a fortune cookie or a book of aphorisms

How often do you think about the process that you use to get things done? I think about process all the time: when I write, how I draw, whether it’s better to make certain tweaks to a comic by hand or digitally. When I was teaching composition, one of my favorite exercises to give to my students was to write about a very straightforward process—making a sandwich, tying your shoe; something that’s mostly muscle memory, that you could practically do in your sleep—with the expectation that their readers wouldn’t know anything about it, so they had to be hyper alert to every step along the way. Find a loaf of bread. Open the bag. Get out two slices. Open the toaster oven.

Doing this helped my students realize that their muscle memory wasn’t everyone’s muscle memory. And it also helped them be aware of everyday moments that they could disrupt, space they could take for themselves to make new decisions and exercise change. At least, that was the idea: how far they carried these insights, I cannot know.

(The other idea was that their major papers wouldn’t include dizzying logical leaps, which was…let’s say medium successful.)

So I love thinking about process. It helps me feel at home in the world to know how a book’s published, how a car is washed, where my taxes go. It gives me a foothold in an uncertain world to understand the steps to both failure and success (even when some of those steps involve luck).

But one irony of my life is that thinking about process all the time doesn’t necessarily mean using the best one. For example, I save all my blog posts, like this one, in a single document that I created in 2011 for the very first post I wrote to accompany a comic. Every time I open that document, I’m aware of how insane that choice is; right now the doc is 274 pages long, single spaced. I have to scroll all the way to the bottom of a text ocean to add anything new, and if the document failed, I’d lose all my backups.

I think about this, and I do nothing.

But here’s the thing. It’s gotten to the point where I try so hard to control certain areas of my life that just letting go in other, lower-impact decisions is incredibly restful to me. It’s nice to mute people on social media who only say things that make you feel bad. It’s nice to keep a simple, idiotic system in place because it means you don’t have to learn a new one.

I don’t know your muscle memory; I don’t know your choices. But it’s hot outside, and the rains keep not coming, and I think it’s a good time for us all to give a little slack in the areas of our lives that could technically be improved, but in practice do not have to be.

So: consider this your permission. To know the process, and to let the process go.