How to start over: Is there such a thing?

I want to create a new blog. This one stinks of economics and the struggle of maintaining my mental health while working in that field.

My best friend Riley recently introduced me to Toyota’s “Five Whys” method for interrogating ideas and thoughts. It’s basic – just ask why, answer the question, then ask – okay, but why?

So: I want to “start over” with a new blog rather than transform the Unofficial Economist.

(1) Why?

Because then there’s fewer confines on what I can write about – I could keep it anonymous.

(2) Why are fewer confines and anonymity valuable?

I value openness and honesty and genuineness very highly, but I can’t process certain things in a space read by my grandparents, parents, friends, and whichever random economists are still subscribed.

(3) Why can’t I share everything?

Even though I would prefer to be 100% open about every aspect of my life, some topics would make my family uncomfortable. I don’t need them to know about my sex life, for example, because I already have friends with whom I can dissect relationships and sex and all the sticky bits of dating in your 20s.

Hmm… I feel good after only 3 whys. A different tact:

(1b) Why is “starting over” so great?

Fresh projects are more exciting!

(2b) Why?

Anything could happen – it could be amazing!

(2b.2) But?

I’m nervous about over-investing up front (setting up a new website, etc.) but not wanting to or struggling to do the daily work of writing.

I anticipate struggling a lot to do the daily work of writing. Ever since I told myself I would drop my most prep-intensive tutoring clients in order to have more open time to write, I haven’t written at all. Through September and October, I completed writing sprints alongside Authortuber Kate Cavanaugh on her discord for Patreon supporters. But that little momentum, which I had been cradling like a tiny flame in my hands, was snuffed out once I pinned a goal to the task.

This is what I’m constantly afraid of – that re-orienting away from achievement-chasing will mean I can’t achieve at all anymore.

But that’s a loaded statement – loaded with bullshit. For one, it’s not like I was achieving much with the punishing, perfectionist mindset I had before. And two, being more generous and flexible with myself has produced some amazing things. Like a habit of walking or running each morning (currently abandoned, to be fair), or the Unofficial Economist blog itself.

By calling it “unofficial” and keeping posts off-the-cuff, I allowed space to get things wrong and try again. That space rarely existed while I was working full time toward a career as an economist – this blog was special and sacred to me.

Why not start again, in public, and if I have something strong to say that I don’t want to share with my family, find another way when that challenge arises?

This is the incrementalist approach: Post one piece of writing, no edits, on a website that’s mid-transition to a new focus. Just throw it out there and trust that it’s a step in the right direction. Do the small thing that I can today, and try to leave space to create again tomorrow.

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Hannah Blackburn

Hannah Blackburn is a Research Associate at UCSD with JPAL's Payments and Governance Research Group, under Professors Paul Niehaus and Karthik Muralidharan.

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