3 min read

Friday Open Thread (with Increments, Reprise)

Friday Open Thread (with Increments, Reprise)

Dear Friends,

Just over a month ago, I wrote about Zeno's Paradox:

Much of my life I’ve been haunted by one of Zeno’s paradoxes: the observation that before one reaches a destination, one must reach its halfway point, and before reaching the halfway point, reach another halfway point, and so on. To quote the wikipedia article (whence comes most of my knowledge of math and physics when it’s not coming from more learned friends or speculations over blaseball cosmology): “travel over any finite distance can be neither completed nor begun, and so all motion must be an illusion.”

I went on to say that I was about halfway to a goal within a goal: being able to hang from a bar with muscles activated for 60 seconds, as the first step of training towards accomplishing a single good-form pull-up.

Well – yesterday, I met that goal. In neutral grip (where your palms face each other, gripping two parallel bars), I dead-hung for 62 seconds. And it only took me 46 days!

A graph mapping 3 lines along an X axis of dates and a Y axis of seconds spent hanging. The lines represent 3 different grips: Neutral, Pronated, and Supinated (Chin-up). The lines trend upward, but with many peaks and valleys before a single line surpasses the 60-second mark.
Many thanks to Stu for this graph

The graph above – with its upward trend marked by several peaks and valleys – stirs all kinds of feelings within me. It reminds me of an early version of a meme from a few years ago, comparing two images: on the left, an arrow slanted diagonally upwards, captioned something like "what creativity looks like from the outside", while on the right, an obscure scribble of recursions and knots topped with an arrowhead, captioned "what creativity feels like." Few things help me as much, creatively, as rooting cerebral processes in the body; the thing that feels impossible when abstract becomes achievable when mapped on to the tangibility of a small action I take almost every day.

The next step in pull-up progress is the horrifically named "scapular retraction": hanging on the bar and sort of shrugging upwards, then controlling my descent. I'm looking forward to doing sets of it and seeing how that feels. Already I've noticed a change in my posture, the quiet presence of strength where there was none before, and it feels so good – just a small, clear reminder of something gained by increments, even if a lot of the process felt like keeping very still.

Have you met any milestones recently? No matter how small – inch-stones, centimetre-stones even. How are you spiting Zeno today?  

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend,



  • I have a new column up in The New York Times! In it I cover Sarah Pinsker's We Are Satellites, Naomi Kritzer's Chaos on Catnet, Rivers Solomon's Sorrowland, Elly Bangs' Unity, Kim Bo-Young's I'm Waiting for You, and Angela Mi Young Hur's Folklorn.
  • I have yet to touch a physical copy of my first comic but I have seen photos of other people doing so and I am delighted! Reviews have been nice too! (It says "low qty available" at that link, which is thrilling and terrifying.)
  • I'm ridiculously excited about several things getting announced next week – one of which has to do with this poster. Stay tuned!
  • I'd love to share one last small incremental progress thing with you: a few days ago I articulated the decision – out loud, to people besides my husband – to block off all of July and August for writing. I'll be off teaching by then, I'll obviously not be travelling, and I intend to be mostly offline too (barring scribbling missives to you in this space – though I may even write those out by hand and ask my lovely assistant to post them for me, like proper dispatches). Anyway now I've told you all too, and that is its own millimetre-stone marked, and you can hold me to it.
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