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The Sweet Sound of Productivity

This is what a $130 blog post looks like. Not like it’s worth $130, but it cost me $130. I make exactly $0 as a writer. So maybe I should actually say, “This is what a -$130 blog post looks like.” That feels more on brand. But let’s get to the real question - how did a person who hates spending money end up shelling out $130 for a blog post that’ll likely take 4 minutes to read and reach approximately 8 people? Answer: Because it was The Thing.

You know, The Thing. The hyperfixation on whatever gadget or tool or electronic or fill-in-the-blank-whatever-else that’s the literal key to your happiness and well-being. The Thing personifies change and better habits, resolve and dedication, joy and self-growth. It’s both the will of the universe and the path to self-actualization. Once you have The Thing, you realize your full potential. The noun becomes the verb. And it all comes at the low, low price of $129.99. At least that was the case for me. Because The Thing that was going to absolutely transform my life was a mechanical keyboard.

Have I always wanted a mechanical keyboard? No. Did I even need a keyboard? Also no. Was I going to obsess over researching them until I finally bought one? Indeed.

And that’s the really sticky part. My hyperfixation ultimately becomes so unwieldy that sometimes it feels like I need to buy The Thing so that I can fully kick off the inevitable – I lose interest in two weeks and get on with my life. This is how I ended up buying a keyboard during 2022, The Year of No Writing.

I honestly don’t remember exactly how it started. It might’ve been a TikTok, might’ve been a coworker in the cubicle next to me, or might’ve just been a targeted ad to lure me down the rabbit hole. But down that bottomless hole I fell.

I’ve always wanted a typewriter (thank you to my grandpa and the movie Finding Forrester) and a mechanical keyboard is the perfect 21st century retro-but-not-too-retro replacement. Wouldn’t it just be so satisfying to type on? The clicking, the resoluteness, the confident snaps of productivity. So satisfying, in fact, that I’d be motivated to write every day. This is all I’ve been missing.

What began as casual browsing quickly spiraled to details I didn’t even know existed a day before. Suddenly I was researching the merits of different key switches, key profiles, key cap styles and heights. Soon my Google search history was full of phrases like, “simple keyboard mods” (the only way anyone referred to modifications) and “best foam for creamy sounding mechanical keyboard”. I went deep. I got lost on YouTube videos of people typing on different keyboards (from tens of dollars to hundreds of dollars) and listening to reviews of different models. I checked my mini screwdriver set to make sure I had the right size and kept the keyboard in my cart for weeks as I wasted away an unreasonable amount of time thinking about it. I stayed up late watching videos, coveting the office setups of YouTubers and TikTokers who review these keyboards. From the moody, all black, dark wood, rainbow-backlit-everything, dark wood to the bright white desk and pegboard also rainbow-backlit-everything desk setups. I wanted that life.

And one day I finally did it. I bought a Keychron K6 68 key wireless bluetooth mechanical keyboard with Gateron G Pro red switches and upgraded to the aluminum frame to make it feel even more luxurious. I waited patiently for it to arrive and my life to change.

“Building a keyboard” is less intimidating than it sounds. At least the way I did it by buying it as a kit. It’s less “building” and more “assembling”. No motherboard (pause while I Google if those are real and not just in classic computer hacking scenes), no soldering iron, no mechanical work. It’s really popping in the switches, screwing in the frame, and individually snapping on each keycap. The most thought-provoking part is just making sure you have the keys in the right place. But, building a keyboard gives the nerdy vibe I was going for.

I’d already picked out which mods I was going to do before the keyboard got there and really I kept it simple. One was to tape the back of the keyboard with painters tape before putting it in the frame, and the other was to get some different foam to go between the keyboard and the frame. Both were easy enough to not feel intimidating but enough to make me feel like I was fully embracing the experience. I wanted a keyboard that sounded like my favorite clips.

Now, we’ve got to fast forward significantly because I bought the keyboard A YEAR AGO and I’ve used it for actual typing exactly one time. It accomplished the goal of sounding super satisfying but I weirdly don’t love how it feels. I want more heft to the keys, more resistance, more typewriter-ness. It’s a fine keyboard. But it’s not my favorite. And after the one use, it now sits on my desk, right next to the keyboard I actually use, and I occasionally tap my fingers across the keys for a 30 second ASMR break. I keep it there because part of me still refuses to fully accept my financial mistake.

Part of the problem is that as much as I love technology, I actually write the best with a pen and paper. I wish that wasn’t the case because it can be kind of a pain to type stuff up I’ve already written but there’s something about it that just helps me feel more connected, helps me think less about the act of writing and more about the thoughts themselves. When I started having success with writing again, it’s because I bought a $5 wire-bound notepad from the grocery store. There’s something about it that feels less intimidating.

A week ago I saw an ad that sent me down a days-long rabbit hole of researching the Remarkable 2. A Remarkable 2 is a digital tablet that mimics the feeling of pen and paper. Think of a Kindle but for writing. This, this is how quickly it starts. Never mind that my sensory sensitivities currently require a very particular kind of paper and pen (don’t be coming at me with a garbage Bic pen). And never mind the fact that I ALREADY HAVE AN IPAD. This is different. This is dedicated solely to writing - no distractions! People give it great reviews and something that hinges on the concept of being like paper and pen has to deliver, right? It even converts your handwriting to typed text at the touch of a button. Think of all the time I’d save. Think of all the trees I’d save. Think of all the stuff I’d get done. It’s the most environmentally-friendly, efficient, productive, career-launching decision.

I've heard that change is like a spiral. When there’s something hard for us to learn, we keep encountering the same lesson over and over again. While it may seem like we’re trapped in a loop with absolutely no progress, over time we make small changes that gradually shift our trajectory upwards. From the top down, the situation is a 2D circle. From the side, it’s a 3D spiral of gradual transformation. And here I am at that pivotal spot where the end meets the beginning, where I decide if I alter my behavior, if I make that move upwards.

I mean, I know that The Thing won’t actually change me. I know that I’m going to get tired of it. That there will be that boost of serotonin at the beginning but after a couple days or weeks or months it’ll wear off and I’ll lose interest. I know I’ll feel sheepish having this collection of electronics that I only mildly use. I know all this.

And yet.

I’m pretty sure the -$428 blog post is right around the corner. There’s no need to be hating on circles.

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