Writing Is Weird

Before I decided to focus exclusively on my writing, I had a number of jobs. Some were just those jobs you get when you’re in school and then I had a series of professional jobs.

I started my career in one location with a company and then transferred to another location and position with that same company. I then left that company for a new role related to the same industry. And then left that company with the idea I’d start my own completely unrelated business. Until I fell in love with New Zealand at which point starting my own business in the same field was the better choice. I did that for a while but then added the writing during my downtime between projects until I finally decided to just do the writing.

Each of those pivots was just a normal part of the process of having a career. You work in a role for a while and then move on (hopefully upward) to a new role.

Never once when I was thinking of changing to a new position did I think that I had failed at the prior position, even when I was thinking of going into a completely different field.

Maybe because I hadn’t. Each time I moved in my professional career it was my choice to do so. I was giving notice to that employer or client that it was time for me to move on to the next opportunity.

For the most part I enjoyed what I did, but I always wanted growth and new challenges. I’m not a person who settles into a good-enough job for forty years. (Bless those who do, they’re smarter than I am in many ways.)

But with writing, every time I think of moving on from it, it feels like doing so would be a failure. I think maybe because writing can be anything you want to make it. There is no outgrowing being a writer. It’s always going to have unexplored directions to take.

And so not finding a direction to take that’s financially rewarding enough to stick with it, feels like failure. At this point in time I have accomplished a tremendous amount with my writing. I have a six-foot bookcase with all of my books on it and have written more books than most people who aspire to be writers will write in a lifetime.

Setting aside money and profitability, all the ebooks, print books, video courses, and audiobooks that I’ve created is something to be proud of.

But because writing (at least when you decide to publish) is also entrepreneurship, there’s always also that profitability side to it.

Is this business a going concern? Does it pay its bills? And if the answer to that is “no” then it feels like failure. Because other people pay their bills with it, why aren’t you?

And to be fair, I have chosen to live somewhere more expensive than necessary in order to be near family. If I had chosen two years ago when I sold my house to move to Omaha, something I considered, I’d easily be earning enough from my writing right now to pay all my bills.

But I didn’t.

Also, I don’t know that I’d be happy with my writing right now even if I’d done that. Because the other big difference between a career and entrepreneurship is that–in general, assuming you don’t have a setback–in a corporate-type career you steadily increase your income over time. You either get raises or promotions or move to newer jobs that pay more.

But with most entrepreneurship, including writing, you have up years and down years. It is not a steady progression.

Jim C. Hines has been sharing his annual writing income for years. And you can see that it’s not some nice, steady thing.

Here’s mine:

For a while there it was a steady upward progression. Which let me pretend that this isn’t a highly uncertain business with unforeseen pitfalls.

And if that plateau that you see there were high enough, I’d say, well, that’s okay. You have good years and bad years. As long as it stays above the support level you need, it’s fine.

I have a writer friend, for example, who had a 25% drop in revenues last year. But I’m pretty sure that friend was dropping from somewhere in the $300K range of revenue, so had plenty of remaining income.

Yeah, it sucks to lose $75K in revenue in a year, but when you still have $225K to live on, you can probably make that work, you know.

But when you are still trying to build to a good support level and you level out…And you look at trends in the market and they aren’t favorable…

If it were a simple job, you’d walk away. Hey, my employer is probably going to start cutting staff soon, good time to jump somewhere new. Yeah, sure, you miss the work or the co-workers. Or you regret that the company didn’t succeed. But you make the smart choice.

Writing, though…Even though the very large majority of writers never make much money from it, there’s still this relentless message that you need to stick with it. Even when you can’t think of new ideas, like another writer friend of mine. It’s like it becomes an identity that you can only claim if you’re actively pursuing it.

Skydiving is that way, too. Get past a fun tandem or two and you’re not just someone who occasionally likes to jump out of planes, you’re a skydiver. And if you stop jumping, you sacrifice that identity. And that community.

I don’t know. It’s weird. And something I probably should stop thinking so much about because I’d be better off writing. Or, in the case of what I need to do today, creating six paperbacks that will release sometime in the next week to accompany the two I hit publish on yesterday. But more on that in a day or two when all the sites shake out.

Until then. Enjoy your weekend.

Random Thoughts and Comments 20230119

I’m amazed that there are people out there who have no internal dialogue. Their minds are just blank when they’re sitting there not interacting and I find that both disturbing and fascinating, because my mind is never turned off.

So, without further ado. Some random thoughts and comments.

I am increasingly disappointed by the poor decision-making at Amazon with respect to books.

The other day I went to Amazon and there were no also-boughts listed on my book pages. None.

It’s quite possible it’s been this way for a while. I certainly know they were pushed down to the bottom of the page at one point in time.

One of the reasons this is bad is because it hides the scammers. It used to be that I could look at an Excel book and see its also-boughts and if all the also-boughts on a computer book were cooking books about Keto diets, I could pretty much guarantee you that the book was in KU, listed in obscure categories, and probably getting all its money from page reads out of a click farm somewhere.

Another reason is because also-boughts let readers see what others books I had that might interest them. The also boughts on my Excel books often had my Word, PowerPoint, and Access books, too.

I think this does really fall apart for the big-name or prolific authors like Nora Roberts or Stephen King because all of their also-boughts for ten pages are them. But that could’ve been controlled for by showing one page of same-author also-boughts and then showing other authors after that first page of results.

Finally, in the past also-boughts let me see for my fiction books what other authors people who bought my books were buying. That let me know if I had a branding or marketing issue (if my also-boughts didn’t line up with my type of book). But it also let me know who to advertise to with my AMS ads. If Author X’s readers like my books, then I should use Author X as a keyword.

Now it feels like both readers and authors are flying blind there. All they get is ads that may or may not have anything to do with that book.

Amazon seem to be falling apart in other ways as well.

I think I mentioned it before but I’m pretty sure they changed the way that they determine a broad category match on AMS ads, because this last six months for me running broad category match keywords has been a game of whack-a-mole where I luck into someone clicking on my completely inappropriate ad which then lets me know that AMS is showing my book about Microsoft Excel to people searching for makeup and blade saws.

I think before there was some effort to restrict matches to the same general type of product (although maybe not, back in the day I advertised my budgeting book towards people buying high-end TVs) but it feels like the wheels are completely off these days.

Maybe that’s just me.

I’d rather see it where people could direct ads like that using ASINs but where broad category matches were directed to at least products in the same general lane. So my Excel book keywords would direct to other computer books and computer software, not frickin’ makeup.

And don’t even get me started on trying to advertise Access books that suddenly are being put in front of people who want disability access aids. I’m not trying to be that asshole, but Amazon is making it look like I am. It’s a waste of my money and shoppers’ time and energy.

With these types of missteps I think it would be wise for anyone who relies primarily on Amazon to start making a Plan B.

Because they may be the ones who choke off the effectiveness of KDP with their poor decision-making, but when it gets to the point that they decide it’s not a “core business” that’s “worth keeping” we’ll all pay that cost in brutal ways.

If you haven’t been paying attention, they seem to be in a cutting mode right now. Peripheral stuff at the moment like Amazon Smile (which, dude, if you really cared about giving to charity would’ve just been a default thing instead of forcing people to remember to go to a different website each time they ordered) and whatever the subscription program they ran for magazines was and I think I’ve seen at least one or two other programs cut recently.

They are headed in the direction of efficiencies and profit maximization, which means get ready to get screwed as things become less workable for anyone except top execs and shareholders.

(There are days when I think about what I learned at Wharton and how it drives towards a long-term outcome that is net negative for all but a handful of people and just shake my head that I spent time absorbing that crap, but that’s the world we exist in right now. Do you hate the coach when they tell you what it takes to win? Or do you hate the game? And if you do hate the game, do you still play? What other choice is there?)

I’m also keeping a wary eye on all the AI developments because they mean that online identity is going to become even more nebulous than ever.

And there will be significant impacts on writers, audio narrators, and artists.

It’s funny, people used to refer to self-publishing as a “tsunami of crap”. What does that make what we’re going to be seeing from AI-generated projects in the next five years?

As a reader, when that stuff starts to flood the market and I can’t tell the difference between a book worth my $8 and one that isn’t because the packaging will be slick but the content won’t be enjoyable, I’ll probably be even more likely to stick to physical books that come from larger publishers. I won’t be the only one.

Expect those with solid name recognition to weather this well, but new names or unestablished ones to falter.

Then again, I’m also not a whale reader who reads five books a day that the current ghost writing, churn and burn marketers target, so maybe for that reader the new flood won’t be any different to them.

But visibility with that many more titles out there will be almost impossible I think.

Sorry I seem all gloom and doom these days, but I do think there are some seismic shifts coming in the next five years.

Which reminds me there was a good Twitter thread by author Matt Wallace recently. He’s trade-published, but still a good discussion of the ups and downs of this business and need to regroup and readjust multiple times if you choose to keep going. And how really it all comes down to you making that choice.

There were some good spin-off threads based on that one, too. I bookmarked this one by Marshall Ryan Maresca and this one by Ursula Vernon who also writes as T. Kingfisher. Hers was more of a spin-off of her spin-off which discusses what it really means money-wise to sell a million copies.

Speaking of sales numbers, I think I hit 90K paid copies sold as of November and $300K in revenue, which seem like good numbers, right? But they’re really not. Not when rents have more than doubled in my area in ten years and health care cost has tripled.

Yesterday I added the audiobook of Sell That Book to my YouTube page. I wrote that at around 50K sales, but I think the advice in there is still solid. (If I did it right any subscribers to the channel only received one email about it, but the whole book is up there.)

It was actually when I was narrating the audio for this book that I thought about putting up a YouTube channel. Because I had two chapters I wanted to share with anyone who’d listen.

One, was this one on when to quit trying to trade publish and self-publish. (Answer, never if it’s just because you gave up on ever getting trade published.)

The other was the very next chapter which is basically, why wouldn’t you self-publish if that’s the only way to fulfill the dream of getting your book out into the world:

Anyway, those are my publishing-related thoughts for the day.

I’m currently reading a series of books that are really good in the sense that I can devour one of the books in the space of a day or two and want the next one, but at the same time it’s funny to me because there are parts of these books that I absolutely do not like.

They’re a type of fantasy book that is not normally what I seek out, but I like the larger story in these books so I keep reading them.

Thinking as a writer, though, after reading about a dozen of these books there are some little author quirks that have become very obvious.

This author has a go-to phrase they use during sex scenes in every, single, book. Which when you read an author as they release a book once a year isn’t something you notice, but when you read six books by them in a week is.

It’s a reminder that series books have to work standalone because it can be years between when someone reads books in a series, but they also have to work when read in quick sequence. That’s a tricky balance to find. Both in terms of what information is presented and when, and in terms of repetitive phrasing.

Also, I read these books out of order. I read a later series of books first and then circled back to the first series of related books.

I don’t think I would’ve read as many books by this author if I’d started with the first book in the first series and read from there forward.

The reason is because of the characterization. These books include three different groups of characters that are very distinct in their supposed traits. So I would expect a wide variety of relationship types when characters get together.

And yet…all of the sexual relationships between all of the characters, no matter what group they belong to, are identical. Ultra-possessive and involving certain physical acts that I’m pretty sure aren’t the norm for most people…

This was understandable in the first six books or so because of the focus on one of those groups, but then it went right on to include the other two groups, too.

If I were reading in order I would’ve walked away at that point.

As a writer I think that’s a lesson that sometimes what you think people like about your stories is not what they like about them. And, also, to stop sometimes and ask yourself if the world you’ve built would really work that way or not.

In randomly related news, I just finished reading The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker, which I thought was a very good book. (Non-fiction.)

It’s also a reminder that in real life when a man is ultra-possessive and pushes the timeline on a relationship, that’s a very bad sign. (p. 199 in my copy) As is intense possessiveness and jealousy.

I think the fiction books I was talking about above just barely stay on the right side of that line, but I can see how someone could read one of those books and think they want that kind of intense, ride or die, lifelong connection with someone and then find themselves in a controlling, dangerous relationship where they’re at risk of being killed if they leave.

If you’re a single woman learn the real-world red flags for that type of situation. Because if you get into that type of situation, it’s often already too late to get out safely.

Random Thoughts and Comments 20220821

I think I finally ran into the IngramSpark/Amazon publishing order conflict today.

I’ve always published my paperbacks to Amazon first because I like to use their previewer to walk through my book and look at my cover. I find it far easier to use than the PDF preview that IS provides.

So I usually go there and publish and then go straight to IngramSpark and publish. Same day for both. And I’ve never had an issue doing it that way.

But today I was going to publish a book on IngramSpark that I’d previously published on Amazon and hadn’t signed up for expanded distribution. (At least it isn’t now and I don’t remember doing so before.)

And…it wouldn’t let me. Said the ISBN was already in use. I assume because enough time had passed between when I published on Amazon (in April) and now. So that error so many people had run into that I hadn’t when publishing over 100 books, I now have run into.

(But just realized I didn’t run into that issue with three other books earlier this month so maybe this was a D2D/IS conflict for a title I started and never finished when I thought I was going to start using them…)

Either way.

Now I get to decide whether to request management of the ISBN or just use another ISBN for the IS version or just not do anything at all because it’s not that big a seller for me.

At least I finally can use my codes on IS again. It’s quite possible I was able to do so back in May which would have been my anniversary date with IS but I didn’t bother trying until today because I was kind of fed up with them.

Which actually worked out well, because I decided to redo the Budgeting for Beginners covers yet again. I redid them in April, but decided this week I didn’t like them so changed them up again.

Sometimes I do something and think “Yep, that did it” and sometimes I do something and think it’ll work and then come back to it a month or two later and go, “Hmmm…No, not there yet” and have to try again. It is what it is.

I often wonder if all the failing in public that comes with self-pub is healthy for me or not. It should be humbling, which would probably be a good thing, and yet somehow I still manage to be an arrogant little shit most of the time despite it.

But it does at least keep me from thinking I’ve got this all figured out which keeps me engaged enough to keep going, so there’s that.

Although I’m not entirely sure carrying around a little voice in your head that tells you that internet strangers are going to think X or Y about you is necessarily a healthy thing even if you do ignore it most of the time.

(Then again, I get that with my mom anyway. The caustic things she said about Anne Heche and that car accident – geez. Seriously.)

Interestingly enough I decided to retake the CliftonStrengths test recently and my Empathy had moved from mid-teens to top 10 and I wonder if part of that isn’t just the bruising you take being out in public.

I mean I’ve always been pretty good at being sympathetic because I’m a Strategic-Relator-Learner so when I interact with people I’m trying to deepen that connection and adjusting my understanding of them on the fly the more they share with me. The better I understand someone, the better the interaction.

But I always figured I was like, “Nope, you’re emotions stop with you, buddy. I’m not carrying that. I got enough of my own.”

Maybe it’s just ongoing cultural crisis impacting how I viewed those questions. Whatever the cause, it was interesting to see.

Also, I’m currently reading an excellent book for writers, The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner. (That’s an affiliate link, btw, in case anyone was planning to buy a boat or something through Amazon. Can you even do that? I don’t know. Probably. If so and you’re going to, why not use the link.)

The book’s not about writing craft so much as writing personalities from someone who worked with a large number of writers over their career as both an editor and agent. I will say I think she skews to the literary side of things with her experience and examples, but still a good read. I’ve done lots of underlining.

One of the things she touches on in there is that balance between ego and insecurity that seems to be part of so many authors. (Me included.)

And it’s funny because this week I was thinking about the fact that there are maybe a dozen people who read this blog. But then sometimes I’ll say something on here and see what it seems might be echos of what I said here and wonder if maybe that number is higher than I think it is.

I mean I know I certainly don’t subscribe to the blogs I read. And I’m pretty sure my subscriber number doesn’t include people who’ve signed up for an RSS feed or whatever that is. So, maybe?

But then I think that’s just ego talking and how those echos are more likely part of the ongoing mass conversation that’s always happening where it turns out a good dozen people have the same “original” idea at the same time because all of the material for that idea was out there in the mass consciousness and those dozen people picked up on it in the same way around the same time.

Like, for example, I made a point here about something a couple weeks ago and then one of the hated ones on Twitter made a similar point around the same time. We don’t know each other, but we both said similar things at a similar time. And so if people who live to hate that person subtweeted their point and I hadn’t seen their post, it would be easy to wonder if somehow I was the one being subtweeted not them.

But likely not.

We all want to think we’re the star of the story, but we’re usually in the audience, not even in the supporting cast.

Just in case, though. For anyone who hasn’t figure this out, I’m just another rando on the internet spouting crap that’s probably 60% outright useful, 30% interesting enough to use to refine your own viewpoint, and 10% absolute misinformation or misunderstanding or only applicable to me.

And with that said…I think it’s time to start uploading some audio files for approval so people can hear me being very authoritative and opinionated on obscure business topics. Good times!

Random Thoughts and Comments 20220819

A few things that have crossed my timeline recently that I figured were worth mentioning.

For anyone looking towards trade pub and bookstore placement, I think this was a really good summary of the current state of affairs with Barnes & Noble.

I hadn’t realized they’d gotten rid of their co-op placement and that’s actually a really nice thing that means I may drop by my local B&N just to see what they have in there. I used to love walking through bookstores to browse the shelves and find something new to me, but recently the books that were getting a lot of attention in my genres were ones I didn’t want to read.

Which also reminds me that one of the drawbacks of becoming a writer is sometimes you get to know other writers and then you can’t remove that impression of them from your judgement of their books.

There was a recent big release by someone who annoyed the hell out of me at a conference by talking through all of the presentations, being generally arrogant, and flipping their hair around way too much and it means I won’t check out their book even though it might’ve been something I would’ve enjoyed.

(On the flip side, you meet a ton of great writers you would’ve never known otherwise and get to check out books that may not have even been on your radar, so it cuts both ways.)

Getting back to that Barnes & Noble thread.

I think something that wasn’t strongly highlighted in that thread and maybe because trade does work differently since books will literally go out of print, is that since B&N focuses so much on backlist sales that means there’s a chance for a book to get shelf space later if it follows the slow build, steady sales over years path.

(And honestly I’d rather not be on their shelves for a year and then be there for ten than be there for a month and never be carried by them again. Of course, trade pub doesn’t actually reward that pattern, but still.)

Anyway. There are a ton of options out there that come along later and maybe aren’t immediately available at release.

Bookbub, for example, rarely if ever (at least last time I checked) takes new releases in its promo emails. They want to see a nice track record of reviews first.

My first BB deal I think the book had been out for two years at that point?

So that midlist title that isn’t stocked at Barnes & Noble, eh, who cares? I mean, yeah, you care because you want to walk into that store and see YOUR book on the shelf.

But if you can create buzz elsewhere those people will order from Amazon or through the Barnes & Noble website or through any of a number of other places.

You do miss a random discoverability sale (which for kids’ books may matter more, since my mom would take us to the bookstore to pick out a book once a week when I was eight), but if people want that book they can still get it.

And if you get those steady sales so that you stay in print and people are continuously asking for your books, eventually maybe you do become one of those backlist titles they stock.

That does come back though to the need for authors to promote themselves somehow. There are so many ways to do that, but most take a lot of time and effort.

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t have a Twitter account but I do go there and read tweets by about a dozen different authors most mornings.

And you know what? The people I read are people who tweet every single day. Multiple times a day.

They aren’t necessarily the people saying the most interesting things, or the people I would like the most if we met IRL, but they’re the people who are there and delivering content when I’m bored and want something new to see.

Tweeting multiple times a day though is a lot of time sunk into one website that you have no control over.

Because the people I follow don’t just schedule tweets and go about their day. These are people seeing things while they’re on there reading other people’s tweets and sharing and reacting.

I wouldn’t be surprised if each of the people I follow is on there at least an hour a day. Probably more.

That may be fine for them because it’s where they hang out with other writer friends so it’s like lunch break. But don’t think that isn’t time spent. And that it isn’t something you have to dedicate yourself to for weeks or months or years to even get to the point of being visible enough that others share you and help you build an audience.

And at the end of the day…I’m not sure how many new readers it brings in.

I have a friend who killed it with social media. And who gets paid a nice little sum for some of the things they do as a result of building that audience.

But…That didn’t guarantee success when their books came out.

I do think it helped them get a few of their trade publishing contracts. It definitely helped with their first. And may be a factor in being kept on with their current publisher because they’re also very good at promoting other authors.

But social media followers don’t necessarily become dedicated readers.

Eventually I buy at least one book from someone I follow on social media. But I’m trying to think of one of those authors who I then became a regular reader-fan of. And I can’t. I bought that one book. Maybe two. And…that was it.

Because social media is different from novels. And just because someone likes a tweet you sent doesn’t mean they’ll like how you told a 90,000-word story.

Ironically for me most of my favorite authors suck at social media. They either have a snarly out-dated Q&A about the books arriving when they’ll arrive or they have a blog that gets updated maybe five times a year with things I don’t care about or…Yeah, they’re not savvy media types.

So building up a social media following that’s not based on people who are fans of your books is likely not going to drive significant sales of those books.

It might raise the tide enough, though, to get to the people who really would be your readers…But those numbers need to be large enough for that to work.

One of the early self-pub success stories was someone who kept leaving out the part of their story where they released three books almost immediately and then had a Bookbub on the first title for free that moved 40,000 copies at a time when people actually read the freebies they downloaded.

I think if any of us had 25,000 people read one of our books and were a competent storyteller we’d find our way to that core audience of 1,000 that you need to build from. Especially if it happened in a very short period of time when Amazon’s algorithms could see and react as those people bought books 2 and 3.

But for most it’s a much slower grind so there is no algo-love.

I still think of the excellent presentation Courtney Milan gave years ago about being that little paper airplane and trying to get the lift to get it up that initial cliff of discoverability.

And sometimes it seems to me that social media followings are a side quest. You climb a mountain and it is an accomplishment, but it’s not necessarily one that will help you climb the cliff of steady book sales.

Anyway. With that bad analogy, I am done for the day. I have some audio to process and then some groceries to pick up so pup and I can go have lunch with family.

Uneven Information Distribution

That’s a mouthful isn’t it?

I really need to stop reading Twitter, but when your daily conversations are your dog and your mother, well…You have to find some way to participate in humanity and that’s my current way.

So, as usual, the part of Twitter I read, or one of them at least, is blowing up right now with big-time drama.

What the drama du jour is doesn’t really matter. But it brings up an important point, which is that we don’t all possess the same information.

Two of the things that are part of today’s discourse come up often when this happens.

One, is pronoun use. The person at the center of this current drama uses a set of pronouns you’d have to have researched to know about. And they’ve now deleted their account so there’s no way to even see their bio and what pronouns they’ve listed.

I don’t know this person. I occasionally have seen tweets of theirs shared by people I do read.

On a quick glance their name and profile picture, which is all you see when that happens, present female. So if I were as a casual commenter going to mention something I saw them say in passing, I’d refer to them as “she” or “her” or, more likely for me, “they” or “them”. (I actually may have done so here in the past since a passing thread of theirs led me to comment on an issue a while back.)

Often when these things blow up on Twitter there’s a thread of comments about, “And they didn’t even use [person’s] proper pronouns! See how we can dismiss their opinion immediately.”

Except, that’s not really what happened?

What happened is someone saw a thread of a thread of a thread and by the time it was on their radar the actual person who was the source of the original situation wasn’t important enough to get a detailed biographical history before sharing an opinion about the little snippet that made its way into wider discourse.

In this case that was about an employer of this person. So people might weigh in on how someone was outed as working for X employer and refer to that person as “she” because they have no idea who that person actually is and don’t really care about who that person actually is so just go by their name.

It happens. It’s not a deliberate slight or an intentional misgendering. It’s just going by surface information.

The other big gotcha of the current scandal is that the employer information was leaked by some entity that is “known” to be BAD, and so therefore anybody reacting to that information negatively is clearly supporting this entity and its agenda.

Except, again, at least for me, my first note of the current scandal was probably ten steps down the line so all I saw were people who knew the original person reacting to them being called out and I then looked up that person’s name to see why and saw that they worked for X company.

I never saw the original source of the information. Most people probably never saw the original source of the information.

And, even if I had, not being a part of that community I’d have no frickin’ clue that Y entity is bad. Now I know about them. But the “Ooh, you’re supporting Y entity by talking about this, way to be a…” is not the gotcha you think.

According to my Google search, Twitter currently has 450 million users. That person in the midst of this drama I think had 50K followers. I’d bet you that only about 1K of those followers were dialed into the proper pronouns and who entity Y is.

When things like this break out they break out to a much wider audience than the 1K who know all the nitty gritty details.

Calling people out (and again, I don’t actually have a Twitter account and will never have one again so I’m not an active part of this conversation) for something they don’t actually know is the height of absurdity on the internet.

You live in a bubble. We all do. You cannot expect the world to know everything you know. And you cannot expect everyone to–in a casual, fast-moving conversation–dive down the rabbit hole to find every little nuance. Not gonna happen.

Of course, even if everyone in the world read this post and agreed, those sorts of callouts will never stop. Because there’s some psychological factor at work there that’s always existed. Even pre-internet you’d run into it. Like, “Ha! You didn’t factor in obscure fact number 236 in your comment, you’re wrong!”

But I like to scream into the void at times, so…

There you have it. Just because you know something doesn’t mean others do and half of internet fights seem to me to be about that exact imbalance of information and people reacting as if it doesn’t exist.

Final note. Still not approving any comments by new posters on this blog. (If you’ve posted here before, you’re fine.)

Also, full disclosure, I had a family member who worked most of their career for employer X. On space exploration, by the way. And I’m proud of the work they did there.

(And honestly this whole drama has been a good reminder for me personally that a lot of the people who are angry on the internet would never like me no matter what, so why bend over backwards trying to please them in my writing…Hm.)

Random Thoughts 20220710

I’m supposed to be unpacking right now from a recent move, but I have too much crap so I’m taking a break.

So, thoughts for the day…

First, Amazon. Sigh. If they’d just let us set books to free they’d save so much headache and labor time. For those not in the know, every other platform lets you just say, “Hey, I’d like my book to be free” and they’re like, “Cool. Done.” But Amazon dangles their five free days per quarter out there as an incentive to join Kindle Unlimited, so the only way to get your book set to free with them if the book isn’t in KU is to have them price match.

So you have to reach out and say, “Hey, everyone else set the book to free, maybe you should too” and they’re like, “I don’t know, man. It’s up to us whether we do that.” And then two hours later it’s set to free, too.

Except sometimes it isn’t. Or sometimes it is in the US and India, but nowhere else. Or sometimes it is and then they change their minds. Which is why I always say to check other venues if a book is supposed to be free but isn’t on Amazon, because chances are it’s Amazon chicanery.

Which brings us to my second thought which is that I noticed the other day that someone had paid for an ebook version of Excel for Beginners which is currently supposed to be free. So I looked into it and it was in the UK. And then I checked a bunch of other countries and the book was not free there as well. So I emailed and now it should be free in all their stores.

But again, maybe not. I can guarantee you that Nook, Kobo, Apple, and Google have it free and you won’t have to worry about if Amazon felt magnanimous today and let it stay free. So anyway. If you clicked and missed out, that’s what’s going on there.

Which brings me to the third thought which is that there have been a lot of downloads of Excel for Beginners in the UK since it went free two days ago. I’m hoping it’s a newsletter that picked it up. The number don’t seem high enough for a bot, but they’re higher than I’d expect for organic downloads. As a comparison, the US is at 15 a day or something like that and the UK has been in the 300+ range since it went to free.

I know there are sites out there looking for newly-free titles to promote, so that can happen. Just usually not in non-fiction.

Fourth, I’m sort of feeling like with this monkeypox thing we’re at about how I felt in January 2020 watching COVID-19 and wondering if it was going to break out or be contained.

It seems mostly contained to the MSM community right now and mostly based on physical contact, but it does seem to also have the chance to be airborne, so, you know, practice safety if you’re in those circles or tangential to them.

And don’t be surprised if in November/December we’re dealing with a more widespread outbreak of that one.

Fifth, lots of folks I know who hadn’t had COVID before have had it in the last couple months. Part of it is the world just saying, “yeah, whatever” and removing restrictions and so more people are being caught out by that.

But also we’re on the sixth(?) major strain at this point. I mean, honestly, if these were tested and examined separately I’d think one or two would be classified as completely different but related illnesses. And the thing is that for a strain to become dominant that means it’s outperforming the prior versions in some way. So what worked in Round 1 doesn’t necessarily work in Round 6. Either because the virus has found a way around precautions or, and this is important, because it evolves enough that prior infection or vaccination don’t prevent infection.

It seems to me that this is a rapidly evolving scenario that most people are thinking is the same as it was in spring 2020. And that’s just not the case. I mean, we all have to weigh our choices and take our risks, but I will reiterate yet again that I had a dad I lost when he was 45 because of a disease that caused him harm when he was 6. And he was amazingly lucky to live that long. He fully expected to die in his early 20s.

You do not want a chronic illness. You really, really do not. He lived a full life, but it was not an easy life to live.

So what to do ? Be sure to be vaxxed and boosted. Wear a mask indoors. Wear one outdoors if things are really crowded. And if possible, have everyone test before getting together.

And not three days in advance, but an hour in advance. Being vaxxed and/or testing three days prior worked in 2021, it doesn’t now.

And the vaxxed/boosted folks I know who got sick recently were knocked on their butts for a good week. Sure, they didn’t die or end up in the hospital and hopefully they don’t develop long-term issues, but most people don’t have the work and social support to be completely down for a week. I know I certainly don’t.

Which is why prevention is best.

Finally, I’ve had a few weird first-time comments on the site recently so if someone submitted a legitimate first post and I didn’t approve or respond, sorry, you got lost in the noise. Also, I probably won’t be approving first-time posters for a little bit yet, just in case. Sorry.

Editing to tweak the language I used about the newer variants being more contagious and to add this great Twitter thread on what it means when one variant is overtaking another variant: https://twitter.com/TRyanGregory/status/1546230649664962560 and this excellent article by Ed Yong on BA.5 https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2022/07/ba5-omicron-variant-covid-surge-immunity-reinfection/670485/.

Happy Moments

Have you ever had a moment where everything in life just seemed good? When there were no big worries pressing down on you and in that exact moment you were simply lifted up and happy?

I still remember one of those moments I had when I was about twenty. I was working at a small amusement park that curves around a lake with a view of mountains in the background. It was a mid-summer day, maybe just after it had rained and everything had cooled down for the night. And I’m pretty sure the sun was setting along the mountains, painting the sky shades of pink and purple and orange.

I was out doing my rounds, checking on my cashiers, walking through the park before it got busy. And in that exact moment I felt right with the world. Buoyed up with the pleasure of the moment.

It wasn’t a big moment. I wasn’t in love. I didn’t have lots of money. I was living in a teeny little apartment or with my grandma. I was driving a clunker of a car or some really cheap new car that wouldn’t drive well through those mountains in the distance. I was earning more than minimum wage, but not much. I knew that job wasn’t my long-term career and that I’d have to strike out and find something else.

But that moment was a moment of pure enjoyment and being right with the world.

It seems to me people are often searching for happiness in the big moments. The wedding. The birth of a kid. The first kiss.

And those moments are often good moments, but they’re also ones that carry this heavy weight of pressure around them. (How anyone survives the stresses of their wedding day without a complete meltdown, I don’t know.)

For me it’s always the quieter, smaller moments that are the moments of pure joy.

Like with skydiving, it was never the moment you leave the plane that was the best for me, it was hanging there under canopy with all the stillness and peace and just looking around. (At the lake spread out nearby and mountains in the distance. I may in fact have a thing for lakes and mountains. Haha.)

Anyway. Something to think about. We don’t always need the big moments to be happy if we can pause and capture the small ones instead.

It Only Works If Everyone Complies

This is something I think about often when I’m reading fantasy books or writing something myself. And that’s that there’s often some big evil, bad person who is presented as the antagonist.

For example, right now I’m struggling my way through a book where the ruler is physically weak and also crazy. (He’s talking to his dead grandma’s portrait.) He just killed one of his subordinates, imprisoned another, and threatened to kill others of his advisors.

What always fascinates me about these stories is this is just one person. Yes, they’re in a position of power. In this case, a hereditary position that they earned by being born.

But books (and reality) rarely question the compliance by everyone around this person that results in them being able to do all these horrible, horrendous things.

One person alone can only do so much damage. (Granted in our modern times, a lot more than say five hundred years ago.) But the actual true lasting harm comes from others complying with that one person.

If in this book the leader who is so sick he can’t physically do much himself ordered someone executed and everyone around him said, “No, I don’t think that’s a good idea,” that would be it. That would be the end. Because he can’t do it himself.

Or he can do it to one subordinate who stood there and didn’t fight back. But even then, if the man had fought back, he’d have lived.

But because of how humans are conditioned to obey and to respect authority and to not question the status quo, a single person with bad intent can perpetuate true, lasting harm against hundreds or thousands of people.

In our modern age the wrong person in the right position of power surrounded by people scared to act independently can harm millions. Or billions.

And everyone looks at that one person or that limited group of people as the perpetrators, which they are to a certain degree, but it’s everyone who goes along with it who does the actual harm.

It’s not the general who gave the order who kills the enemy soldier, it’s the soldier who obeyed the order and fired his gun who kills them.

The supreme court case overturning RvW came down just last week and it’s unclear the extent to which that impacts abortion access in each state because if I understand the decision it basically put the determination as to who can get abortion access back to each state.

And, yes, some states had laws set to go into effect when the ruling came through, but immediately abortion clinics in states that had laws on the books shut down. No one came knocking on their door or sent out a notice, they pre-emptively did so because they anticipated that the laws would be enforced.

And I’m now hearing anecdotally of people with illnesses that require a medicine that can cause a miscarriage being denied that medicine. Just in case.

As far as I’m aware nowhere is there a law that says that people capable of child bearing are not allowed to take medicines that treat an illness if that medicine might, if taken improperly, result in a miscarriage.

But members of the medical profession (doctors, pharmacies, etc.) have decided they don’t want to risk their licenses to treat these people for an illness unrelated to pregnancy, so they’re denying them these medications.

Which makes them (the doctors or pharmacists) the ones doing the actual harm.

The changes might have been started by a very small group of people making an ideological-based ruling, but the true harm is being perpetuated by everyone who goes along with that decision and extends it in ways that aren’t even there in the law. Out of fear.

Just in case. Better to let someone suffer or die than risk that precious medical license.

But that going along with it is what perpetuates and worsens the harm. The legal system is not equipped to find and prosecute everyone who is taking a drug that may cause a miscarriage. It’s not even equipped to find and prosecute everyone who has a medical abortion. Doing so would overwhelm the courts.

Because people have chosen to willfully comply, they don’t have to. They get their result through the threat of potential consequences. Because we are so compliant and rule-based that we do their work for them.

If you haven’t read it yet I still think The Lucifer Effect by Phil Zimbardo is an excellent book that discusses the studies on what makes people comply and perpetuate evil. So is Ordinary Men by Christopher Browning which looks at a real-life example of how ordinary citizens were turned into murderers.

People don’t have to be evil to do evil. They just have to be willing to follow someone else’s orders.

Or even worse, to anticipate someone else’s reaction or order and do the harm without anyone even telling them it was necessary.

(And, yes, I know these things are far more complicated than they look on the surface, but I also know that the rule of law does not function if the majority of people don’t willingly comply. We are heading into a very ugly period of time in the United States and possibly other countries where whether people go along with increasingly harmful laws or rulings is going to determine just how bad things get. A minority only gets to rule if enough of the people in the majority let them.)

Random Thoughts 20220625

It’s been an ugly week in the United States watching all these Supreme Court decisions come down. And it’s going to get uglier. I’m not a lawyer so I’m not up on all the nitty gritty details but there’s at least one more decision that I believe will be released next week that could have brutal consequences for this country. On top of the ones this week that already did.

Some of the decisions that will be truly impactful were barely commented on in my social circles, but of course the overturning of Roe v. Wade hit hard and was all over the place yesterday. Including what that decision hints at for the future. Overturning the right to contraception, for example. Gay marriage. Interracial marriage. All potentially gone if you follow this decision to its inevitable conclusion.

Of course this is a court that’s shown that its members are not actually following some coherent interpretation of precedent but are instead just picking and choosing what they need to make the decisions they want to make.

I’ll leave it to the legal scholars to delve in on that. Suffice it to say if you’re citing back to England for precedent I think you missed the whole fucking part of history where we formed our own country with our own laws because we didn’t like the way they did things over there.

But honestly there is no reasoned debate with someone determined to implement their worldview at the expense of all others. They may put some words on paper to look legitimate, but that’s all they are is random words on paper that pretend to justify a decision that was already made.

So, some random thoughts on and around this sort of thing…

December 2020 I actually started to write a book I was going to publish anonymously that was going to be called something like The Centrist Agenda. (I did not and will not do so.) It was trying to set out what a Centrist party in the United States might look like.

Personally, even if a party were to represent all of my views exactly I still wouldn’t join it. Because as we’ve seen here in the United States when you stake your identity on group membership you stop making individual decisions.

Party membership means voting for what you’re told to vote for and that’s never going to be who I am. I wouldn’t even join a party if I was the leader of that party.

Unfortunately, because of the nature of how our political system is structured party membership is also the only true means of having power. (Although how someone hasn’t noticed that being an independent right now in the Senate would make them incredibly influential I don’t know. If I were an unhappy Republican, that’s where I’d be, just waiting for the Democrats to come negotiate with me on my pet projects.)

Anyway. I wanted to write a book that talked about how to pull in the middle of both parties. Even today I know people who vote Republican simply because they can’t see themselves voting Democrat. So give them a third party that’s strong enough to make a difference.

But what would that central party look like? What would they believe? That’s what I wanted to figure out in that book.

I wrote the first chapter.

It was called something like “Pro Active Not Pro Choice or Pro Life.” Because I firmly believe that if the only time you think about someone’s choice to carry a child to term is when they’re walking through the doors of a clinic or when they’re having that difficult conversation with their doctor then you really don’t care about the issue at all. It’s political theater for you.

And then I tried to think about what it would mean to be Pro Active.

It would mean universal healthcare so that anyone who was pregnant was more able to carry a child to term and had better access to prenatal care so that there were less risks to the baby that might result in the need for an abortion. Also, care for the infant after it was born and for the parent who was going to need to raise that child.

It would mean better access to contraception so that all individuals who wanted to have sex without the risk of conceiving a child could do so.

It would mean earlier and more thorough sex education so that children knew how babies are made before they could make them themselves.

It would mean consent training for children so that they were better prepared to say and accept a no answer when it came to sex. And so that children who don’t have the language for it would know that the sexual abuse they’re suffering is not okay and would know there was help available.

It would mean better support for parents and children after the birth of the child. Often the decision about having a child or another child is a financial one. If society were actually there to support having a child so that the parent knew they and their child would be housed and fed, they’d more likely to have that child.

I’m sure there was more. And that it would not end all abortions, but it would I think reduce them significantly.

(For the record, I support abortion and I don’t think it’s my business why a person needs one. Furthermore, I support abortion throughout the term of a pregnancy. I had a friend who desperately wanted a child and miscarried later in her pregnancy. She had to miscarry for a full month because she didn’t want to be seen as having an abortion. That decision was hers to make, but no one should be forced to go through something like that against their will.)

After writing that one chapter I put the book aside. Because that list? It’s a complete rewrite of where we are as a society right now. Or at least where those in power are. And it depressed me so much to realize that I didn’t even want to continue down the line with things like property ownership and energy and diplomacy and all the rest of it.

(For example, I think we should have a federally funded mortgage program for anyone who has rented successfully for 2+ years to be able to buy a home with a mortgage payment equivalent to their rent payment. I also think if someone owns a home that they should be able to refinance that mortgage without the need to requalify if they’ve been making their payments on time for the last two years. And I think there should be limits on how many single-family homes can be owned as rentals. But that’s an entirely different chapter of that book I didn’t write.)


It’s a sickness we have that we think that more and better are always the right answer. More growth, more profit, bigger cars, bigger homes, more, better, richer…

What if that’s the absolute wrong direction to be headed?

We’re destroying our world for more, more, more. Every time we stop growing or constantly moving upward there’s some panicked headline about it.

What if steady state is actually better? What if we have all we need right now and we just need to be better at distributing it around and maintaining our lives?

Because we’re stuck in this mindset that it always has to be better, we’re burning the world down around us. And destroying so so many lives in the process. Everyone hoards as much as they can for…what?

Another thing that crossed my mind lately was how sometimes you hear people justify all of this telling others what to do with the notion that “they’re going to go to hell” if they don’t accept God or if they have an abortion or if they…whatever.

And lately my reaction to that is, “Then let me go to hell. What business is it of yours if I burn for eternity. Save yourself and write me off as a lost cause.”

I don’t know these people. They’re not my grandma. Why the fuck do they care if I go to hell or not? (And, yes, I know that certain branches of Christianity lean very heavily on the need to proselytize and be a witness for their faith. Trust me, I’ve had the awkward Sunday dinner conversation that came with it. But maybe, you know, do that without being an absolute asshole who ruins other people’s lives?)


I wonder sometimes how much all of this would register for me if I hadn’t stepped off my corporate path. Because that path is so consuming in terms of time and energy that there really isn’t a lot of time to dig deep on things. I can’t imagine I would’ve completely missed everything that’s happening…but I think I might have missed a lot of it. Or just been willing to go along with what the people around me said about it.

Which is why I wonder if the overwork culture in America is actually part of the scam. Make people work so hard they can barely breathe and you can do anything to them.

Maybe that’s why we’re so relentlessly sold on this dream of fancy homes and fancy cars and fancy water. (I say fancy water because for a while there I knew someone who was struggling financially who still thought they needed that Voss water in the glass bottle.)

In the attempt to have what we think we’re supposed to have we all buy into the system so hard we can’t see that it’s a bunch of needless bullshit.

I’m ready for the day when someone announces that a sports jersey was sold at auction for $3 million and instead of that being covered like an interesting tidbit it’s covered as “what is wrong with us that it’s okay to spend that kind of money on a piece of clothing instead of something useful that will make the world better?”

Seriously, dude, take 10% of that amount and pay off some school lunch bills would you? I’m not going to tell you you’re going to hell, I’m just going to say that makes you a really shitty and selfish human being.


But I’m just some rando on the internet, so what do I know.

(Not enough I’m sure. I have no doubt I got some things wrong here and someone could come and argue them with me, but I really don’t need to have that argument. All first time posters on this site have to go through post moderation and I tend not to approve a lot of them. Like the one who posted on a post about the use of an outdated offensive term and managed to use a different outdated offensive term or the one who told me that they don’t actually use the product I’d written a book about on a post about that book. So if what I said here sparked some thoughts or reaction for you, probably best to put that on your own site where you have full control.)

Cap T

I’m thinking I may get to a point where I have to stop blogging because all it feels like I’m doing is making the world worse with my angers, fears, and frustrations but we’re not there yet. Sorry.

The good thing about a blog is I can’t share and amplify the negativity the way I’d be able to on a platform like, say, Twitter, so it’s a slower slide here than it was there.

But I can screenshot. So here is a funny/sigh of depression tweet I saw today:

[Alt text for anyone who needs it. The tweet is from John Rogers (@jonrog1) and it says “Yet another evening I close my eyes, pinch the bridge of my nose, take two short sharp breaths and remind myself millions of people led satisfying, meaningful lives during the fall of the Roman Empire.”]

I think this tweet highlights a very important issue I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, which is Cap T.

I can’t find a resource on the internet that explains it, so it’s possible it was some sort of fevered not-real memory of mine, but I have a distinct memory of sitting in the back row of one of my econ classes during my MBA program and having the professor describe lifetime spending behavior and mentioning that it was all about the Cap T.

It stuck with me because for some reason I and those around me found the way he said it-he was a pretty droll guy-funny.

The basic concept is this: That we spend over our lifetimes based upon our lifetime earnings.

So it’s reasonable to go into debt for, say, college, if you believe that you have fifty years of earnings that will pay that off. Which is why so many people have this spending/earning pattern of going negative early on and then having a surplus later in life until they ultimately even out at the end.

Now, one could dig in on that and debate how much it holds up because I know my mom, for example, is fully determined to never pay off her student loans and just die with that debt and have it be written off. But for this post, let’s just run with it.

Because I’ve found myself applying this concept-or my weird understanding of this concept-to life decisions in general.

For example, do I stop the writing and go get a “real” job that pays more because I have 45 years I need to be planning for and this field probably isn’t stable enough to support me for that long?

Or do I carry on as is because the world as I know it right now may not exist in ten years so why build towards a future that won’t be there? Might as well enjoy what I can while I can and then pick a new future up out of the rubble when it all goes to hell.

Those questions are both asking what decision to make based upon the Cap T for our current societal system as well as for my career field and for me personally.

Let’s talk that through because it probably makes better sense if I explain it more. (And even then, well. Sometimes what makes sense in my head does not make sense to anyone else.)


I was brought up at a time when the American way of life seemed very stable. This was also at a point where college was basically expected for most careers.

(My dad was an accountant for a while during a period of time where you didn’t need a college degree or certification to be one. But by the time I was 18, that had changed and he’d had to switch careers. I think that was probably true for a lot of fields. My stepdad was employed as an engineer while he got his degree at night school. Not something as likely to be an option by the time I was 18.)

And for me, standing there at 18 looking forward, the world felt like it would continue as-is until I reached old age and retirement.

Which made things like going to college and buying a home and saving for retirement and all of those other things that are common recommendations today make sense as a solid life path.

But for that path to work over the course of 70 years, there are things that have to be true now and that have to remain true over that entire time period.

A stable currency, for example.

We fail to acknowledge on a regular basis that currency and its value is actually just a social construct. The US dollar (or any currency) has the value it does because we all agree that it has that value. (And generally there’s a government working hard behind the scenes to make that true.)

A dollar bill without that agreement is just a piece of paper. Electronic records of money are just bits of data.

It is the government and the individuals that make up a society that give currency its value.

There are multiple countries where the physical currency of that country basically became worthless at some point because that system failed.

I have some Cambodian money in a box somewhere. Its worth? Nothing. Even when I was there people who lived there wanted to be paid in USD not Cambodian money.

If you own physical goods, you still have those goods when a currency collapses. But any savings you have? Gone. Worthless.

Another thing that has to remain stable is property rights and the stability of the property you own.

If part of the life plan is to own a large home in X location you have to believe that X location is going to exist 70 years from now. And that it will be livable.

A couple weeks ago (?) there was that video going around of a house on stilts in North Carolina being washed away into the ocean. Homes have been lost to tornadoes and hurricanes and fires, too. I had a friend in NM just last month who almost lost their retirement home to a wildfire.

Right now insurance will cover the cost of replacing a home that’s lost to something like that. But for how long will that be reasonable? And you can’t rebuild on an eroded shoreline or in a flooded marsh.

You also need to believe that the government won’t change your right to own your property. I know of people who have seven homes spread across the world, but they aren’t physically in those homes. They can’t be.

Which means they require property law and respect of property law in order to maintain their ownership. That requires a stable government and a stable society.

It also requires a government that doesn’t decide that you aren’t allowed to own that property because you are of the wrong religion, skin color, or gender.

And what about resource availability?

If you’re going to build a life in one place for seventy years you have to assume that water and electricity and all of those things are going to be available to you in that location for that period of time.

This week there were schools on the east coast that were dismissed because of high temperatures and a lack of air conditioning causing health risks. If you live in an area that requires air conditioning or heat to be livable but you don’t have the right power grid to run that air conditioning or heat, what then?

There are others factors that we could discuss, but I hope those three examples at least give you an idea of all the factors that come into play when considering the Cap T of the current dominant life plan most of us follow.

Someone like my grandma who is now in her 90’s did well following that plan.

The problem is, I think we are in a transition period right now where the old model is still a viable model for a short-term Cap T but it isn’t for the long-term.

And the thing I personally struggle with is when that’s going to switch over. Is it five years? Ten years? Twenty? Fifty?

Where is the inflection point? Because that inflection point impacts how to act now.

For example. I sold my house last summer and I can definitely see right now in this moment that renting in a market that’s in demand is not ideal. Rents are twice what they were a decade ago and rising. Also, if you own a home you have property appreciation in a market like this.

(You also have maintenance and all those other costs, so home ownership is not the perfect choice for every person, but it’s a good one in general if you’re staying in one location and definitely a good one in a world of rapidly rising prices.)


In a world of potential instability, is acquiring physical assets, like a house, and locking yourself to a singular location actually a good idea?

I personally think there will come a point where the better strategy is to own say four condos in vastly different countries/regions/states and to only own a limited number of physical personal mementos that can be easily transported. Everything else would be virtual and not location-dependent.

This as opposed to one large home in one fixed location with a large amount of physical property.

So better to own four thousand-foot furnished condos versus one four-thousand-foot home. (Assuming you have the wealth to make that choice.)

But, the question is, have we reached that point yet? And if not, how fast is that instability going to develop?

Maybe not in my lifetime. Maybe it’s something I personally don’t need to worry about. Maybe the old model will hold long enough for someone my age to be fine.

I don’t think that’s the case, though.

I’m not good at climate change, it’s not my area, but from what I’ve glimpsed I think we’re more in the 20-year range for these changes rather than the 50-year range.

My grandma has been able to live a full life that worked under the old model. I don’t think I or my peers will be able to. And I absolutely don’t think someone who is 18 now will.

So what different choices should someone who is 18 today make than I did when I was 18 or than she did when she was 18?

Should they still go to college? Should they still aim for homeownership and a job in a physical office space?

What about someone like me who is theoretically halfway through?

Because on top of the society Cap T, we have to look at our own. How long will you personally live? If it’s a year or two, look around and act accordingly. If it’s decades, though? You have to factor in so much more.

As of a week ago or so I have now outlived my dad. He died about a month before his 46th birthday and that’s the one that’s right around the corner for me.

Because he was ill he never had an expectation of living to 90. He was always operating on a Cap T plan that was the next two to five years with hopes of more but no expectation of more.

That meant no 401(k) contributions. He wasn’t saving for retirement. Or making those sacrifices now to work his way up the ladder to be rewarded in thirty years. He knew he’d be dead before he got to the top or to retirement.

(It made him a good father. He wanted to earn enough to keep us fed and housed, but because there was no professional ambition beyond that, his energy and his time went into being there for us while he could be.)

So what about me? Obviously I made it past where he did. But what is my Cap T? Am I planning for 90? Am I planning for 50?

Also, I skipped the industry Cap T. What does publishing look like in five, ten, twenty years? Does self-publishing as I know it right now have a Cap T that matters to my planning?

I think it does. But is its Cap T longer or shorter than the current societal Cap T? Which will go down first?

That I don’t know.

And for the most part this all ends up being an intellectual exercise, because there are so many moving parts one person can’t possibly account for all of them.

I can’t even see what’s going to be impactful in six months. There are things percolating below the surface right now that will emerge and flip all of this on its head in ways I can’t anticipate.

A year ago some analyst somewhere knew that Russia invading Ukraine was a possibility. And they even probably knew some of the downstream impacts. But I couldn’t see that coming.

Or when COVID emerged. Some people knew something was going to emerge because that was their field. I even knew that the US expected some sort of pandemic at some point because we’d done emergency planning on it 15 years before that. But did I know what would emerge and when? No.

So in a sense you have to go higher-level.

I can’t tell you what is coming or how fast the change will be or in what direction it will be. But my instinct is that there is absolutely going to be an inflection point that flips a lot of things on their head at least on a local level, most certainly on a regional level, and probably on a national level.

And it’s going to happen sooner rather than later. For some on the local level it’s probably already here.

But I don’t know the exact timeline. I know it makes me more short-term in my thinking, but not fatalistically so. Maybe that’s the wrong mindset. Maybe I should be BAU (business as usual) because Cap T is long enough I won’t be impacted.

It’s hard to know.

A while back someone asked me why I didn’t start up a business to run AMS ads for people. They told me how much money they’d made doing so based off of what they’d learned in my book (and from other sources) and it was sizable.

But to me doing that as a business was an unstable path that could crumble underneath me at any moment. One algo change and suddenly I’m losing people money when I told them I’d make them money.

Five years on (?), though, it’s held up better than I would’ve expected. And I probably would’ve been able to deliver results for people. (shrug)

So sometimes I’m over here wide-eyed, chewing on my thumbnail anticipating an imminent collapse and instead it takes ten, twenty years before it actually materializes.

Cap T is not actually easy to calculate. The real world is much messier than a graph on a chalkboard. But it is kind of fun to think about.