Jan 222017

In mid-November I was laid off from my accounting job, and decided to finish my novel by year’s end. Despite a huge shock to my personal life right about that time (of which there are still all sorts of aftershocks), I managed to do so. :) I wrote the final line on Dec 30th, 2016.

I’m in my revision pass now, which looks like it’ll take a couple months in itself. But a couple things I’ve learned so far:

1. Working for yourself is far more intense than working for The Man.

I thought working for myself would be relaxing. A nice change of pace from the demands of corporate life, since I could work when and where I liked, and no uniform is required. Oh how wrong I was.

I should perhaps put “working” in quotes, because there’s no guarantee I’ll ever see any money for this. But that being said – when I’m working The Man and I’m at the office, I get paid for every hour that I’m there, period. I don’t have to be at the top of my game. If I show up Monday after a big party weekend, and I’m hungover and working at half-efficiency? No big deal. If I surf Facebook or chat with my coworkers for an hour? Still getting paid.

My posts to this blog have dropped off quite a bit over the last few months. I’m behind with most of the blogs I read, as well as not following the news as much, and I’ve abandoned several podcasts I used to listen to religiously. Because I just don’t have the time anymore. Every single minute I’m NOT working is time that I’m not getting paid, so to speak. Every hour of my life is now divided into “productive” (meaning may support my continuing to be alive) or “non-productive” (which feels like it’s wasted entirely). It’s intense. There is no such thing as “time off” or “down time” or even “slack” when you work for yourself. There’s only Doing The Thing, or Not. And getting sick is a double-whammy. It makes me more jealous of my time, and I was already fairly jealous of it.

I used to work on the Methods of Rationality podcast at the office, during my lunch hour. It was a lot like getting paid to work on my podcast. Now I have to chisel out 6-8 hours of my life every two weeks, taking time away from my writing, or my friends/family, or just rest, to do so. I used to always be a full episode ahead, now I rarely get it finished more than 3 days before it goes live. I still love it, but before it was something I used to fill my “free” time, and now it is a more dearly-felt cost.

I can honestly say I have worked far harder during my last few months of unemployment than I ever worked when I was grinding away in the last decade at the 9-5 (with the exception of some very hairy Quarter-End months.)

2. Starbucks is awesome, cuz work environment matters.

I discovered pretty quickly that working at home just wasn’t working for me. It was too easy to get distracted. There was always something to read, or to do. More than anything else, my bed was right there, and the nap times called me.

“How can I write well when I’m this tired? I can’t. I must rest my brain, and I’ll write afterwards. Whoops, it’s two days later.”

It just felt like such a hollow pursuit. I was floating in a strange limbo and nothing I did mattered. So I went to Starbucks.

At Starbucks, there are other humans. Those humans are always looking at me and judging me. If I am typing away, being productive, they smile, and judge me worthy. If I am surfing the internet or chatting on Facebook, they see how I am wasting my life, and scowl.

I know this isn’t actually true. No one gives a shit what I’m doing, they don’t look at me or my screen. But now I’m no longer in some weird dreamtime, I’m among humans. I’m grounded in the real world. And I’m reminded why I write. It’s for these people around me. To some day be seen and validated and maybe maybe even admired. So I sit, and I write, and I feel good about it. I know this isn’t psychologically healthy, but fuck it – do what works. Cuz in the end that’s all that matters.

Also, no bed nearby, so naps are not an option. :)


Anyway, I still need to do a full revision pass, and find an agent, and find a publisher, so I’m only like halfway through the process. And I’ll have to get a day job pretty soon to pay the bills too. But I’m happy to have discovered that if I ever get the chance to do this sort of thing for a living for real, I have the self-discipline to actually sit down and write a novel, rather than sliding into sloth and hedonism. :)

  8 Responses to “Huge Success”

  1. Congratulations!

    As someone who has enjoyed your previous writing I am very much looking forward to this book.

  2. A hearty and heartfelt congratulations on finishing writing your first novel!

    There is still more to do, but its a great accomplishment. I’m excited to read it when it comes out.

  3. I’m also looking forward to buying and reading this. I always enjoy your fiction.

  4. Congratulations on what you’ve already done; good luck and good skill on the rest as appropriate.

  5. Nice one EB. I am still curious as to why Starbucks though. Maybe it is just because I am from Melbourne and we think Starbucks is the sign of the devil (well of bad coffee, same thing for Mebournians) but I cannot understand why you choose Starbucks of all places. You did kinda say you would explain that too.

    • Oh, I thought this was the explanation. :) You mean why Starbucks *specifically*, as opposed to some other establishment?

      Partly because the wifi is good–better than almost any place else. Partly because there’s tons of outlets placed by nearly every place to sit. Partly because there are always other patrons around, I’m never in there alone. But primarily it’s because this is a socially acceptable place to spend hours upon hours on your laptop, working or whatever.

      I did occasionally go to Noodles & Co, or Tokyo Joes, or something. But the employees there would seem a bit unsure about me, and no one else in the place busted out their laptops. I quickly got the impression I was intruding or committing some sort of faux pas. In Starbucks this sort of mutli-hour laptop work is expected and welcomed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone else in there for a full eight hour shift over my past few months, and certainly not people who keep coming back day after day. But I feel like I’m welcome here, and the staff are happy to see me. Well, maybe not happy, but not weirded out anyway. :)

      • Thankyou for the answer. It is a little bit less exciting than I was hoping for but such is life.

        I certainly did mean Starbucks specifically. As I sort of mentioned it has a lot of stigma attached to it on my side of the pond.

        On a side note, do you intend to do a podcast of your own work or an audiobook version of it or something ? (I’ll read it the old fashioned way regardless but it’d be interesting to hear you read it too, reminds me I still need to get around to listening to the cinema sins guys narrate his own book…)

        • That depends a lot on how I go about this. If I can get a traditional publisher to buy this and print many copies to put in bookstores, I’m going to do that, cuz of the dumb prestige factor I’m not entirely past. If that happens, then it depends very much on what rights they buy (usually “all of them”) and what they do with them (usually “give to a professional audio book company to produce and sell”). I will make sure to mention that I’ve narrated over 700,000 words and maybe they could consider me for the narrator role, but the final call would very likely be up to them.

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