Write, Most Days | #195
A reflection on what comes next
September 3, 2022: Greetings from Lisbon! We’ll be here for the next month. I’m planning on wandering, writing, and reflecting a lot, which I expand on below. Let me know if you happen to be in Portugal in the next month, I’d love to meet up!
#1 Big Mood: Reflection
What am I doing in Portugal? What should I be spending my time on? Do I just keep going with what I’ve been doing? Do I need to make some new bets? Point in a new direction?
These are the questions on my mind. Angie and I arrived in Lisbon on Thursday and are spending a month here before heading back to Austin for at least ten months. In some ways this is a winding down of a very nomadic season of our lives, one that began with me moving to Taipei in 2018. In other ways, its another test in an ongoing experiment called life.
In new places, I inevitably learn something. Often times it is something simple, like how sunlight coming into my apartment makes me happier. Or noticing how much more I end up doing in walkable locations. Other times it is something deeper, like realizing how discomfort can be something worth leaning into.
2022 has been an interesting year. We arrived back in the US at the end of 2021 and I was a bit scared. I had figured out how to hack a living for more than four years living where I wanted around the world but I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to pull it off in the US or if I wanted to live in the US at all. Could I find a place I wanted to live and not have to penny pinch to do it?
The short answer seems to be yes. Part of this is due to a little bit of luck. Because of remote work, virtual training is now very much a thing that companies budget for. I say luky because I have been trying and failing to make this a thing since 2018. At the beginning of 2020, a company paid me to do virtual training, then changed their mind because they wanted to do it in-person. I don’t need to explain why this seems silly now.
Which has led to me making more in the first 8 months of 2022 than I did in the last two years. In addition, I’m making real money from the “Boundless” side of things for the first time, a payoff of a long commitment to writing and sharing ideas. The book sales have been the most surprising. If you had told me that my book would sell nearly 5,000 copies in five years, I would have been happy! But in 7.5 months? 🤯🤯🤯
I have 63 months of evidence that I can make this sort of life work and each month gives me additional confidence. Yet this has not given me magical powers to predict what comes next and when I try to think the next few years specifically, my mind feels more blank than usual.
My path’s origin was based on a tension and bet against the way the world worked. Much of that tension dissolved through the writing of my book but also because the world shifted. Many of my preferences are now big-mood-aligned.
What the hell is a big mood you ask?
A “big mood” is a phrase coined by Venkatesh Rao, who wrote about the big mood of 2022 this week. To him, they are defined by:
“a degree of individually felt intensity and a recognition of broader social resonance. The subtle thing to note is that a big mood is not due to emotional contagion but shared causes in a shared environment…So when you say big mood, you’re not just using a commonplace word for a vaguely similar stat as someone else, you’re indicating a very precise kind of attunement and emotional harmony that is beyond the reach of conventional emotional vocabulary.”
In conversations, 2022 seems to be a year of contemplation and gearing up for action for many, including me. A shared understanding that we’ve entered new territory and don’t really know what comes next. This might best be signified by companies finally moving on from “return to office” plans and accepting that hybrid work is the new default (well, maybe the finance industry needs a little more time…). Rao calls this period the “long 2022,” starting approximately once the vaccines arrived in 2021:
The long 2022 is probably as close as you’re ever going to get to a narrative blank canvas in your life. Compared other smaller-scale-fractal liminal years I’ve lived through, this one feels extra blank. While there are still constraints, to the extent you can choose, how should you choose?
In two years, will I be earning more money from my book and podcast or from my corporate work? Or something completely different? I really don’t know! What will I be most energized by? Where will I be living? I am not quite sure, but for the first time it feels like this is true for many others too. I’m no longer asking the questions as an outsider and weirdo. We are all weirdos now, making it up as we go.
After I shipped my book, I was quite busy. I rebuilt my consulting skills training business from the ground up, re-launched my podcast, and leaned into the opportunities that the book unlocked. And after eight months, I am ready to take a step back and reflect.
For most of my self-employed journey, writing has felt like the most important thing I need to do. When my income dips, I don’t really panic, but when I go stretches without writing in a deep way, I get restless.
In 2018, I set an intention for myself: write, most days. That changed my life. So for the next month and likely the rest of 2022, that’s what I’ll do again. Let’s see where it takes me.
ICYMI - last week, my thoughts on “making it” as a self-employed creator.
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