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Monthly Shenanigans, February 2018

Hello again 👋

Welcome back to The Newsletter Formerly Known as Exolymph! May its cyberpunk self rest in peace. The other way you’d know me is as tech reporter Sonya Mann. At some point you signed up for this mailing list on one of my websites.

Reporting ✍️

Here are the best articles I’ve written since I last emailed you:

  • A profile of San Francisco-based Republican lawyer Harmeet Dhillon, who is representing fired Google employee James Damore. [link]
  • A takedown of self-proclaimed “cryptocurrency genius” and actual grifter James Altucher. [link]
  • “These College Startups Don’t Charge Tuition Until Grads Make $50,000 a Year” [link]
  • What it was like to eat 90% meat for two weeks. People loved this one! Presumably because it’s fun to read about crazy diet experiments. [link]

Thoughts 💅

These days I’m always asking myself, “What do you want?” It’s a hard question (although not at the level of a quarter-life crisis). Also, it’s a question that I’ve asked myself many times before.

The answer varies somewhat. Usually what I want the most is to be an independent creator, along the lines of Ben Thompson. Alternately, one of those people who churn out zombie novels for Amazon Kindle users.

I’ve read the “1,000 True Fans” essay a couple of times and it’s fueled hours and hours of daydreaming. Daydreaming is easy — the hard part is committing to a particular vision and putting in the work. I sorta did that with Exolymph… until my creative juices dried up.

To be clear, I don’t feel sorry for myself. My life is charmed in most respects. I live in an economically vibrant area with good weather, near my family. I have a committed relationship and two friendly cats. Finances are comfortable. My health is stable. I am grateful for all of these things.

Nevertheless, I’m dissatisfied. I wonder if this is pure hedonic treadmill, and I’m just predisposed to wish for greater levels of achievement no matter what. Before I got my job as a full-time reporter, that seemed like a milestone that would erase my discontent. And yet here I am!

I waffle about the practical options too. Do I want to stay in journalism, despite the perverse incentives that have remade the industry? (As much as I love the internet, it’s been terrible for news businesses.) Should I jump ship to do content marketing? I’d make more money.

On the other hand, money isn’t everything. Cliché but true.

Are you where you want to be?

Bunny and guinea pig photo by Chris Parfitt.
Photo by Chris Parfitt.

Medium-Term Goals

“Success is the ability to move from one failure to another without loss of enthusiasm.” — Winston Churchill (or maybe not)

I am quite ambitious, but on a relatively small scale. I don’t want to be famous — “well-known in certain circles” will suffice. I won’t turn down riches if they pop up in my bank account, but my financial aspiration is middle-class comfort rather than stunning wealth. Hopefully that’s not asking too much of my own professional ability or of the economic context I live in.

Hell yeah, from now on I'm only shopping at Success Deli! Photo by Bruce Berrien.
Hell yeah, from now on I’m only shopping at Success Deli! Photo by Bruce Berrien.

There is value in stating goals. As a writer I subscribe to the idea that words have power, and articulating a desire makes it more likely to become an accomplishment. You could argue that I’m counting chickens before they hatch — luckily, the only consequence of predictive failure is embarrassment. The stakes are not that high. So here’s what I want to do, in roughly the order I expect things to happen:

Get more sleep.

Self-explanatory. I really need eight or nine hours; currently I’m making do with seven. Not healthy; not wise.

Start and run a sustainable lifestyle business.

I have an idea and I’m working on it! More on that soon, I’m sure. Anyway, I want to be able to support myself by running a small business within a couple of years and support both myself and my partner after ten years. (It’s okay if it happens faster! But I’m wary of over-optimism, since I’m interested in editorial entertainment, which is a saturated market.)

Cover of Liberty magazine in May, 1925.
Liberty magazine in May, 1925. Via Retrogasm.

Get married.

Even more self-explanatory than better sleep habits.

Write a full-length nonfiction book.

I’ve written and published various longish works of nonfiction, but nothing in the fifty-thousand-plus range that constitutes a full book. Someday! Fifty or a hundred thousand words is a lot, but I’m convinced that I can do it. The first book will probably be an essay collection, sort of a one-person anthology.

Write a novella or novel.

Fiction baffles me, but I’m still determined to tackle it. The books I have loved most have all been fiction, and I want to do for readers what authors have done for me.

Adopt a child.

Age is negotiable!

At some point I also want to start collecting art… but I could do that right now if I budgeted for it. Therefore it seems silly to put on the list.

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