And how to unask that question.
It’s been almost two months since my last update here. As you probably know, my book Why Are We Yelling? is now out. Thank you to everyone who has bought a copy or three, and extra bonus thank yous to those who left a review on Amazon (91% of the reviews are 5 stars!). There’s a special kind of insecurity and self-doubt that I recently discovered that rears its head when I’m expected to ask people to feed the algorithm when, in many ways, the algorithm is eating me at the same time!
Some fun facts from the last few months:
Obligatory self-promotion! Why Are We Yelling? was named one of the Best Business Books of 2019 by Fortune! I really loved No Hard Feelings, How To Do Nothing, and Super Pumped on that list as well. Check them out!
Anecdotal publishing trend #1! Now that I can see weekly sales numbers, I was surprised to learn that about 45% of my sales are coming from Audiobook! It’s only $7.49 at the moment, and even cheaper if you have some Audible credits piling up.
Anecdotal publishing trend #2! On the other hand, I was also surprised to see that only 18% of my sales are from Kindle. Asking around with other authors, these aren’t very unusual numbers, but in my head I had probably assumed that ebooks would be closer to 45% and audiobook was closer to 20%.
Anecdotal data point! One of the reasons I wanted to write a book was to get an inside look at the world of publishing, and to figure out how it all worked. It’s not that easy to get straight answers on whether sales numbers are on track, or lagging, or whatnot. The very informal goal I got from my publisher was to try to hit 10,000 books in the first 3 months, and so far that seems like it could happen. I share it here so that others will have at least one data point to refer to. If you have other data points to add, reply or leave a note in the comments to this post!
Podcast tour! My favorite part of the launch of this book has been the fact that I get to be a guest on a bunch of podcasts. I’ve only grown fonder of this quirky and charming new space for in-depth conversations. I’ve probably been on 30-40 podcasts, and continue to do 2-3 a week. I tag the ones that make it to my favorite podcast app, Breaker, in my podcast tour playlist. A few recent ones that I’ve really enjoyed included Brave New Work, Embrace The Void, and Rationally Speaking.
So… now that we’re 16 days into a new year and a new decade, not to mention about 9 hours and 32 minutes into this new day, what’s next?
My own creative process is very cyclical. I can almost always guess what’s next by looking at what was previous (on a number of time scales) and saying “something other than that”. By this logic, I know that I’m not going to immediately do either of the following:
Get a new tech job.
Write another book.
Become a professional podcast guest.
For those doing some mental math in their heads, you may be scratching your head and wondering, “what else is there to life?” A valid question. I once had trouble coming up with other options as well.
It turns out, however, that there are many other options. I started playing piano the last few months, for example. Am I naturally talented at this craft? No. Is it soothing and healing in a way that I can’t quite understand but am fully willing to explore? Yes. Same goes for my continued interest in drawing. And same for my new and quite obsessive interest in tarot cards. This last one is interesting to me because I can sense that it’s a slightly controversial interest amongst many in my normal social network.
But let me clarify this a bit. The reason I feel drawn to tarot right now is 100% tied to my continued interest in disagreement, cognitive biases, and systems thinking. No, I don’t think tarot cards can predict the future. I don’t think it’s okay to pretend that they do and to prey on people who are desperate for answers in their own life. That said, the new tarot community that seems to be springing up (which you can really see happening in real time in popular culture) is not about that slimy tarot tradition at all. It’s a lot closer, if you think about it as a “job to be done” to social drinking. When we want to have a fun, unbounded conversation with a friend, it’s common to suggest that you get a drink. The point isn’t the drinking (most of the time), the point is spending time together and creating a more liberated context to explore ideas, feelings, concerns, and our real lives.
Reading tarot together can fill this same job! Instead of using alcohol or caffeine to do the loosening up, it uses suggestive symbols, weird connections between them, and "mythic mode” to achieve the same results.
Many of us feel like there’s an upheaval happening in the world today. The symbols and archetypes and myths of tarot are one way of tapping into that feeling and finding ways to talk about it. The Tower card is often considered to be the most dRaMaTiC in the deck. It’s a signpost pointing to the direct experience of upheaval in and around us.
And yet, upheaval is just a part of the narrative. It’s not entirely negative, and can be interpreted as a necessary upheaval just as easily as a traumatic one. We provide the interpretation. Regardless, it creates space for what comes next, the Star:
Tarot will let you get into the weeds of symbolism, if that’s your thing (it’s my thing). There are layers and webs of meaning related to the two vessels, to the water, to the earth, to the stars. It’s perfectly ambiguous, while also being very specific about its ambiguousness. I feel like this right now. I know what I don’t want, and I have hope that by quieting down a bit and listening and tending to little seeds of inexhaustible creativity and inspiration that the next season will have a chance to arrive.
What’s next will be a little quiet for a while.
Instead of yelling at the void, I’m planning to listen to it. This online course by Dr. Jason Fox called Choose One Word is a wonderful way to begin listening to quieter things.
Instead of prioritizing productivity, I’d like to prioritize creativity.
Instead of looking for meaning in it all, and resolution, I’ll be exploring what feels paradoxical and weird. I recommend booking a reading with Jessica Dore’s if you’re in the mood for one (or just following her card of the day for a while).
Thank you for joining this bumpy rickshaw ride. You can of course hop off anytime you like. Or, stay on and we can listen to what happens together.
Into the dark forest we go…