Do What You Don’t Hate

I have mentioned on the blog and my podcast that I think the advice “follow your dreams” and “do what you love and the rest will follow” is unintentionally cruel. It makes anyone who has a regular day job into a failure unless that job is their dream. The market realities do not exist such that everyone could switch over to their dreams. It is privileged, elitist advice that lucky people give the masses who can never follow it en masse.

Library visitor

Lo and behold, here is Rachel Nabors saying much the same thing. She really nails the heart of it:

Don’t do something you hate for a living.

There is no glory in suffering. Because you can grow to hate something you love if it puts you in a bad position, this advice gives you permission to move on to greener pastures if what you love is making you cry at night. Whatever you love should love you back. And if it’s not working out, it’s ok to find something else to love.

I think this is a much more sensible approach. If your goal is to create artisanal free-range belt buckles, you should absolutely pursue that. What you shouldn’t do is be in a hurry to force that to bear the full weight of your living. As Hugh MacLeod says (I paraphrase from memory) “Don’t be in a hurry to quit your day job to pursue your hobby full-time. Then you still have a job but you are down one hobby.”


I was contacted by Mark Glaser of the Mediashift blog for PBS the other day about the food fight brother Gillmor and I had over the Earthlink ads. He published his final piece today, and I’m extensively quoted. In fact, I’m probably quoted too much. Some stuff that was kind of silly that I was giving for background ended up in it verbatim. That’s all my fault, not Glaser’s in any way. I haven’t quite learned only to say things to reporters that I’m happy to see in the final piece. Note to self – keep mouth shut more.

Here’s part of what he quoted that I think is pretty sensible:

“Podcasts work because they are economically viable to create without requiring large audiences. Because the denominator gets raised and the interests more rarified and less general, it gets more possible to have sponsorships and ads that hit the Holy Grail: giving the audience the ads it actually wants to hear…I think the value that the medium brings is increasing the odds that the sponsorship will have that kind of relationship to the audience.

Now, if only I had stuck to that, I would have had a much better batting average.

The last part of the piece is about quitting day jobs. Dear lord I’m getting tired of hearing about this. As much as I love the form, I don’t think that a new economy has been created that will support thousands of people as a sole source of income. Not today, maybe not for a long time — if ever. Only about one in twenty of the published novelists I know make their living solely from writing, for pete’s sake. I’ve written about this before and I think almost a year later I still feel exactly like I did then, perhaps even more strongly (although I have undoubtedly slid down the revenue list since.) On this subject I always go back to Hugh Macleod’s Sex and Cash Theory.

I say don’t worry so much about making money or getting “big”, worry about getting good. That doesn’t mean start out perfect day one, but focus on making every show better than the last. If you reach the point of consistently putting out a quality show that really speaks to people and entertains or informs them, the money and the “bigness” will come. If you are good enough, you’ll have to work to keep them away.

Comic Strip Blogger v. Gaping Void

I cannot unequivocally say that Comic Strip Blogger is certifiably insane because I haven’t seen the paperwork, but it wouldn’t surprise me. That nuttiness is doing a pretty good job of keeping me amused. I think the best one so far is this strip about Hugh Macleod, with a really credible parody of a Gaping Void comic. I also like the conceit of CSB representing himself as a monkey. Some of these strips can be over the top and cruel, but when he reserves the worst of it for himself that actually gives him leeway to go even farther in making fun of people.

For the record, I think some of Hugh’s strips are brilliant (like my favorite, “The market for something to believe in is infinite”) and I too don’t much care for the sexual politics ones. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with them or that they offend me, but that after the first few they are all pretty much the same. I kind of feel the same way with the “New York love/hate relationship” subset of them. If I wanted to read the same strip over and over, I’d be looking at Cathy in my local paper.

Update: I forgot to mention – extra points for the Neal Adams/Dave Sim like effect of flowing the narrative and word balloons through the panels. In a funny coincidence, today’s George Carlin quote is “In comic strips, the person on the left always speaks first.”

Sex, Cash and Podcasting

Mark Cuban posted about cash and podcasting, which included this:

Podcasting is hot.  Podcasting is cheap and easy. Podcasting can be fun. Creating your own podcast and trying to make a business out of it is a mistake. Unless you are repurposing content from another medium, it will be rare to find anyone making money from originating podcasts.

Talk Radio Shows repurposed from radio to a podcast. No brainer. It’s cheap and easy. Repurposing industry specific information from tradeshows, speeches, product presentations for employee or customer education or as sales support. No brainer. These are just extensions of existing content into a new low cost medium.

For those who are tying to jump on the podcasting bandwagon and create a “hit” podcast that you plan on selling advertising in, its cheap and easy to do, but even with Google Adsense for RSS its going to be really tough to do it as a fulltime job and make minimum wage back.

I tend to reflexively push-back on things of this ilk, but damn it I think he’s right. I think this obsessive focus on “quitting the day job” levels of income from podcasting is ridiculous. For god’s sake, most novelists and musicians I know don’t get to quit their day jobs, so what makes you think you are so special? I say this as someone who is probably in the top 5 percentile of revenue generated by an individual podcaster and yet who is still orders of magnitude from living on that. Being on fire to make mortgage-covering amounts of cash out of the box is a mistake and it will lead you down the wrong path.

About this time last year, over at Gaping Void, Hugh Macleod was coming up with the Hughtrain manifesto. He extracted one piece out of that work that he titled “The Sex and Cash Theory”. It included insights such as:

I’m thinking about the young writer who has to wait tables to pay the bills, in spite of her writing appearing in all the cool and hip magazines…. who dreams of one day of not having her life divided so harshly.

Well, over time the ‘harshly’ bit might go away, but not the ‘divided’.

“This tense duality will always play center stage. It will never be transcended.”

As soon as you accept this, I mean really accept this, for some reason your career starts moving ahead faster. I don’t know why this happens. It’s the people who refuse to cleave their lives this way- who just want to start Day One by quitting their current crappy day job and moving straight on over to best-selling author… Well, they never make it.

The basic gist is that when you make your art pay the whole freight for your financial well-being, it’s a compromise. It puts pressure on your creative side that it doesn’t need. Rather than whoring your art, whore your CPA self or barrista self or whatever. Don’t worry so damn much about making a mint, worry about making the next show good. If you get the right combination of talent plus luck, maybe it will happen. Don’t plan on it, though, or you’ll end up like all the sad sacks whose life plans involve hitting the lottery to achieve what they want. Keep the sex and cash separate, and your art will be the better for it.

Update: Podcasting News links to the same article with the headline “Broadcast Billionaire Badmouths Podcasting”. I just plain don’t see that.