A Year Of... interesting things

January Report

January had a fairly tall order: reading, writing, research, online persona creation.

As per usual, trying to grab a big bite is a recipe for failure.

Reading happened:

In in all, I also managed to find time to write a short, 1,000-word story. (It’s not much but it’s honest work meme)

It was … unexpectedly difficult. It was effectively fan-fic, in a way, but I combined two ideas that were very dear to my heart. I doing so, I thought it would’ve been easy, that words would freely pour out of me. An incident comes to mind: it’s [the story][dropbox] of a meeting between Steve Jobs and Drew Houston, the creator of Dropbox, in which Jobs tells Houston, derisively, that Dropbox is a “feature, not a product”. It’s an apt analogy for I thought I had a product – the story, but what I really had was a feature, an idea, without too much of a path to full realization.

Even with the pieces in place, it was hard to write the connecting text and do so with consistent tone and quality. Perhaps this is something that gets better with time. Right now, I cannot even begin to imagine what it takes to write a whole novel.

The online persona creation started with a Reddit account so that I can participate in discussions. I still need to figure how to create other accounts that are common with writers – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter – keeping in with both their respective terms of service and the need to not have it connected to my identity.

Research is where it all faltered. I started going down that path, but I wasn’t able to make much progress. I am trying to take a programmatic approach to this research that would allow me to create a repeatable solution in order to be able to explore niches quickly. Or at least quicker.
February will need to pick up the pace on research.

2020 - Year of Writing

To be perfectly honest, I think this is more of a venture to tickle the vanity rather than to provide specific value.

I’m high on the success of 2019, the Year of Reducing, and feel like rewarding myself with a delusion.

I had originally started thinking that writing better would be a great skill – and it is – but I realized I was rationalizing. Sure, my text is not marketing or copy quality; it’s passable and functional. Sales skill would serve a lot better.

It does however align with a long-concocted plan to retire early and if some modest income could be derived by writing, something I always thought I loved doing, then it’ll be a strong pillar of those dreams.

It’s delusional too given that most writer do no make a living out of writing. I am armed with unrealistic hopes, though, and a thesis that bringing an analytical approach to discovering profitable niches will allow me to build this into a revenue stream

To that extent, a Year of Writing it is and its primary goal is to become a published author. I use “author” over “writer” because the goal is to be paid for my work.

Goal #1: make at least $100 during each of the last three months of 2020 from published works.

Goal #2: to learn how to build a modest marketing and sales pipeline that would support and enable goal #1.

To this extend, my plan for the year is as following:

  • First quarter: research;
  • Second quarter: write;
  • Third quarter: refine and market;
  • Fourth quarter: profit, of course, but also still write.

I think the following is a good detailed plan for the first quarter:

  • January:
    1. read a couple of books on the craft of writing;
    2. create a nom-de-plume, an online persona for my writer as some of the writing venture might take me into territories I may not want connected to my other business ventures;
    3. begin research into literary niches that may be profitable and under-served; create a model or an approach on how to discover these niches;
    4. write at least one, likely terrible, short story on any subject; bonus: write two.
  • February:
    1. refine market research and start reading works in those niches;
    2. continue reading books on the craft of writing. If possible, focus on either books applicable to those niches or books that could help in those niches;
    3. write two short stories closer to at least one of the categories researched; bonus: write four.
  • March: at this point I expect (hope?) that research has pin-pointed one of more profitable niches and the effort will mostly towards serving those niches;

    1. continue reading material in the categories deemed most likely to be profitable;
    2. write a few (three or more) short stories in each of those categories (likely two or more categories);
    3. research self-publishing venues and eventually publish a subset of those stories online to gather some feedback – hopefully somebody is willing to also read them.

December Report and End-of-Year Reflection

A good part of the quest for ridding possession is controlling the intake. December tends to be a challenge.

It seems that no matter how insistent one is that they’d like to receive no gifts some people have a hard time respecting that. I don’t fault them; it’s tremendously difficult to go against the tide, against all the societal pressure that has long established that birthdays and Christmases be celebrated primarily through two means: food and gifts.

To be fair, I also didn’t prepare properly. I should’ve had this insight earlier on and provide a solution that would meet both minimalist requirements as well as the needs of the givers: ask for gifts of experiences rather than … things.

Examples of what I would consider experiences are, generally speaking:

  • entertainment tickets, be they to a movie, a concert, or a sporting event;
  • culinary outings: a new cuisine, a new restaurant, or even an old haunt that hasn’t been visited in a while;
  • wellness experiences – a massage or some sort of transient pampering like a spa day;
  • things that get reasonably quickly exhausted; for example, a bottle of wine or perhaps a bottle of hot sauce;

With the latter point I would also include certain “supplies”, although they’re a bit weird to gift, when properly chosen they may be extremely welcome even to a minimalist: a perfume, make-up, a bottle of ink for someone that’s into fountain pens, or say drawing paper or paints for an artist.

The final tally for December, taken even though there’s still a day left, puts me at: 17 items in, 28 items out, for a total of -11.

Overall, I ended 2020 with 231 fewer possessions than I started at the beginning of this journey, twelve months ago. A promise kept.

I also had some secondary goals:

  • reduce my consumption of alcohol or even give it up altogether: accomplished - from a drink a week I think I reduced it down to a drink a month or so;
  • attempt to reduce snacking and stress-eating - accomplished, although it waxed and waned throughout the year, overall it’s been reduced and healthier items (fruits and veggies) swapped for more caloric intense delights;
  • spend less time playing video games: under 10 hours/week: kind of accomplished – overall reduced, but the release of Borderlands 3, a favorite series, put me back into north of 20 hours per week for a couple of months;
  • spend less time on social media, mostly on Reddit: failed;
  • spend fewer days and weekends indoors and more out enjoying the wonderful parks my state offers: accomplished, but not to the level I would’ve liked.

A tertiary goal has been to reduce the reliance on single-client income and develop some alternately streams of income. Ultimately this failed. Although it’s something I intend to revisit in the future, I have eventually come to accept that the fastest path to FIRE - Financial Independence/Retire Early is to maximize my consulting income in order to achieve a half-retirement or a lean FIRE position (retire before 60 with less than $40k in planned yearly household expenses), which would be a good place from which to dedicate myself to building these alternate income streams.

Looking back at it all, I’d say it’s been a great year and the things that worked to make it so have all been underpinned by the SMART goal system:

  • Specific - reducing possessions, reducing consumption;
  • Measurable - the 10 things a month challenge;
  • Attainable - much thanks to Goodbye, Things for providing a good template on how to;
  • Realistic - 10 things per period seemed and was reasonable;
  • Time-bound - monthly periods and one overall year.

November Report

There wasn’t much interesting about the net of November: 26 items out, 7 items in, for a net total of 19.

I am not looking forward to December. My immediate and extended family don’t seem to comprehend the idea of not wanting gifts for Xmas. It’s also towards the end of the month so it’s almost as if I have to get rid of more items in preparation for what the year-end will bring.

Note to self: ask for experiences rather than things. It still allows people to feel good about gifting while I don’t have to deal with the possession angle.

November is also the month where I’m starting to think about the next year so that in December I can start planning it a little better.

It’s also month where the reflection on the year past begins.

December is a busy month.

October Report

October was an easy month thanks to finally taking action on a large number of decorations I had in the attic.

Having more of a functional incline, I never placed much importance on decorations, and only in so far as they fill in an empty space that would’ve looked worse otherwise.

Furthermore, when moving, one tends to preserve the decorations of the old place and try to incorporated them at a new place. When that doesn’t work, they’re usually relegated to the attic.

This attic exploration helped not only free space in the attic, but also helped me net 20 items rid this month.