You may recall I have been up since dawn playing with my friend Craig and his List like this is a form of market research. I have been trying to systematically test where there is what demand for what products and services I can offer, since I’m having trouble monetizing my business.
In the course of that effort, I learned better what it means to go where the water is on this terrain. As in, targeting areas where there are more people, and specifically more people who are likely to want what you got. And I tried very hard to go there.
But this still doesn’t feel right.
In part because I just got through a few of these Craigslist posts for my editing, tutoring, and grant proposal assistance services—with a ton of other high-population, probable high-demand for these specific services areas with Craigslists picked out and queued up to target next—before Craigslist gave me an error. Something about exceeding acceptable posting from that email address for the day?
Sooo. Market research is definitely not what Craigslist is for.
Even though what I’m doing is also EXACTLY what Craigslist is for—matching up people offering goods and services with people who want them.
Spidey Sense Says Something is Wrong
I obviously need to be monetizing a business. I obviously need to be trying new demand-driven, market research-based sorts of ways of doing that.
But if I give this latest experiment in that vein my all and fail, I won’t feel gratified that way you can feel gratified failing when you have given something your all. Because you get back up and try again when you fall down and you care. But this isn’t what I really want to be doing.
I don’t want to post ads for editing and website building on Craigslist. I can do that stuff! If you need it done, you should pay me! I can help you and I need the money! Or I could help you find other people to do it cheaper tbh and you could pay me an arbitrage fee, because that’s probably a better system for both of us as long as I’m doing quality control!
But guess what? I can do a lot of stuff. For example, over ten years ago, I worked as a:
1. car mechanic,
2. research assistant,
3. administrative assistant,
4. children’s dance, art, and drama teacher, and
5. victim advocate.
At the same time. While a full-time student. Caring for a seriously ill parent. Uphill both ways in the snow. (Yawn.) That was fun, College. Don’t ever come back.
Now I have a PhD and basically the same job options because my own work is more important to me than anyone else’s. There is no amount of money you can pay me to give you my time today. It is mine and I have work to do.
So I’m figuring out how to experiment with being without a permanent place of residence while traveling and making art. And I think I had better keep honing focus on exactly what I want and go for it. In fact, I seem to be fresh out of the capacity to force myself to do anything else.
Important Not Urgent
This is what I want to do now. None of it is urgent in the sense that it meets people’s immediate needs—stuff at the top of their totem pole that they would pay other people to help with every day, like getting healthy, tasty, affordable food to eat, or having more time and money. That’s the stuff the latest online business class I’m taking, from App Sumo, says to focus on. I see ways to do it. I just don’t care.
The stuff I care about is important in the sense that it adds quality of life. At least, that’s the most sense I can make of what I seem to be intent on doing next.
Now I am going to:
1. write books,
2. make art with my hands,
3. sing and make jokes in public despite remaining mildly agoraphobic, seriously perfectionistic, and going days without speaking when I can help it, and
4. defeat ISIS.
Doing all of this will require efficiencies.
Conveniently, my plan to defeat ISIS accomplishes all these things. So I should be at least making a terrible pitch of that plan. Not to mention scaling back on the framing a tad so I can under-promise and over-deliver. Probably? Maybe?
I am afraid to talk about my plan. It feels weird. But it has felt weird to express myself for months, and that’s not conducive to getting stuff done. We’re social creatures. So I am going to talk about it. Next. But first about why I am afraid.
Focus on Fear
I could make a shortlist of evidence-free, emotional reasons why I am afraid to talk about my plan. And I probably will, because my brain is in part a list-making device. And evidence-free lists let that part of my brain do its obsessive-compulsive list-making thing without fooling itself into thinking it is reasoning—when it is actually emoting, fighting intuition and insight, or doing something altogether irrational.
But first I have to say what we all know—that doing what you are afraid of is generally a good idea. This is mostly because the feared outcome usually doesn’t come true, isn’t as bad as you think, or turned out to be clouding creative work that changes the game altogether.
So here is my deal with myself. First, focus on the fear. Then, make a terrible draft pitch of the plan. And then, take a walk in the sunshine in my beautiful city.
Reasons why I am afraid to talk about my cherished plan for world peace through art
1. I will get in trouble.
2. Someone will steal it.
3. People will think I’m crazy.
4. It will be obviously stupid once I start hashing it out more properly.
5. Once articulated, it will turn out to detract from other, dearer dreams that I don’t yet know are dearer to my heart despite having less social import—like writing poetry, painting, and smelling flowers.
6. What if somebody else already has a better plan like this one, and I mess up their plan by talking about mine since some of this might work better if nobody talks about it, we all just do it independently?
7. What if OH MY GOD JUST TALK ABOUT THE PLAN ALREADY SERIOUSLY ENOUGH WITH THE HAHA I PSYCHED MYSELF OUT!
There are advantages to being largely out of patience. Plus I can see counter-points as soon as I write out the fears. To wit:
Reasons why my fears are stupid
1. I will probably not get in too much inescapable trouble for just writing stuff down on the Internet. People are busy. I am not hurting anyone and I am not anybody’s problem. I can probably get away with a lot since I don’t have a functional family or a job or anything. What are you gonna do—give me the cold shoulder or fire me?
2. If people want to steal my good ideas and can implement them better… Maybe that’s for the best. Plus, this is a total rookie fear in any creative enterprise. The far greater risk than theft is inaction. Plus, it’s all in the execution anyway—the fun, the process, the fluidity. And those aren’t things that can be stolen.
3. K. Let people think I’m crazy. As long as I’m having fun.
4. K. Looking stupid is generally how you get better. I’m all about the improvement.
5. K. Learning about my actual preferences by acting on what I think they are and finding out I’m right—or wrong—turns out to be a great way to figure out what I really want.
6. If somebody has already started implementing or been thinking about a plan like this one, we should work together. How are we gonna coordinate to do that if we don’t talk about it? Creative collaboration and discourse make big projects like this better. This blog can always disappear. In fact, I can always disappear. It’s actually not that hard to change your name and move across the country a few times. Kinda fun tbh.
7. More do, less fear = more fun.
Ok, I lied. First-next, the walk.
Then, pathetic attempts to make myself post more Craigslist ads for services I think people want—editing, tutoring, grant proposaling! web design and building, online store building, social media management! —but also secretly know or believe everyone can actually do themselves, insofar as they are important to do at all.
Social media management, I suspect, is not actually that important for businesses’ bottom lines in relation to other stuff, and I suspect the base rate of success of such services actually improving businesses’ bottom lines is quite small. But this is just from mucking around in the social media world for a few months, spending money and learning a bit about how things work, what services people offer, and the effects they seem to have or not have.
Anyway, I thought I needed help with all those things—and I learned a lot from a lot of people about all of t
hem! But ultimately, I did a better job doing them all myself. And I’d rather teach you to do them yourself and go write one of my books. That works out better for everyone. I guess I’m not a big believer in expertise over education. I’d much rather have a big teach-in for creatives who want to start their own businesses, make their own websites, and that sort of thing, than sell over-priced services to people who can’t really afford them.
Finally, I give up on all excess nonsense and hash out my crazy book-art-play-peace plan. Out loud, on the Internet, as it were. It will be terrible. I won’t be able to bring myself to post big chunks of it. Just some. And just some of it will not suck. I will do it anyway. If all it does is pull the idea out of my side like a burr, fine. Then I can move on to making a survey summarizing ten possible book projects with a paragraph and a graphic for each, and figuring out how to market test or otherwise validate or improve the appeal of a book before writing it.
Also? I was a terrible mechanic.