Blog

Friends with Fans

 

This is an excerpt from the first issue of Exiles, a new ‘everlasting ebook’ I’m writing and publishing every 2 weeks which you can subscribe to for $5/month or $36/year. More info here, and below. The first issue will be released August 1.

Fans and Exiles

It’s a strange moment when you realize that you — and the vast majority of your close friends — have fans.

At that point it’s weird to even think about not having thousands of people reading every word you write, judging your intentions and motivations and verbiage based on other words of yours they’ve read in the past, and their own personal impressions of you and your image.

Image. Brand. Fans. Audience.

These are words that aren’t brought up in everyday conversations for most of the world, and yet when we get together — we audienced few — this is what we talk about. We discuss love and life and literature, sure, but invariably we end up talking shop. Gossip is exchanged, but it tends to be about other bloggers or personalities we’ve come across.

“So-and-So is sleeping with So-and-So, did you hear?” “I did! Scandal!” “Think they’ll write about it?”

“Did you see the pop-up that What’s-His-Face started using?” “Yeah, and his sales page looks tacky as hell. Someone’s been reading too many marketing blogs and $100 ebooks.” “Oh snap!”

It’s like high school, but with a studio audience. Every word spoken is amplified, every mistake publicly acknowledged and analyzed by those who aren’t personally involved with the matter at hand. No photo is posted without everyone else at ‘school’ seeing it. No essay turned in that isn’t gawked at by the entire student body.

The lifestyle is kind of surreal, though it’s really just an extreme version of what everyone else and their mother is going through right now, what with the so-called ‘digital revolution’ and the mainstreaming of social media. Sociologists would call (and have called) this state of existence ‘living in the Omnopticon;’ a societal structure in which everyone watches everyone.

But even within this new technologically-altered reality, not everyone has fans. Friends, sure, and ‘friends’ as well, to file away with their colleagues, associates, flatmates, chums, sidekicks, cronies and individuals with other washed-out levels of personal intimacy. To have someone know about you and your work, however — people that you don’t personally know, or even know of — that’s something traditionally reserved for actors and musicians and pro athletes. Celebrities have fans, not normal people. And certainly not normal people who spend a good deal of their time behind their computers.

Babies and Higgs-Bosons

Giving an audience to someone who is unprepared for it is like giving a baby a particle accelerator: there’s a small chance that you’ll end up with a Higgs-Boson (amazingly original content!) — or a black hole if you’re really unlucky (derivative drivel) — but it’s far more likely that nothing terribly interesting will happen. On a fundamental level, babies are just really bad at coming up with hypotheses, performing experiments, and understanding complex systems, just as regular Joes and Janes tend to be ill-prepared to deal with the attention and responsibility that comes with having an opinion and story that’s known to more than just their inner-circle of understanding (and criticism-witholding) friends.

And yet here we are. We Joes and Janes who, while drooling all over ourselves, managed to slap the right combination of buttons and switches, turning on a machine that we can’t control, but can’t bring ourselves to turn off, either. As I’m sure you can imagine, this comes tandem with both pros and cons.

As your audience grows larger and larger, you’re forced to sharpen your thoughts and philosophies into something more specific and refined. Out of necessity, however, you also become more and more of a caricature. In order to communicate with such a large and diverse group of people, a common denominator must be found, and often it’s a low one; not because you or the people you’re talking to are dense, but because you and your readership all come from very different backgrounds, and if you target only one group, the rest will be left out, and a mass exodus from your subscriber-base will ensue.

This, of course, would be unacceptable.

Bloggers will go to great lengths to maintain their readership. Keep in mind that successful bloggers are babies who have managed not just to turn on a particle accelerator, but also get the thing spinning. They’ve seen photons collide and have grown to appreciate the spectacle. The idea of going back to playing with plastic dinosaurs or paper dolls is unacceptable, no matter the cost.

So how do you clearly communicate with a larger and larger audience without becoming a mere figment of a figment of what brought them to you in the first place? How do you keep those pretty lights spinning without losing whatever it is that makes people want to read what you write in the first place?

You diversify, both your message and the media you use to deliver it.

For me, this has meant dividing my thoughts between the blog at Exile Lifestyle, the practical, how-to ebooks I’ve written, the story-laden tome, My Exile Lifestyle, the informative project-updates of my newsletter, and now Exiles; the e-magazine you’re reading right now.

Each of these vehicles has a different purpose, but each is intended to bring a different kind of information to different groups of people. Some folks will want to hear the travel stories but couldn’t care less about entrepreneurship, so they’ll probably pick up a copy of My Exile Lifestyle, but skip the other books, and read maybe half of what I write on the blog. Some will be more interested in how I’m managing my projects, and so will be perfectly content sticking with my free newsletter over reading any of my books.

This publication, however, is for folks who are looking for more. More stories, more resources, more how-to’s and more answers to questions they might have. It’s a vehicle through which I intend to to deliver more of everything to the right people, which gives me more flexibility in what I say, and where; this will allow me to continue to be myself and say the words I mean to say.

Regardless of which of my vehicles you decide to check out, you’re rocking my world and helping make what I do possible. You have my sincerest thanks for checking out this newest aspect of the Exile Lifestyle project, and for all of your support.

Now let’s go find that Higgs-Boson.

Blog

My Time in New Vegas and a Few Questions

 

Media Binging

I could tell you a story about how I hit the road, the victim of mysterious circumstances that led to a bullet in my head.

How I hunted the man who buried me alive, and followed the robot with a cartoon-cowboy face all the way to Vegas, eventually killing the near-immortal man who ran the joint, offing the West Coast soldiers who helped me take control, and executing a dictator named Caesar who was enslaving anyone he didn’t crucify on his way to dominating the remnants of a post-nuclear-apocalyptic United States.

But I won’t, because if you played Fallout: New Vegas, you’d probably have a very different experience than I did. And that’s what these kinds of games are all about: shaping the story based on your actions. This is something I really appreciate about modern video games.

You may have guessed that I’ve gotten started on my media binge experiment, and the aforementioned Xbox 360 game was the first on my list of ‘to beat’s. I’ve also finished up the first three seasons of Breaking Bad (and the first episode of the fourth season, though that was extra credit), and watched Midnight in Paris.

My conclusions so far? Games are much more involved than I remember, though also a little easier (especially from a user interface and storyline perspective), TV is a lot better than I remember (so long as you choose the right shows), and movies are just as fun as I remember (though indie films seem to have much larger budgets than I’d come to expect).

This is just a primary conclusion, of course, as I’m not anywhere near done with the experiment. I also haven’t had the chance to really think about what I’ve learned from the media I’ve already ingested, but I’m already happy to have taken this task on, and I’m really thankful for all of the excellent media recommendations you folks have been sending me.

I’m still looking for more movie suggestions, by the way, so drop me a line with some of your favorites, if you have a moment.

Newsletter Thinger

Something I’d like to ask you about real quick is an idea that I have for an add-on to the site; a newsletter I’m tentatively calling ‘Exiles.’

The idea is to essentially write a whole lot more of the kind of stuff I generally write about here on the blog, combined with stories like the ones told in my newest book, My Exile Lifestyle. I’m thinking I could also throw in some links to other interesting information and resources, for flavor.

This wouldn’t change my rate or quality of posting here, of course – this blog is, and will stay, free – but I’m keen to start writing more, and that will take away time that I could be spending on money-making activities. I can justify the extra time it would take to put together this kind of thing each month, however, if I charge something for it, thereby making the writing a money-making activity!

But what? I don’t want to produce something no one wants, and I also don’t want it to be inaccessible.

So I ask you the following questions:

1. Would you be interested in something like this if I created it?

2. How frequently would you want to receive it? (I’m thinking once or twice a month would be about right to achieve the level of quality I want, but you tell me)

3. What would you be interested in reading about? (Do you like the ideas I mention above? Not interested in them? Want something else included? Or instead?)

4. How much do you think would be a fair price to pay each month? (I want to keep the price low – many people are aiming in the $20+ range these days for premium newsletters, and I’m sure they’re earning it, but I want to make this VERY accessible – so I was thinking in the $5 range)

I’d really appreciate your input! Let me know your answers in the comments below, or by shooting me an email.

And if I haven’t told you lately, you guys and gals are what makes this whole blogging thing fun for me, so thanks a million for your candor, insight, and support :)

Blog

Homefulness

 

Sometimes it’s the little things that make your day.

One milestone that I look forward to in every relationship that I have while traveling is the moment when the girl I’m seeing realizes she’s dating a homeless person. Maybe that’s kind of a strange moment to treasure, but it’s not the moment itself that I enjoy, but rather the extreme contrast between reality and literality that brings a smile to my face.

Technically, yes, I am homeless. I don’t have an apartment or house. I don’t have a mortgage or pay rent on a regular basis. I don’t own any furniture or have space that I can call my own.

I don’t have a trampoline or a Roomba.

But although ‘homeless’ might be the label that literally applies to me, the reality of my situation is much less straight-forward. Sure, I don’t have a home in the traditional sense, but in practice, I have many homes.

At the moment, I’m staying with my parents in Columbia, Missouri. This is one place that I can come and relax and enjoy my family’s company. I don’t own it, and the space I’m occupying isn’t mine, but it’s available for me to make use of.

While I was living in Argentina, part of the time I was renting an apartment, and the latter portion of my stay, I was crashing with my good friend Carlos. Two more types of home, two more types of haven with varying degrees of responsibility, ownership and freedom.

Last summer, Ash, Andi and I took a roadtrip across the United States, and every night we found ourselves staying with a different person or group of people, sometimes having full rooms or basements at our disposal, other times having our ‘personal space’ limited to the couch or a spot on the floor. On one occasion, a friendly local rented us hotel rooms.

At one point about a year ago, I had 18 hours to kill at the airport in Sydney, and a quiet, cold, rainy bench in a corner of the observation balcony started to look like nothing less than home to me. I dropped my stuff, bundled up in my jacket and hunkered down comfortably in a way that you only do when you’re back home.

Since I started traveling full-time a few years ago, my definition of ‘home’ has changed dramatically, and as a result I’m much more able to hop from place-to-place without that traditional bane of the vagabond: homesickness.

When you think of being untethered as ‘homefulness’ rather than ‘homelessness,’ the world opens up to you and all kinds of adventures and knowledge and relationships become accessible.

Then again, try explaining that to the girl you’re dating’s parents…