Hookahs, Babies, and One Crazy Author

The house is full of shabby-chic decor — the giant Japanese fan above the entryway, the old-style-new-age paper-paintings on the wall, the mismatched-but-definitely-part-of-a-set glasses — and full of people who have a sense of fashion that can only be described as ‘trendsetting.’ It’s definitely an old house, but it’s really quite charming.

The people are incredibly friendly. Everyone’s got a ready grin and extra beer, if you want it.

A baby is passed around when it’s not breast-feeding, and clothing is brought in big bags to be displayed, explained, and traded. I’m invited to show off some of the wares, and I do my best to make up stories behind the various dresses, skirts and hats that are in the pile next to my seat on the couch. If I were to try them on to show them off, it wouldn’t have been out of place.

Fast-forward a few hours later and I’m out on the front porch with a handful of new friends. The hookah is grape-flavored and the conversation is light. The owner of the house gives us a rendition of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ in English, then Dutch, then German (it’s hilarious in German).

“So what do you do, Colin?”

Funny, the question hadn’t come up until that moment; a far cry from the usual business-focused conversations I’ve been having so much these days.

“Well, I’ve been focusing a lot of writing recently. Working on stuff for my blog, putting together ebooks, and setting up a new e-publishing business model. This allows me to travel, make new connections, etc. It’s really pretty varied.”

The conversation picks up, people tell some travel stories, the typical response to that line of questioning.

But then I’m struck with a realization: I didn’t even mention that I run a branding studio. The business that has been my main source of income for the past several years didn’t even come to mind. When knocked out of the familiar business-conversation-atmosphere, I was forced to acknowledge that my attention has been refocused. My priorities have changed.

I haven’t taken on any new branding clients since I’ve been in New Zealand. I’ve finished projects for existing clients, and made sure to follow through with any old commitments that were in place, but I’ve been actively avoiding taking on new work.

At first it was a practicality issue. The Internet is super-slow and expensive, and the time difference between New Zealand and the States is large enough to make doing the kind of work I’ve become accustomed to more difficult than I would like.

As I got used to the idea of creating my own products, focusing more on Exile Lifestyle and my writing, though, I realized that it’s something I wanted to make a bigger focus in my life.

And looking back at the past several months, I have. I released my first premium ebook last month (and it’s been doing well enough to make me optimistic that writing ebooks is a solid business decision) and I’ve been putting together a new e-publishing business model that was soft-launched yesterday, and I’m super-excited about it.

I’ll always be a designer, a marketer, and all the other things that going into branding, and I’ll continue to take on clients very selectively, but my focus has definitely shifted.

It’s an exciting, risky, and slightly crazy proposition, but what’s the worst that could happen?

Let’s get down to business.

Update: December 22, 2016

It doesn’t really come across in this piece, but I remember feeling stunned that I had introduced myself that way, since the biz-introduction shorthand had become so second-nature to me, and had never before included this new writerly world I was playing in. That I still felt I was dabbling in, as much as anything.

But it was also a moment that brought with it a perception shift, which was important. I decided not long after to completely shift to being an author, and that meant a lot less money, but also a lot more happiness.

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