The Work You Do While You’re Waiting

So after getting really excited about Andrew Yang’s presidential campaign (and his plan to give every American a $1,000/month Freedom Dividend, plus Medicare for All) I began picturing the future.

I saw myself going to Yang Gang meetings in Cedar Rapids.

Attending the Iowa Caucus, which I’ve never done before.*

Standing in a room filled with balloons and pizza boxes and all the friends I’d made along the way, watching election returns.

But it’s going to be a long time before any of that happens, if it even ends up happening. The Iowa Caucus isn’t until February 3, 2020. A year from now.

A year from now, I might be sending advance copies of NEXT BOOK to industry reviewers. I’ll be one year closer to my goal of being financially independent by 47.** I’ll have been part of at least three and maybe four Chorale Midwest concerts, including our upcoming performance of the Brahms Requiem with Orchestra Iowa. I’ll have taught more classes and written more articles and connected with more people and done many of the things I’m currently hoping I can accomplish.

And my mind has given me pictures of what all of this could look like, down to what I’m wearing and how long my hair might be.***

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that generating a highly detailed mental image of the future you want for yourself actually eliminates that future from the realm of possibility.

Every conversation you rehearse in your head is a conversation that will never take place as rehearsed

You’ve had those conversations in your head, right? You imagine yourself saying something, and then you imagine someone else saying something, and so on?

At some point — and I don’t know exactly how I put this together — I realized that every conversation I imagined was a conversation that would never take place in the real world.

Because people aren’t ever going to follow the script I wrote in my head.

So every time I imagined a conversation where I set a boundary and then someone else got really angry with me (for example), I reminded myself that by generating the conversation in my brain, I had pretty much guaranteed that it wouldn’t happen in real life.

This isn’t to say that the other person might not be upset or disappointed with the boundary I set. But they probably wouldn’t react at the level I had imagined, and they definitely wouldn’t use the exact words I had written for them.

Likewise, I might in fact end up wearing a Yang 2020 T-shirt to an election party, but the party will never look exactly like the one I’m currently dreaming.

Nor will NEXT BOOK look exactly the way it did when I first thought it up. I can follow the plot structure I outlined for myself, and build an emotional journey for the reader that’s similar to the one I had when I told myself the story I wanted to tell, but it will still be a different book than the one I initially imagined, because exposing something to the world always changes it.

(This is why so many stories include antagonistic forces — parents, governments, societies — that try to prevent people from learning about the world.)

You can’t have the future you imagine, but you can work towards the future you want

So. Creating some mental image of my sitting at a table with a stack of NEXT BOOK next to me, ready to sign copies for a queue of readers, does in fact guarantee that this particular scenario will never happen.

But it doesn’t prevent a similar scenario from happening.

It doesn’t prevent me from doing the part of the work that might someday get me to that table with that stack of books, e.g. spending one hour, Monday through Friday, working on my current draft.

And when that part of the work is done, turning that hour into editing-and-revisions time.

And, because that part of the work isn’t so far in the future that I have to imagine what it might be like, I can decide what it will be like. Right now. When it will happen and where I will sit and whether I’ll turn my phone and email off while I work.

Likewise, I can decide that today I’m going to do my bit for Yang 2020 by sharing the link to Andrew Yang’s Reddit AMA (which will take place at 2:30 Eastern today, go ask him anything), and I’m also going to share a fun article with my mom on Facebook, and tomorrow I’m going to ask my sister and nephew if they want to do a FaceTime call this weekend.****

HERE’S WHERE IT GETS REALLY INTERESTING

This method works for the bad stuff as well as the good stuff. That terrible scenario you imagine happening to your job or your loved ones or your small business? Those hours/days/weeks you spend waiting to hear back from doctors or lawyers or potential employers? Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Whatever horrible thing you just imagined will never happen. Or, at least, not in exactly that way. No, it won’t happen in the slightly different other way you imagined either. It might still be stressful and difficult and complicated and a lot of work, but it won’t be whatever you just visualized. It can’t be.
  • You can still do small things, every day, to get yourself closer to the experiences you want to have right now — the tasks you want to prioritize, the connections you want to strengthen, the time you want to take to care for yourself, etc. — and those experiences will help you deal with the hours/days/weeks ahead.

I’ve found this to be one of the truest things about life I’ve ever learned. The balance of what you can’t control and what you can.

So that’s what I’m thinking about this morning, mostly because last night I was thinking about how long it was between now and next year, and how I didn’t want to have to wait for what I wanted.

Then I reminded myself that I didn’t have to wait to write another 1,000 words of my draft, or pitch another client, or send my mom something nice on Facebook, or any of the stuff that I thought I wanted in the future but actually wanted — and could go after — right now. ❤️

*I grew up in the Midwest (before leaving to bounce from one coastal city to another and then decide to move back), but I did not grow up in Iowa. My hometown is actually in rural Missouri, a two-hour drive from where I live now.

**My current projections indicate it’s more likely I’ll hit financial independence — aka “the point at which I can live off my investments” — by 50, but that’s just incentivizing me to try to beat that target.

***I’m growing out a pixie cut. “How long my hair might be” is a relevant concern.

****Why not do all of this stuff today? Because you can’t do everything today. Nobody can.

In Which I Learn About Andrew Yang’s Presidential Campaign and GET VERY EXCITED

I have never been a hugely politically active person. I vote, even in local elections, and I take the time to research the candidates and their positions before voting, which probably makes me more politically active than most — but I view our current political system through a somewhat skeptical lens and because of that have hesitated to get emotionally involved.

But I had downloaded a few episodes of the Ezra Klein Show to listen to as I did laps at the YMCA (you might remember my referencing the episode where N.K. Jemisin discussed worldbuilding), and one of them was this episode from August titled “Is our economy totally screwed? Andrew Yang and I debate,” and about halfway through the episode Andrew Yang mentions that he’s running for president.

On a platform of universal basic income (renamed “Freedom Dividends,” after Yang did some market testing to see which name would appeal to conservatives) and Medicare for All.

I have now gotten emotionally involved.

If you’re currently thinking “who is Andrew Yang and what is his deal,” which is where I was 48 hours ago, the shortest version is that Andrew Yang is an entrepreneur and nonprofit CEO who has done some serious thinking about the mathematics and logistics required to keep America’s economy going as we transition into a world with more automation and fewer jobs.

It’s the math-and-logistics part that made me decide to do anything I could to support Yang’s candidacy, starting by spreading the word on my blog.

I mean, this whole thing is extremely relevant to the core mission of Nicole Dieker Dot Com, not to mention the core mission of Nicole Dieker, the Human Person. Andrew Yang’s vision, which includes giving every American adult a Freedom Dividend of $1,000 every month, plus Medicare for All, plus social credits (backed by the government and redeemable at various retailers) for those of us who want to spend our time on non-market-based work like caring for others and community-building, will help us all get so much closer to THE WORK we want to do and THE LIFE we want to live.

So.

Here’s what you need to do next: go listen to and/or read the transcript of this Freakonomics podcast episode, in which Andrew Yang explains his plan to Stephen Dubner. With all due respect to Ezra Klein, the Freakonomics podcast offers a much better introduction to Yang (you’ll learn about his love of Dungeons and Dragons, as well as his brief stint selling Cutco knives) and an extremely detailed summary of how Yang plans to put his ideas into action:

YANG: So the headline cost of this is $2.4 trillion, which sounds like an awful lot. For reference, the economy is $19 trillion, up $4 trillion in the last 10 years. And the federal budget is $4 trillion. So $2.4 trillion seems like an awfully big slug of money. But if you break it down, the first big thing is to implement a value-added tax, which would harvest the gains from artificial intelligence and big data from the big tech companies that are going to benefit from it the most.

So we have to look at what’s happening big-picture, where who are going to be the winners from A.I. and big data and self-driving cars and trucks? It’s going to be the trillion-dollar tech companies. Amazon, Apple, Google. So the big trap we’re in right now is that as these technologies take off, the public will see very little in the way of new tax gains from it. Because if you look at these big tech companies — Amazon’s trick is to say, “Didn’t make any money this quarter, no taxes necessary.” Google’s trick is to say, “It all went through Ireland, nothing to see here.” Even as these companies and the new technologies soak up more and more value and more and more work, the public is going to go into increasing distress.

So what we need to do is we need to join every other industrialized country in the world and pass a value-added tax which would give the public a slice, a sliver of every Amazon transaction, every Google search. And because our economy is so vast now at $19 trillion, a value-added tax at even half the European level would generate about $800 billion in value.

Now, the second source of money is that right now we spend almost $800 billion on welfare programs. And many people are receiving more than $1,000 in current benefits. So, we’re going to leave all the programs alone. But if you think $1,000 cash would be better than what you’re currently receiving, then you can opt in and your current benefits disappear. So that reduces the cost of the freedom dividend by between $500 and $600 billion.

The great parts are the third and fourth part. So if you put $1,000 a month into the hands of American adults who — right now, 57 percent of Americans can’t pay an unexpected $500 bill — they’re going to spend that $1,000 in their community on car repairs, tutoring for their kids, the occasional night out. It’s going to go directly into the consumer economy. If you grow the consumer economy by 12 percent, we get $500 billion in new tax revenue.

And then the last $500 billion or so we get through a combination of cost savings on incarceration, homelessness services, health care. Because right now we’re spending about $1 trillion on people showing up in emergency rooms and hitting our institutions. So we have to do what good companies do, which is invest in our people.

Then you’ll want to visit the Yang 2020 website and check out the policies section. He’s got goals and guiding principles for everything from combating climate change to making taxes fun.

To quote the Iowa Democratic Party Leadership: “Mr. Yang has three Big Policy Ideas — Universal Basic Income, Medicare for All, and Human Capitalism — all supported by the most comprehensive and detailed set of policy proposals we have ever seen at this stage of a campaign.”

(Go find out more about the Human Capitalism thing here.)

Lastly — and I can’t believe I’m ending this with a sales pitch, but that’s politics — you could consider giving Andrew Yang a dollar. Or more dollars, but the amount you give isn’t the important part right now. Because of the way the Democratic Party runs its show, Andrew Yang needs 65,000 individual campaign donations by May 15 to be able to participate in the upcoming Democratic candidate debates.

As of this writing, he’s at 33,675.

I’m going to support Yang 2020 for as far as it goes — I’ve joined my local Yang Gang, I’m going to the breakfast with Andrew Yang in Cedar Rapids, I might even do some phone banking — and even if it doesn’t end up in the White House, Andrew Yang has a plan for that, too.

The part of me that is still cynical about politics wants to know how Yang plans to deal with Congress, roughly half of which is incentivized to prevent him from achieving his goals. But the part of me that wants to take up my bow and arrows and follow this person I just met in a tavern and go fight some dragons with MATH AND LOGISTICS is… well, I can’t believe how much I wanted something like this until it became a possibility. ❤️

Cal Newport’s ‘So Good They Can’t Ignore You’ Is a Must-Read Guide to Building a Creative Career

I’ve mentioned Cal Newport on this blog before. I started implementing his daily shutdown ritual after reading Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, for example, and it has made my workday (and my evenings) so much better.

But last week I read his 2012 book So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love, and I am ready to GET EXCITED ABOUT IT.

Here’s the tl;dr, though I really really really think you should r:

If you want to build a fulfilling career, you need to develop both marketable skills and career capital. Being passionate about a particular line of work isn’t enough.

This is kind of the tension at the core of Nicole Dieker Dot Com, btw — like, I’m writing about being vulnerable online and mushing through the draft of NEXT BOOK while also being fairly hard-headed about how this type of career takes schedules and strategies and showing up every day.

Or, as I put it in one of my very first posts: there’s a difference between “the dream” and “the work of doing your work.”

So Good They Can’t Ignore You is about pushing through that difference, and going from the work of doing your work to building a dream career.

It’s worth noting that this “dream career” may not be related to your current creative passion; that is, the end game isn’t “full-time novelist” or “full-time singer-songwriter” or whatever. The end game is to develop a career that capitalizes on your skills, lets you control your time, and helps you create the life you want, which may also include writing novels or making music or working on political campaigns or traveling for three months every year.*

I can hear you thinking “but there aren’t enough of those careers to go around,” which, okay, sure, but Newport makes two additional points:

  • With enough skills and career capital, you can build your own career. (This is what I did.)
  • With enough skills and career capital, you can work to make the world better for everyone else.

To quote Chapter 13, Missions Require Capital:

Pardis Sabeti thought small by focusing patiently for years on a narrow niche (the genetics of diseases in Africa) but then acting big once she acquired enough capital to identify a mission (using computational genetics to help understand and fight ancient diseases). Sarah and Jane, by contrast, reversed this order. They started by thinking big, looking for a world-changing mission, but without capital they could only match this big thinking with small, ineffectual acts.

Go read this book. You might not agree with everything Newport writes, but I bet at least one or two chapters will make you think differently about your creative career.

It did for me, anyway, and I’ve been doing this for seven years now.

Next Tuesday I’m going to review a book that’s more about the emotional and vulnerable aspects of building a life. In case you’re curious. It’s all about balance, after all.

*Yes, you can go straight into trying to become “so good they can’t ignore you” at your current artistic pursuit or passion project. The book has some notes on that path as well — after all, the “so good they can’t ignore you” quote came directly from Steve Martin. But that path might be a lot harder than the one where you use your monetizable skills to build the type of capital that can help you achieve your large-scale goals.

On Drafting and Clearing the Path

The NEXT BOOK draft is currently 2,648 words long, which — since I’ve had three scheduled work sessions so far — is coming out to roughly 883 words an hour.

Since this type of book tends to be around 80,000–90,000 words long, I could be finished with the draft in as soon as 90 hour-long work sessions, or 17 weeks from now.

Late June.

Part of me wants to turn this into a goal, and it may end up being something I achieve simply by virtue of consistent output, but the other part of me is all just find your way through this draft. Don’t force it.

Because I know, three sessions in, that the process of drafting NEXT BOOK will be very different from the process of drafting The Biographies of Ordinary People.

For whatever reason — and I think part of it was because I tried to write Biographies five different times before I actually wrote it — the Biographies draft came out fully-formed. It needed a little revision, of course, but no major restructuring. The writing process felt like walking down a path that I had already cleared for myself.

My current writing process feels like clearing the path.

In both cases I went in with an outline and a bunch of character work, so it’s not like I don’t know where the path leads, or who’s on the path.

It’s more like I’m discovering what the path looks like as I find it, one step at a time.

Which means that the 811 words I wrote this morning gave me new clarity that I need to go apply to the previous 1,837 words, although I don’t want to do too much revising yet because I bet that the next 800 words will also clarify details that should be included in the preceding 2,648 words.

For lack of a better metaphor, it’s kind of like me saying “the path is covered by leaves,” and then 800 words in it’s “the path is covered by red oak leaves,” and then it’s “the path is covered by red oak leaves that have turned brown and started to decay at the edges,” and then “the path is covered by decaying red oak leaves and patches of new grass,” and so on. Add in what it smells like and whether there are any birds and what the sunlight is doing and… you get the idea.

The more time I spend on the path, the more I understand what it’s made of.

So that’s where I am, three writing sessions into NEXT BOOK. I already feel like writing this story is like slipping into another world, which is the best part of writing for me. (I felt that way about Biographies, too.) At this stage, it is play; exploring, creating, describing, experiencing, feeling, seeing. The same immersive experience I used to have with my Barbies and paper dolls, making up stories with my sister and my friends.

But NEXT BOOK isn’t just about me getting to play my way through it. It’s also something I am creating for you, which means I need to go back and add in all the detail I discover as I’m working on it, so you’ll get a similar immersive experience when you read it.

That’s what I’m thinking about, this morning. ❤️

Three Articles About Doing THE WORK

I’m going to start doing Sunday link roundups, first because I wrote “daily posts” at the top of my blog, not “weekdaily,” and second because I look forward to the Seattle Review of Books’ Sunday Post all week because they always share a collection of thought-provoking articles that I might not have found on my own, so… why not share a few thought-provoking articles myself?

Make a Living Writing: Stop Whining: How to Crush Your Freelance Writing Excuses

Not a huge fan of the headline (it’s not as much “whining” as it is “time-management issues” and/or “not understanding how to break a freelance project into easily-completed components”), but Linda Formichelli’s advice is exactly what I’d give an early-career freelancer:

Q: What if you get bored with an assignment and don’t feel like writing?

Formichelli: I’ve heard that kind of writing excuse from freelancers a lot. “I don’t feel like doing it.” “I’m not in the mood.” “I’m not inspired.” “I’m tired.” “I’m sick.”

If any one of these things makes you want to put off writing, don’t just do nothing. Choose tasks you can work on based on the amount of time and energy you have. If you have a half an hour and you’re really tired , maybe you update your website, or file your expenses, or just do something that doesn’t take a lot of brainpower.

But if you find that you always have the time and energy for research or posting on social media, and you never seem to have the time and actually writing, you know you’re in writing excuse territory. If you want to learn more about how to deal with this problem, go read this blog post by Mark Manson: F*** Your Feelings. It’s perfect advice for this situation.

Afford Anything: The Incredible Power of 10x Thinking

I have become obsessed with Paula Pant’s Afford Anything blog, because personal finance and the way you can use money and skills to shape the life you want will always be my jam.

Also, the tagline is “You can afford anything… but not everything. What’s it gonna be?” which means it’s all about making choices, and that’s my peanut butter.

This particular “making choices” post focuses on taking actions that support your goals:

Better questions yield better answers. So ask yourself: How can I separate what’s worthwhile vs. a waste of time?

Try this:

Step #1: Write a five-year goal.  For example:
* I earn $45,000 per year in passive income.
* I run a company with $1 million in annual revenue.
* I manage a nonprofit, no-kill animal shelter with capacity for 25 dogs and 40 cats.

Four tips to help you craft this vision:
* Write in the present tense — “I earn,” “I manage,” “I run.”
* Focus your goal into one sentence.
* Shoot for specific numbers.
* Read this aloud daily (in present tense). Your mind will believe its a foregone conclusion.

Step #2: Judge every activity by a single question: “Is [X] the most important step I can take towards my 5-year goal?”

Elizabeth Strout: How I Paid the Bills While I Wrote the Book

This interview is part of a Medium series titled Day Job, in which Mike Gardner asks various authors how they earned the money to support their writing (especially during the early stages of their career). If you aren’t a Medium member, you’ll only be able to read three of these pieces before you get hit by the Medium paywall; I was a particular fan of the Elizabeth Strout interview because she and I made nearly identical educational decisions for nearly identical reasons:

Medium: Did you study writing in college?

Elizabeth Strout: I studied theater. It was like writing, because I was always trying to be another person. But I never took a creative writing class. I can’t say anything more than my intuition was “it will not be good for me to sit among my peers and hear what they have to say about my work and to say things about their work.” But I was always writing. There was one professor who knew that, and he was the chairman of the English department. He believed in me. I would show him my stories, and when I had a paper due for his class, he would give me a short story instead. It was our secret.

If you have other articles worth reading that you’d like to share, leave ’em in the comments!

Where I Got Published Today: Bankrate

If you want to follow my freelance output in real time — and also read the articles — here we go:

Bankrate: How to use a credit freeze to combat identity theft

Identity theft protection is a big concern for modern consumers. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, the number of data breaches dropped by 23% between 2017 and 2018, but the number of personally identifiable information exposed during those breaches increased by 126%.

What does that mean in real numbers? The ITRC reports that 197,612,748 personally identifiable records were exposed during 2017 data breaches. The massive Equifax breach alone exposed the information of 143 million individuals.

How I’m Restructuring My Time Post-Billfold

You might remember, from my post on how the choices we make limit our choices, that working on The Billfold effectively limited my choices until about 2 p.m. Central, Monday-through-Friday.

Now that I have 20 new hours to make choices with — or, to borrow the YNAB framework, 20 new hours that need jobs — I’ve been thinking about how I want to structure those choices.

Structuring my workday by priority

Here are my current work priorities (not to be confused with life priorities, that’s a separate list):

  • Write NEXT BOOK.
  • Write a daily blog post at NicoleDieker.com.
  • Build the audience for NicoleDieker.com, which will also connect me with people who might be interested in my freelance writing, my online classes, my developmental editing work, and NEXT BOOK.
  • Write freelance assignments for clients.
  • Work with authors as a developmental editor.
  • Build online classes for Hugo House and Skillshare.
  • Complete the administrative work — pitching, invoicing, answering emails, etc. — that keeps this type of creative career running.

It’s worth re-ordering these priorities in terms of which ones bring in the most money, since one of my goals for 2019 is to bring in the most money (and then invest it and get myself ever-closer to financial independence).

  • Write freelance assignments for clients.
  • Work with authors as a developmental editor.
  • Build online classes for Hugo House and Skillshare.
  • Complete the administrative work that keeps all of this running.
  • Build the audience for NicoleDieker.com.
  • Write a daily blog post at NicoleDieker.com.
  • Write NEXT BOOK.

Technically my daily blog post brings in a little more money than “building the audience for my daily blog post,” but I put “build the audience” higher on the priority list because it’s the one that has the potential to bring in the most money.

In other words, if I keep posting at NicoleDieker.com but don’t work on the four methods of building an audience, I won’t earn any more money from NicoleDieker.com.

Similarly, although NEXT BOOK has the potential to bring in a bunch of money (remember that The Biographies of Ordinary People brought in over $9K) it’s nowhere near the money-earning stage yet. The draft is literally 1,481 words long.

This is also why “complete administrative work” ended up in the middle; completing the work you have is the best way to earn money in this type of career, but pitching new work is the next best way.*

But these two lists show me that, as I structure my time post-Billfold, I need to prioritize freelance writing over all other money-making activities.

I also need to prioritize building NicoleDieker.com — blogging every day, growing the audience — because it’s the entry point through which new clients/readers/authors/students/etc. can learn about my work. This is especially important since I will no longer be posting at The Billfold every day; it used to be the entry point to my work, and now I’ve got to shift that interest and that audience to my own domain.

Structuring my workday by hour

I’ve been doing this kind of work for a long time, so I know exactly how long it takes to write this type of blog post (an hour) and how long it takes to write a typical freelance assignment (two hours).

I also know I need to give myself an hour a day just for admin, and that I’m much more generative in the early morning than I am at the end of the day.**

So here’s how I’m planning my workday, post-Billfold:

6:30 a.m.: Wake up, yoga, get ready for day.

8:30 a.m.: Breakfast at my desk. Check in with my daily spreadsheet to see how yesterday’s activity affected sleep, today’s mood and energy level, etc. Check YNAB and investments. Check Feedly even though I probably shouldn’t read any news or blogs before I start working on NEXT BOOK.

9:00 a.m.: NEXT BOOK, for one hour. Stop wherever I stop, and if it’s mid-paragraph like today, all the better for starting tomorrow.

10:00 a.m.: Quick email and news check, then write this blog post.

11:00 a.m.: Lunch at my desk. Tweet this blog post, comment on other blogs, read Feedly, chat on Slack, etc.. This counts as a mental break, btw.

11:30 a.m.: Admin work, audience-building work, and any overflow work from the previous day.

1:00 p.m.: Freelance writing for other clients. 10-min Twitter/Feedly/snack break halfway through.

3:00 p.m.: Quick email and news check, then either work on a class I’m developing or on a manuscript I’m developmental-editing.

4:00 p.m.: Shutdown ritual. Final email check, close email and work tabs, change into gym clothes and get over to the YMCA for the 4:30 Les Mills class.

6:00 p.m.: Shower, dinner, evening.

9:00 p.m.: Take melatonin pill, get ready for bed, turn out all lights except for sleep-friendly book lamp, and read.

10:00 p.m.: Bed for 8.5 hrs; I usually sleep for 7 hr 40 min of those.

Most of this structure (like the yoga and the Les Mills classes and the melatonin pill) was in place before The Billfold shut down; the part that changed was the stuff in the middle. I gave freelance writing the biggest timeslot and NEXT BOOK the slot where my brain was freshest, kept some overflow time in there just in case something went longer than expected, and realized that I’d have to put a limit on the number of classes I built or editing projects I took on in order to focus on my highest-earning work.

This type of schedule can also be built a month in advance, slotting in my current freelance assignments and the classes I’ve committed to teaching and so on, which is extremely helpful because it shows me exactly how many open slots are left and helps me prioritize filling those slots.

For example: I have no “build a class” slots open for March, so I can’t take on a new class. I do have several freelancing slots open that I could fill with new classwork, but I’d rather fill them with freelancing gigs because those bring in more money.

This also means I know what to prioritize during my admin sessions: pitching more freelance work.

Gotta stop now because it is just after 11 a.m. — but I will note that of course you can build exceptions into this type of schedule. Today I’m having lunch with my mom, for example, which meant planning in advance for today to be a short admin day and a no-overflow day. If other types of exceptions come up, like a news site asking me to do an interview or something, I’ll have to consider whether the benefit of the opportunity is worth the literal opportunity cost.

So that’s how I decided to structure my time, post-Billfold.

I’ll let you know if it works. ❤️

*You’d assume that everyone would complete their freelance gigs, because that’s money that’s practically in the bank, but I have found that not to be the case. As a Billfold editor, I knew that a good 30 percent of the freelance articles I accepted would never get written. Yes, life gets in the way, but if it’s at all possible, finish your assignments and get that money!

**I originally wrote “creative” and then realized that wasn’t the right word. I can create — write new stuff, make new stuff, etc. — any time of day or night, on a plane or on a train, in a box or with a fox. But I’m the most generative, which is to say I am the best at coming up with ideas and making connections between ideas, in the morning.

The Morning After

I started writing NEXT BOOK this morning.

I know I’d been hinting that I was going to start writing, and that I was ready to start writing, but once I knew what was going to happen with The Billfold I realized that the best way to transition from “my life as it has been for the past five years” and “everything that might come next” would be to finish up my work with The Billfold and start my novel the following morning.

(Not that The Billfold’s work is finished, precisely. I still have to close out The Billfold LLC, but that’s just shutting down a handful of accounts and filing some paperwork with the state of Iowa. And paying for it, because you can’t open or close a business without paying a bunch of people.)

My most recent tarot reading — which was finally not about death — suggested that I pull back on the WORKING SO HARD ALL THE TIMES and, for the next lunar cycle, focus on my dreams and creating new things and being emotionally open with people.

The reading also suggested that I finish up all of this outstanding business-and-tax stuff and stash any money left over in my SEP IRA, which I was already planning to do.

So, in the name of being emotionally open with people, I’ll share the two pieces of music I had on constant repeat during this whole Billfold shutdown process.

Time is an illusion that helps things make sense
So we are always living in the present tense

It seems unforgiving when a good thing ends
But you and I will always be back then
You and I will always be back then

This one is pretty obvious. I put it in my earbuds and played it on my piano over and over. There’s a back then that will always exist, first as a memory of a place we wish we could return to, then as a memory of something fun we used to do together, and then just a memory.

Here’s the other one.

Everybody knows how this goes so let’s get over it
And let’s get this over with

After all the spelling mistakes
After all the groping in the dark
Can this page of strange gibberish
Get a final punctuation mark?

It shouldn’t be news, per se, that my experience of shutting down The Billfold has been a little different than the Billfolder experience. (And it’s not even completely over yet.) I went through the stages of grief about a month earlier than everyone else — and yes, you can go back through my emails and Slack chats and tick off every individual stage — but what isn’t popularly advertised is that there’s a seventh stage that comes after “acceptance,” and that stage is called “a bunch of administrative work.”

So yeah, I listened to “Let’s Get This Over With” a lot. Even though the thing I was trying to hasten to its end was something I loved.

But the other stage that comes after “acceptance” is “a wide open space that can be filled with dreams,” whether that’s an emotional space or, in my case, a literal space as well.

So I started writing my next book this morning. ❤️

The Art and the Finances of a Creative Career

This weekend I not only took a new profile photo — which aged me three years in an instant, I tell you — but also finally narrowed down what I want Nicole Dieker Dot Com to be about:

Daily posts on the art and the finances of a creative career.

You might remember that I originally called this space a Creative Practice Club, but that never quite felt right (which is one of the reasons I did not purchase the domain name CreativePractice.club, even though I could have).

The creative practice is part of it — specifically, figuring out how to do THE WORK you want to do while living THE LIFE you want to live.

But the creative career is the part that gets you THE MONEY.

And most of us need THE MONEY to fund THE WORK and THE LIFE.

So I’m going to include some posts about where my money comes from, and how I spend and invest it — and if you’re coming from The Billfold, you’re already familiar with this because I’ve been writing those kinds of personal finance posts for five years.*

If you’re interested in building the type of creative career that I currently have, where I earn money from freelancing and teaching and publishing and editing and all of it feels like THE WORK I want to do and THE LIFE I want to live, you’re in the right place.**

If you’re interested in building the type of creative career that’s unrelated to THE WORK you want to do but provides THE MONEY and THE LIFE you need to complete THE WORK, you’re also in the right place.

Because the thing about a creative career is that you get to create it.

So… welcome. ❤️

*Technically seven years, since I originally began writing about my finances on Tumblr in 2012.

**If you’ve read The Biographies of Ordinary People, you’re probably familiar with the scene where the Tinder date asks Meredith if she writes anything “for herself” and Meredith says “it’s all for me.” That’s how I feel. I don’t want to just write novels or whatever. I want to write personal finance posts for Bankrate and lifehacking posts for Lifehacker and help people learn new things. I love teaching, I love connecting people and ideas, I love all the work I do, and it’s all for me. It’s also all for you.