Ten Years

I love this bit from a recent Creative Mornings interview:

My illustrations have evolved stylistically in the past 10 years. Originally, my work was heavily influenced by low brow art and depicted a grungier aesthetic. I was very determined to create a career out of illustration and came to the realisation that I would need to refine my style into an aesthetic that was more commercially viable. With this came a long period of experimentation and research into different styles and techniques. Today, my illustration style is light-hearted in nature, playful and vibrant.

Sofia Varano

Every overnight success is ten years in the making, right? And probably longer. Hell, I turn 43 this year and I’m still trying to figure things out.

What Do You Do?

You know the dreaded question at parties, “so what do you do?”

Worse, if you’re a photographer or musician or writer, you don’t want people on the internet to wonder the same thing.

If someone looked at your social media profiles today, or god forbid your website, would they know what you do. Like, really, do you spell it out?

It took me awhile to get this, too, so I’m finally getting around to taking my own advice here, but honestly… take a step back and think about it.

I bring this up because I’ve had these talks lately with friends, about what we want to do, yet we don’t really put it out there. We talk about it, sure, but we have a hard time asking for it, much less displaying what it is we want.

Find Your Dreamers

Be around the people who are on the same “dream wave length.”

There are probably plenty of people in your life that probably don’t want to hear your dream talk. They don’t want to hear about your art, or how you want to tour, or make photographs. That’s okay, they’re not dreamers.

Save your dream talk for fellow dreamers, the folks who dare have lofty goals and ambitions. Those need to be your people, your tribe.

You find them by putting your dreams out into the universe.

You publish that poem, post that song, upload that art, start that podcast… you shoot them into the sky like a rocket, over and over again, waiting for other dreamers to find you. Friendships are built, bonds are made.

That dream DNA seeks out that dream DNA. That’s where I believe that yearning comes from. The feeling that something isn’t quite right. You’re unsettled.

You need to dream, and put those dreams out there.

That may not mean “making it” in the short term, but surrounding yourself with dreamers, people who want your dreams just as bad as you do, you’ll make it in your own way.

Positivity is a Strategy

I’ve played the victim, and throw some serious pity parties over the last decade, but things changed in 2016 when I started running.

“I really really really think positivity is a strategy.”

Gary Vaynerchuk from his podcast

Gary Vee goes on to illustrate the opposite of this, about “keeping it real.” To me, that’s the doom and gloom. That’s having your eyes glued to the 24/7 click bait news cycle. That’s just not for me anymore.

Stay informed, but don’t stay drowning.

Today I got some good work done. I was in the flow, where time just sort of whizzes by and before you know it two hours have passed.

After that adrenaline high went away, I could feel the stress in my shoulders. Like, stress is REAL, folks.

So I went to the gym. For me, gym is a strategy, as it gets me towards posisitivity. Yes, snacks and a beer are nice, too, but I knew that after this work day I needed to go towards something positive, and tonight that was 40 minutes on the bike (I ran 7.8 miles yesterday, so running wasn’t an option).

Positivity is a strategy. Period.

Make Time to Party

“Blue skies, suns out, time to party,” is how I captioned this on Instagram (“closemondays” on the ‘gram), though lately partying for me is working sustainable hours and trying to run 20 miles per week.

Makes me think of ‘It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work,’ from the folks at Basecamp. I do lots of work, but I fight hard against Parkinson’s Law; “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” There’s a section in ‘Four Hour Work Week,’ too, about how if you had a heart attack and your doctor said you could only work two hours a day, you’d probably be able to figure that out.

So I’ve been using Toggl hardcore, making sure to track all my hours and not let too much time get away from me. Working from home / remotely makes it easy for those work hours to expand, so tracking my time as been crucial. I work a lot on retainer, so I have to make sure my hours match well with those monthly rates, or else my hourly rate goes down!

But I’ve been working remotely since 2013-ish, so I’m still learning. Finally here we are in 2019, some six years later, and things are coming together nicely. It was an uphill struggle for a long time, but I think making “time to party” was crucial, and for me that happened when I started running in 2016.

Behind the Scenes

Came across Hannah Donovan’s newsletter (“Let Go and Haul“) and I loved this part where she pulls back the curtain a little bit:

Recently I started timing myself to see how fast I could do these. If things come up during the week I jot them down in notes and then I outline it on the G Train between home and pole dance class on Saturday which is two stops (plus waiting on the platform)! On Sunday it takes about 30 mins to turn the outline into an email and then 15 mins to format it with gifs, links and proofread 🙂 I’m pretty proud of this, it used to take me a lot longer!

Hannah Donovan

There are so many things we consume each day on the internet, made by so many people, but most of the time without any real idea of how much effort goes into each piece. How long does a three minute video take to write? To edit? How many hours go into writing a catchy tune? Or years?

This sort of transparency is nice, too, because it gives a tiny glimpse into my own work. My own efforts.

I Stopped Looking

Sometimes the best ideas come about when you’re not looking for the best ideas.

Sonic Cathedral, meanwhile, came about by accident after a couple of pints. Nat Cramp had been running a club night of the same name – jokingly billed as “the night that celebrates itself” – for about 18 months when he got chatting to Mark Gardener, frontman of veteran British shoegaze band Ride. “One night, after a show at the Bodega in Nottingham, I spontaneously asked if he’d let me release a 7-inch single for him and he said yes,” Cramp remembers. “I had no idea how to make that happen and I don’t remember having any particular ambitions to run a record label either. I’d just had a couple pints and thought I’d chance my arm!” Almost 15 years later, the label is still going strong.

From NME’s ‘How to run a small independent record label

I love this so much, especially these two parts:

“Came about by accident.”

“Nat Cramp had been running a club night of the same name – jokingly billed as “the night that celebrates itself” – for about 18 months.”

That “by accident” is the sort of thing we don’t hear enough. Instead it’s “I FIGURED THIS OUT” or “I FOUND A WAY.” And the fact that Cramp was doing a club night “for about 18 months.” Yeah, that’s a year and a half. Of “just” doing something.

For a long time I struggled with what I should do, or what was next? I kept strangling the universe for the answer, when actually letting go provided the answer.

And then, by chance, this video hit me square in the face tonight. Before, when asked the “so what do you do” question, I would spew a bunch of internet jargon and editorial speak, and zzzzzzz….

If I would have paid attention to work I was already doing “on the side,” and seeing that it scaled, was sustainable, and profitable, I could have started Close Mondays years ago.

For me, it just took the exhaustion of running the 10 mile Broad Street Run in May 2018 . I was fried physically, and mentally I wasn’t far behind. I had to put Skull Toaster (my baby at the time) on hold, and that’s when it hit me.

When I was a bit broken.

It didn’t come from meetings, cursing the heavens, playing around with some numbers on a note pad… it took being completely exhausted for the message to get through.

Like Cramp above, “just” doing a club night for a year and a half led to the next thing. Developing a running “practice” got me here. Because when running, I can’t scroll through social media for the answers. There’s no time for pity parties when running. There’s focus, and distraction, both at the same time.

I could focus on the running when running, and thinking about running, and planning for races. And running was also a distraction, something that pulled me away from the idea that if I just looked hard enough the answer would come.

Lots of Veggie Lo-Mein

Ran into an old friend of mine recently, while they were home for the holidays. They’re a full time musician these days, playing for a pretty prominent indie-rock band, which is awesome. I played in two bands with this dude when I was younger.

But in our early 20s, while me and some friends ran off and got married and bought houses, this friend was couch-surfing in random loft spaces in Brooklyn before loft spaces became big money. He was just making music with friends, and got to tour a bit here and there.

“Lots of veggie lo-mein,” he told me, of that moment in time.

Now, some 15+ years later, he makes music for a living.

INTERVIEW: Dumb and Dumbest Podcast

Listen to me talk with Matt Bacon and Curtis Dewar on their ‘Dumb And Dumbest‘ podcast, on the subjects of social media, marketing, internet metrics and more. Click below, or listen over at Ghost Cult Mag.

Some highlights:

  • My continued distrust of Facebook
  • How I stared Buzzgrinder and Noise Creep
  • Building Skull Toaster from the ground up
  • How to build engagement on Twitter
  • Helpful books I’ve read

Let me know your thoughts (hi@sethw.com or seth@closemondays.com), or leave a comment over at and have me on your show! Get in touch!

Delete It

How do you handle a new thing? I recently bought a new MacBook Pro, my first new machine since 2014 (and 2009 before that).

 I actually just got a new computer because my old one died. It feels like the first computer I’ve ever had as an adult. It has nothing on it, and every time I download something, every time I add something to it, I’m like, “Do I want this to be on there forever? Or do I just delete it?” I’m deleting a lot of stuff and it feels really good to keep everything clear, to have that lack of clutter.

Emily A. Sprague at The Creative Independent

My photos sit in the cloud, my music streams from Bandcamp and Apple Music. All of my important documents sit on DropBox or Google Drive.

That said, here are a few things I’ve installed on my new machine.

TextExpander: A few keystrokes and whammo, a string of text, a phone number, or a line of code. I use this every single day.

Spark: Holding my breath on this one, but this email app lets me export tasks to Tododist, snooze emails until later in the day (or any date I pick), and schedule emails to be sent (usually at 7am the next day).

Bear: A replacement for my beloved Evernote. Syncs wonderfully between Mac and iPhone, so I can bounce text and code between the two throughout the day as needed.

Todoist: I’ve tried OmniFocus (just too much), and Things (pretty, but I can’t make it work for me), but I’ve fallen hard for this minimal, stripped down to-do app.

Abelton Live: Bass riffs become loops, all easily recorded and sounding great. I only have the Intro version, which works fine for now, but could see upgrading in the new year.