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!
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com), or leave a comment over at and have me on your show! Get in touch!
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.
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.
There isn’t a magical formula for success that relates directly to when you do your best work.
Every roommate I’ve ever had goes to bed around 11, so for me, the night is really nice because everything gets really quiet. I’m a big believer in not going to bed before something’s done, so I usually get around two hours of work in somewhere between 10:30 p.m. and 1:30 a.m.
I started waking up real early, and started creating at 7 a.m, like real full-on sessions, not just like I’m poking around. I’m in. What I started doing before that was the last move of the night I clean the whole studio. Fill up the water pitcher, when I wake up I have the teapot ready, there’s nothing to do except get started. And I realized there sun’s shining down, you’ve got that pure energy, you’re just up, and all of a sudden it was turning 11 a.m and I hadn’t even looked at my phone and I was like, oh I just learned how to do it.
If you’re not a morning person, it’s okay. If you’re a night owl, great.
Personally I get up early and get cracking at some work, then I have the rest of the morning and afternoon to tackle my biggest work. And honestly, I’ll let some tasks slide into the early evening, because by then I am motoring, and can buzz through whatever else is on my to-do list.
After seven years I ended my beloved Skull Toaster. Over 2,000 metal trivia questions, 1,000s of emails, videos, and images. It was also never ending, a perpetual extra thing on my to-do list everyday. Sure, I ramped down from three questions per day to one, and a nightly email newsletter to weekly (and back again), but it would never stop. There was always something to do. An album anniversary to honor, the passing of a legend to acknowledge, or another time stamp worth noting. And it would never end.
I wish I knew exactly how to know when to quit, when the payoff isn’t worth the effort anymore. I recall Seth Godin’s “The Dip,” which touches on this. About the effort needed to get to where you’re going.
Investing all the hours leads to what exactly? Perhaps money, oppurtunties, new gigs? I haven’t done something in a long time that didn’t see those things as the goal. Skull Toaster’s purpose was to get me a job doing social media for some unknown media outlet, doing audience growth and community management.
And then I learned I really didn’t want to do any of that.
Was it a waste? Not one bit. But I wouldn’t have learned any of the lessons had I just sat around and waited for a sign, looking skyward for some divine guidance.
Found this bit from ‘F You Money, & Don’t Release Your First Font,’ which on a surface level doesn’t really apply to me since I’m not a designer, but holy moly, I’m glad I kept reading (and a nod to Nina Stössinger for RT’ing it in the first place here):
No matter what you’re interested in, the world will not know how to help you unless you scream from the mountaintops what it is you like to do, and how you like to do it.
In recent years I got a lot of people asking me what I do, and I’d usually inhale and list a bunch of things, from email marketing to website updates, some audio and video work, writing, transcribing, content strategy… zzzz… quite a pitch, right?
I work with independent music publicists, managing their websites, social media, and back end operations.
Like James says, “the world will not know how to help you.” The world didn’t know how to help me out when I just did “everything.” Now that I know what I like to do, the world and I are now good friends.
Now, Chris Glass isn’t doing nothing, of course, but not working all the time sure is pretty awesome.
Then, while listening to The Process podcast (done by Shannon Lee Byrne), she spoke with two guests in Ep #36 that about “how they’ve designed a life to work less.” They’re pretty frugal (give a listen), but they also own property and lead a creative and fulfilling life.
In my line of work, music publicists offload their busy work (or “digital dirty work” as I like to call it), so they get to work less. They can then use that time to meet a client, organize bigger projects, or just (GASP) not work. On the flip side, I’m not trying to work all the time, either, but I’m focused on just a few, well defined tasks each day, across a handful of clients.
It’s a wild time in 2018, for sure, and it’s bound to get even more bumpy. I think a lot of us are figuring it out as we go, but it’s always reassuring to hear about people who aspire to work less.