August 8, 2013

Lots of chairs, photo by jurvetson (CC)
Too Many Chairs

I occupy a lot of chairs, wear plenty of hats, don several mantles. You might even say that I do a lot of different things. Some of these things muddle the message a bit, much like using tired old metaphors to explain something simple…

I’m a writer, first and foremost. That should be pretty clear, but it isn’t, since I not only write technical books, articles, and columns, but also write fiction, both long and short. To complicate things even further, I also write essays and blog posts, ebooks and commentary to what have you. So while I’m a writer, it’s hard to tell what kind, even for me (other than “the kind that writes” of course). Communicating this, be it in conversation or in promotional material, is tricky. 

Lots of chairs, photo by jurvetson (CC)
Lots of chairs, captured by jurvetson (CC)

I’m also an entrepreneur and business man. Yes, entrepreneur is a broken and overused word, but let’s accept it for now. I run a web agency called Odd Alice, quite successfully I might add. We’re doing cool things, for clients and within our own stand-alone projects. At the agency I’m developing and designing everything from sites to concepts. Odd Alice is run like a startup, something I can’t rightfully say about my other company, Cylinder Labs, which has been around for more than a decade. At times we launch things, try things, fail at things. The message is yet again muddled. Am I a developer, CEO, project manager, business man, entrepreneur, or something entirely different? I really should have corresponding hats for all of those.

I’m an editor and publisher. That’s right, and I can back it up beyond this very site. I’ve edited print magazines, web sites, newsletters, books and games. Some of these have been published under an imprint of my own, others have gone more traditional routes. I’ve done this since the late 90s, and I do it well. Except, editing an online tech news rag is a lot different from managing a line of pen-and-paper role-playing game products. Video game sites, online magazines featuring short fiction, books and blogs, I’ve done a lot of these things but few of them are close enough to each other that I can use them to explain what I do.

Let’s pretend this is all that I do, although it’s a gross understatement. I’m a writer, entrepreneur and business man, and an editor and publisher. Let’s just say that these three individual things doesn’t warrant an explanation. How do I explain what I do?

I think about these things sometimes, not because I care what label I’m wearing myself, but because it comes up in casual conversation. “What do you do?” is some sort of defining question in today’s society, one that makes me want to make a mess of the unknowing fellow’s face. I rarely do that, luckily.

The more serious implication of my many chairs is that someone curious about me and what I do who finds this site will be faced with all these things, despite probably having crossed paths with me in only one aspect. Someone looking for the world famous author of WordPress books (oh the stardom!) will no doubt be expecting at least something about WordPress among the articles here, not the recent stream of writing related things.

The solution is to either not do all these things, which probably won’t happen anytime soon, or divide everything more clearly in every aspect so that less questions arise. Actually achieving this, well that’s a different story.

Thoughts? Let @tdh know on Twitter, or find me elsewhere. There is also a newsletter.