Where do I go from here?

Double Rainbow on my birthday

Double rainbow on my birthday over Oxford

TL;DR section at bottom. (That means: Too long; didn’t read, mom)

Thanks for coming back. In my first post – here – I told you that I had decided to give up IT, which may or may not have made you ask the question: What will he do now? To answer, let me backtrack about a year (Yes, a flashback!) to an article I that I read in the Penny Hoarder.   I couldn’t find the precise article, but the core of it was a listing of jobs that people could do to make money from home. The site has a lot of frugal living and money-making ideas that range from coupon clipping hacks to getting started with your own business. It’s not a bad site and it has some good articles, even if there is a bit of a click-bait vibe to it at times.

I can do that!

I recall that article made a bunch of suggestions that perked me up from the funk that I had been in at the time. It seemed to me that nearly every suggestion connected in some way with my skills and interests. One suggestion was to submit to stock photo houses. Hey, I am pretty good with a camera. I could do that. The article referenced some freelancing sites like freelancer.com and fiver.com. If you had skills with photoshop, you could also do freelance web and logo design. Hmmm, I have been a Photoshop user for years. I could do that! Another suggestion was to start a voice-over business if you have a decent microphone and can use recording software. Hey! I already have a bunch of mics and I’m good at recording things.. I have a voice! I can do that, too. The article included another tip, writing a blog (What would I write about?) and copy writing. (And who would care to read it?) Well, I could do those too if push came to shove. I mean, there was that novel idea I had a few years back, but I was never going to get back to writing. It had been too long to start that crap up again. Still, I was becoming convinced that there were options for me other than staying in IT.

Unexpected encouragement

Fast forward to Christmas of 2016. It was leading up to what promised to be a very normal, pleasant holiday for my family (And it was … don’t worry!). I was fully expecting my contract with Gore to end at any moment (I ended up getting extended for six more months), and had already decided when the axe fell to see if I could live life as a freelancer. My lovely wife and I were deciding how to spend the funds we had rationed out for each kid’s present when I mentioned seeing an ad for Masterclass, which I suggested for our daughter, Rhiannon. She takes after her father in that she is also the creative type, and Masterclass has programs in photography, singing, acting, music production, cooking, and even writing.

After looking over the website and agreeing that it seemed like a good idea for a present, my wife added that I should consider taking the novel writing course, which was taught by noted author James Patterson. I was a bit shocked at the time, and when I expressed that, Debbi told me that she still thought about the idea for a fantasy novel that I had a few years ago. That’s all the encouragement I needed. The James Patterson course also had a contest that ran yearly, in which the winner would get a chance to actually write a book with JP. Cool, a deadline. Well, I was a little thin at the time, so I put off signing up for the course until after Christmas. That meant I would only have a month in order to watch the videos and write a thousand word chapter. No worries. It wasn’t like I had a chance to win, but I liked the thought.

Some light exercise

In the intervening month, I decided that I should stretch my writing muscles, so I thought I’d start with something light, like the first chapter of my fantasy novel trilogy. No pressure. I sat at my computer to start, feeling a bit silly that the first thing that I was attempting to write was such a huge undertaking, but soon the words came … and kept coming. Three days later, I was looking at a little under forty-five hundred words. I kept re-reading it (and of course editing it), not really believing that I had written all that. It wasn’t a completely alien feeling though. It happens all the time when I am recording music … you just start creating and out comes this product that is way bigger than you had intended. Still, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, shall we? Just because you and your wife and mom like it means nothing, right? And I couldn’t use this chapter for the contest, either. I wouldn’t want to give up creative control of this story if I won. I needed something just for this contest.

I obsessively scoured the rules: The submission had to be an original, and in James P’s style and genre, with a two sentence hook to entice the reader. I hardly ever read that genre and never really had an interest in writing it, but I started trying to think of a story anyway. I wanted it to be something that was capable of getting attention and eventually I came up with a short story that could be an opening to a thriller novel. The scene I came up with involves a network security analyst who is being distracted at work by a not-so-nice dominatrix. I chose not to include it on this blog for reasons that will become clear below, I think.

I took the Patterson writing class in record time, which wasn’t hard to do. The segments are all about fifteen minutes or less. The content offered good advice about writing that you can probably get for free on any basic writing website and preached Patterson-endorsed methods for writing a novel, like always using an outline (Which I prefer for things like long stories anyway). But I found the real value of the lectures were the inspirational messages, as well as the anecdotal examples that Patterson gave from his own and other’s writing. I think it gave me a real insight into his writing “mind”.

After devouring the course, I was anxious to get started on my story idea. I ended up cranking it out in about 6-7 hours. I thought I’d be cute, and deliberately made it exactly nine hundred and ninety-nine words. I thought it was strong: It had a killer opening line and told an interesting story, but it ended up being a lot racier than I intended. I was done two weeks early. I read it over and over, making minor changes here and there (still keeping it the same length) but couldn’t find any holes in it. I sat on it for two weeks, waiting to find some reason why it was horrible, why I shouldn’t bother submitting it. I had hardly written anything in years, much less fiction. I let my wife and some others read it and they liked it, not objecting to the adult nature, and being very supportive. Still, it’s hard to know if I was getting objective opinions. I eventually convinced myself that it was at least passable and the raunchy content just might get some attention for being brazen. I submitted it just at the deadline, trying to not think too much more about it. Here is the hook that I used:

 A beautiful dominatrix kindles Jim’s erotic imagination and is a nice diversion from his boring life as an IT security analyst at a bank. But she tricks Jim into compromising his employer, and now he must track down the enigmatic Miss V before he loses more than just his job.

If anyone would like to read it, let me know and I’ll send it to you. You have been warned about the content!

I love it when a plan comes together

Without getting into the story too deeply, mostly because it is a subject that I will revisit later, I ended up being chosen as a semi-finalist in the contest. I was pretty stunned. I knew that at the very least there were a few thousand entrants, and my chapter had been chosen by JP himself. Unfortunately, I didn’t advance to the finals, but still, this was a huge confidence builder for me. That’s really big, because confidence is not something that comes easily for me. Really. No, seriously. I know I can seem really cocky and … Arrogant?! You think I’m arrogant? Well, that is just going too far. Anyway, I am probably not nearly as self confident as I seem, and those closest to me can surely vouch for that particular brand of neurosis, which pretty much means the opposite of self-confidence. I am given to understand it’s a writer thing.

Being selected as a semi-finalist gave me confidence that I could reasonably add this most important piece to the list of things that I can already do (albeit with vary degrees of expertise). I’m a writer! That means I can write. And if I can write, I can provide real content, and not have to rely only on picking up scraps freelancing. Now, a plan started coming together: I would blog. Good blogs generate money through ads and affiliate links – by generating content, and therefore, traffic. There are quite a few ways of “monetizing” your site after that.

But before I start raking in any advertising or affiliate revenue, I needed a theme, and I think I have one that makes a huge amount of sense – self-sufficiency. You may have already guessed that from the title. I am going to be blogging about learning new things and documenting my experiences learning them. There are some things that I will explore that I have little or no experience in, such as carpentry. I want this skill. I need this skill. There are other things I want to get better at as well, such as cooking and photography. Gardening and home food production are other areas into which I intend to delve. This blog will also loosely be about my pursuit of being able to make an independent living in the twenty-first century.

Blogs are great, but this is the YouTube age, and those who don’t vlog, perish, so I will also be working towards creating a YouTube channel. We will see. I still have a lot of groundwork to lay. I have a few other projects in mind as well, related to some of the above subjects. It all ties together nicely.

TL;DR

Here is what I have so far:

  • The Adventures in Self-sufficiency blog (Soon with ads and affiliate links! Yay!)
  • Freelance music stuff (recording, consulting, etc)
  • Freelance voice-overs
  • Freelance copy writing
  • Freelance graphic design and photography
  • Tee-shirts! (Hey, why not? It’s easy to set up and if I come up with some clever, original designs – Ca-CHING! Got a funny/cute/cool/niche T-shirt idea? Hit me up!)
  • Possible spin off blog/vlog on cooking (Not sure if it belongs in the ASS blog — haha, just saw that)
  • Top-secret product research (Related to a topic previously mentioned)
  • Two fiction novels (Ok, one is actually a trilogy)
  • NOTHING POLITICAL

Ok, so those are the ideas. I think that is everything. I am probably leaving something out. I will likely come up with other ideas as I go along.

First things first – I am going to create an “Adventures in Self Sufficiency” Facebook page (An ASS page. Hmm, maybe I should change the name) so that anyone who doesn’t care to see my blog announcements, won’t. I won’t hold it against you if you don’t follow the page. After that, I will be starting the “real” blog posts, the ones that have ad and affiliate links and are meant to attract what is called “organic” traffic. That is basically traffic from people who are actively searching for your content. Don’t worry, I am not depending on my friends and family for traffic and clicks – but if you want to turn people on to my site, I would appreciate it. I have several affiliates in mind and I am waiting for approval, so look for some theme based content soon. Still so far to go and so much to do!

Keep an eye out for my FB group announcement if you’d like to join. Feel free to drop me a line if you’d like to say hi, or have any comments. Thanks for reading!

How did I get here?

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Thanks for the birthday wishes, and thanks for taking a look at my blog. This is not only my birthday, but it’s a kind of crossroads in my life, and I’d like to share it with you. Friday, my employment contract ended. Now, it’s not only my birthday, it’s the first day of my unemployment. I’ve been in IT now for nearly 20 years, and I have decided that it’s time to part ways with this career path. So, yeah, that’s a pretty big announcement. You may find yourself asking how I got here and where am I going to go from here. Or you may not be asking either of those questions, in which case, thanks for stopping by.

As to how I got here, that is pretty easy to explain. I am a creative type who got into IT because that money was good and it was a dependable career. Right out of tech school, I got a job with a now-defunct camera store called Mid-City Camera (In the newly created Digital Direct digital imaging division) on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. I was one of the computer techs and it was there that I got my first real exposure (yeah, I went there) to digital photography and image editing and processing. After a brief stint of teaching computer repair at a now-defunct electronics school, I started my real IT career.

I found myself contracting for Citibank at a location in Delaware. I did well and pretty soon, another opportunity arose with Wyeth, a now-defunct pharmaceutical company. Wow. I’m old. Well, to be honest, Wyeth didn’t close, it got acquired and sold for scrap. Anyway, I got there just as the IT bubble burst and sort of got stuck in a well-paying, but go-nowhere position. Well, ok – part of the reason it went nowhere was probably my attitude. I found that corporate America didn’t think like me. Or perhaps, I didn’t think like them. After the merger, I was quickly thrown to the scrap heap, with a nice severance package. I was really quite ready to give up on IT back then, but a friend of mine, Doug G, talked me into staying in IT. He pointed out that I had a lot of value and could still make a career in IT, despite my stagnated skills. He was right, a quick certification, and I had another gig, paying great money.

Fast forward to the end of the contract, four years later. I was a bit crushed that I didn’t get picked up at Vanguard. I made a lot of friends and I felt connected to IT again. Fortunately, I got another job quickly. It paid well, but this time I was working for a bank that had just been bought by another bank. The pay was great, and I took the job thinking I would be there for 6 months. Then I got an offer for an extension for another six months for a 10% bonus. Cha-ching!

Unfortunately, finding another job after that proved to be a challenge. It took about six months after one false start. Oops. Probably best not to ask about that. Eventually, I landed a position with a local company on a six month contract. Six months turned into a year. I felt like I landed in a place where I was given no direction (again) and being paid for doing almost nothing (again). Well, I did do something: A lot of thinking.

I had that time to think and reflect and bounce things off of my wife. Through a lot of encouragement and hand holding, I think she got me pointed in the right direction. She knew I wasn’t happy and needed a change, desperately. I am so lucky to have her support! By the time my “sponsor” at Gore told me my contract was ending, it was almost hard not to smile.

So, here I am, fifty-two and venturing into the unknown. If you have read this far, you must surely be curious – where will I go from here? Well, for that dear reader, I am going to make you wait.

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Jackmathers.com

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I thought I’d muse on having a web domain named after me. I guess it’s the first step in “branding” although truth be told, I’m not sure that the things that I am going to pursue are all going to fall under my name as a brand, but surely, it’s a good place to start as I figure out what to name my various upcoming projects. Surely, my creative writing will be a brand, so we will go with that.

This isn’t the first time that i have acquired the rights to jackmathers.com. Back in the early 2000’s (gee, that looks odd), I was probably the first to own this domain. I didn’t do much with it. I created a vanity music site that I had linked to my Broadjam.com account. I told friends and family about it and they could go and listen to some of the songs that I was producing at the time under the name SylverWyrm Productions.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t very organized and never managed to attract any attention. Adding that to having a career and raising a family, well I pretty much put music on the shelf.  Click on “listen in browser” below to hear a sample of what I was doing at the time (You will stay right on the page), or click Here to go to my music page to listen to a selection of more songs.

Interestingly, I was contacted by a lawyer representing another Jack Mathers out in Seattle who was intererested in buying the domain. I came back with an offer that was insanely high (but at the time, we had no clue as to how much or how little a domain was worth.) The other Jack turned me down, of course. It seemed to want it for his music site. Weird huh?  I think confirmed this is also the same Jack Mathers who owns and runs Jack’s Fish Spot, at the Pike Place Market in Seattle. I’ll have to go meet him if I ever travel there. Perhaps we should be pen pals.

Later, I let the domain rights lapse, and at some point I think Jack in Seattle owned the domain for a few years. A few years later when my father was still alive, I was considering another venture and when I checked, the domain was free, so I snatched it up again. When I told dad that I had the rights to it, he complained that he was the original Jack Mathers (His father went by John), so it should really be his domain. I offered to let him have it, but he looked at me and asked what in the hell he would do with it. I didn’t do anything with the name that time either. I’m not even sure if I created a website, or if I just let it expire.  Well, I have it again and it’s all mine. I have some plans this time, so keep on checking back! Sorry to the 70+ Other Jack Mathers on Facebook, I think I may keep it a while this time.

The beginning of the end …

Duh duh duhhhhh! So is the first day of my last week working for the corporate world. My contract with Gore ends on Friday, and I don’t intend on going back working for a large company. At least that is the plan. I am going to go into a bit more detail in the coming days. Since I don’t really have any followers, I am leaving this little breadcrumb here so that I can go back and see where it all started.  At some point I will tie this blog to FB and other social media, so I would guess the curious among you might explore some of the older posts.  I wanted to have a little more content than just one post, so I am filling a bit of space.

Anyway, my next post, unless something more interesting comes up will be titled “How we got here” and it will be a brief recap of my situation as it stands and how I got here, and why I have decided to take my life in a whole new direction. Stay tuned!

Giving this a whirl …

Ok, first blog post. As you may or may not know, my name is Jack and I live in Pa, outside of Philly.  This is the first step in getting my thoughts out. I’m not sure what this blog will turn into, but hopefully something interesting.  My next post will hopefully be a bit more in depth and we can get this

thing going. There is a picture I took of a bee. And there is a picture of me with a big smile. I don’t usually smile big like that, but there you go.