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Cesar is the author of the standalone novel “The 13 Secret Cities” the book series "How to Kill a Superhero" (under the pen name Pablo Grene). He is also the creator and publisher of Solar Six Books.

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Filtering by Category: Strength & Skill

What It Felt Like to Quit My Dream Job

Editor

 Photo by Rob Lundskow, 2018

Photo by Rob Lundskow, 2018



From 2014 to 2016, I worked in what I thought was my dream job. I was managing editor at Wirecutter, which was one of the coolest startups in the world of journalism for consumer products. I had an apartment in the Lower East Side in Manhattan, and the city of New York embraced me with all its energy. I had self-published my first four novels during this time period, and I felt special for having a side hustle to accompany my day job.


On paper, I had what they call “Living your best life.”


But it wasn’t. At that time, I suffered from sciatica, a type of lower back pain which travels down one or two legs. That condition rendered me unable to walk more than two blocks without having to sit down on the sidewalk and clench my teeth to bear the electric jolts of pain. I also just looked like shit. I was bloated and pale, and my body looked really unhealthy, despite my regular habit of running three times a week and going to the gym every other day.


Like many people who work for startups, I thrived on the energy of my work environment, and I was committed to helping the growth of the team and serving the mission of the organization. But, the results I delivered were becoming uneven, and I couldn’t grasp why it was that some work days churned my stomach with dread, and other days didn’t.


In the summer of 2016, I decided to let go of my apartment, which in New York, is a big deal. Once people find a place, they do not let go for any reason. But I had an ambitious and somewhat unusual approach. I decided to work away New York for a few months. Once that time had passed and I felt better, I would come back to New York and find an all new apartment, so I could in effect turn a new leaf. I could do this thanks to the startup life. After all, our company was remote, and it was Slack, email and Zoom that connected us, not real office space. I sold most of my things, packed my clothes and laptop, and I said goodbye to Manhattan. When I landed in Chicago that June, I felt sick, and spent. Within a few days, I could see in my face just how hollowed out my eyes were. I knew then that I had to quit.


I let my manager know that I needed to step away and focus on my own writing, and more than anything, myself.


You would imagine that this moment when I quit my job would have been drenched in glory, but it wasn’t. It felt miserable. Like a mistake of sorts. It was so scary. It felt like being scraped from the inside with a cheese grater. It tasted of failure.


But I did it. I did it because I was going through a big change inside of me. I no longer fit in with my daily surroundings or with the teammates around me. This is not as simple as saying I hated my job, because that’s not the full story. I am also not going to bullshit you and describe a utopia of where I worked. All jobs are full of inept leadership, structural problems, racism, sexism, homophobia, and bozos, in various combinations. Ineptitude can happen in almost any job. My struggle really wasn't’ about the particulars of the environment that I was in. I was often perceived by the team I managed, my peers and my managers, as someone who is nice, intellectually strong, and a “giver,” which doesn’t actually tell the full story of what I’m like. I knew that there were other aspects of my skills and leadership that had nothing to do with being nice, or helpful to a fault. And though I could have worked on exhibiting those other qualities in this team, I wasn’t going to erase the solid image of how I was perceived.


That is, until I quit. Then it became evident that there were more dimensions to my character than what was at the surface.


You see, I was developing as an adult, and that particular job, despite being a dream job, was not going to help me do it. Nothing against them, because I had my own problems to solve. My journey required a new degree of solitude in which I could really discover my own depths, and in which I could make more provocative and risky choices. The chance to make these choices is what every leader, entrepreneur and artist dreams of.


By the time I had quit my job, I had already published four of my own books. You may think I am naive, but I didn’t think that this was such a big deal to have done this. I just saw it as my side hustle, and something that my heart compelled me to do. But the answer to my struggles was right there, in my books. You see, I had poured many types of energy into those novels: twenty five years of writing experiences as a journalist and fiction writing. I also threw in my expertise and tech and design. I wrote those novels using my understanding of human nature to describe characters who are flawed, and are always discovering who they are. And what’s even more important, I was channeling my entrepreneurial spirit into publishing those books. I was learning how to run my own business.


What I understand now in 2018, two years after that life-changing summer when I quit that job, is that I did well to listen to my artistic and business instincts and step the fuck away. Today, I am successfully running Solar Six, my own company, which publishes all my books. My sciatica has also resolved and has not returned. I am currently working on audiobooks of my novels, and I have expanded my editorial output to short documentaries and short films, which are funded via my Patreon account. I also launched LED Queens, a clothing line that I design and market. I have agency, and I have my own small team of designers, illustrators and creatives who help me make my readers, customers and fans happy. And most of all, I am not perceived as a “nice guy” and a “giver’ in this new role. Now I am described by others as as a queer punk, someone who is not afraid to be himself. Someone who takes charge and execute on ideas, works of art and design products that no one else can pull off.


Today my memories of quitting that job remain the same: they are painful memories, emotional burns that scorch and induce tears. But you know what? Quitting was the best thing I ever did. Because I found my actual purpose as a writer, designer and leader. I had to leave something behind, to let a part of me die, so another could be born from the carcass. If you have ever felt like quitting your job, and you don’t understand why you are doing it, this story will resonate with you. Although I don’t suffer fools gladly, and I encountered a few charlatans and sociopathic team members, I can’t say that I personally had an enemy or adversaries in that job of any kind. But I had an obstruction, and that obstruction was me. It wasn’t until I dealt with myself head on that I was able to become the person I am meant to be. And that journey continues. There’s still a lot more to learn, and as long as I am alive, I know to listen to my intuition. It is intuition that can be a powerful component for any leader and entrepreneur.




Podcast #19: Your role as art director if you self publish

Editor

In today’s episode:

  • I reveal a special suprise about 9 Lords of Night, which you can see with your own eyes here.

  • Your role as an art director if you are a self publisher and entrepreneur.

If you like the show, leave us a review in iTunes here. Thanks. If you want to support this show, visit my Patreon page. Got a comment? Send us an email at our contact page.

Strength & Skill: Training For Fiction Writers

Editor

A good fiction writer never stops asking himself or herself the question, "How will I ever accomplish this?" 

That is for sure.

No matter how experienced a fiction writer may be, doubt will always haunt every writer when it comes to art, craft, and business of writing. I am no exception to this. In earlier stages of my development as a writer, I too wondered whether I would ever finish a novel at all, or whether my words would be on a bookshelf with my byline. 

For me, this question started at the age of 12, when I already knew I wanted to write short stories using my parent's Olivetti typewriter. I am not going to add glamor to this tale, because there are a few million writers who have already made that anecdote into a cliche (one of the starry-eyed dreamer who had a vision). These writers reminisce about the smell of paper, the reams of bond that they used when they wrote their first manuscript, and about the ever-so askew letters on those typewriters when they hammered out their opus. They recall that typewriter fondly, as if she had a personality all her own, and they tell this tale over and over, awaiting the praise of other writers for finding their calling.

Well, I call bullshit.

Writing is hard work, and even when you aren't sure it's going to be published, it's just fucking hard work. It's not romantic at all. In fact, romantic notions don't ever really come into my mind at all when I'm writing. Those can only take place when one is sitting around doing something other than writing. And even after a person has finished a book, the memories of sitting around, waiting for the muse to arrive -- are pretty much bullshit and all too reductive.

I believe writing is actually a challenge that a writer has to meet each day, instead of the author waiting for it to arrive on angel wings. Writing is hard, writing is painful, and writing, doesn't always seem to have an immediate result that one can consider positive.

And yet, we do it. We want to do it. Some of us even consider it a vocation. Yes, I said vocation and not a calling. If this is dismantling your castle of fairy tales and Prince Charmings, then you better go grab a fucking wheelbarrow, because the biggest fucking pieces are about to fall. 

My vocation is not mystical, and instead, it is more practical. Writing is sometimes grueling, but I found that it has made me a better listener, a better friend, and even a better human being (though not always). To become a better writer, I have had to train to be a better writer. Training involves hard work, it can sometimes be painful, and just like I said above, it doesn't always have an immediate result that one can consider positive.

Then why do it at all? Well, that will always depend on the writer, but I do it because I must do it. I must investigate the universe through narrative, and in order to investigate well, I have to write well. What's more, I have to get better at writing over time, because it's not a static process. That means that I expect to make gains in strength and skill as I work at training my writing over a lifetime.

This series of posts is called Strength & Skill, because I believe you need both in order to succeed. You don't need MFAs, writing workshops or certificates to develop this type of strength and skill. Over the next few weeks I will talk about how you can build habits for yourself that increase these two virtues in order to help you write full drafts, re-write your books and stories, and even push you into published life. I am not going to teach you craft. I don't believe craft can be taught. However, I will show you examples of what worked for me to build better habits, motivate myself, stay organized, and strive for balance between artistic vision and publishing concerns. These examples are very individual to my own life and experiences, and that means that they may or may not work for you. 

This is what most writing classes and teachers don't ever have the balls to tell you: "This may not work for you."

But I am not going to hesitate to say it.

That's why I think approaching writing and publishing from a training point of view will get you better results. When you train hard, and when you train every day, sometimes you fail, and sometimes you look foolish as fuck, and sometimes, you have to change your gameplan. That right there is the way to succeed as a writer. And don't let charming snake oil salesmen, marketing gurus or even well-known novelists (with nefarious motives) sway you from your goals. Thinking critically about the artistic process and business side of writing is up to you, and the more critical thinking you can apply to it, the more successful you will be at completing your work and sending it out for publication. In some cases you will even publish it yourself. But none of this can happen unless you are willing to challenge many of the romantic notions about writing and the business of publishing books.

In this series, I will also get personal, and share with you personal anecdotes from my history as a writer. You will learn about the people that encouraged me to keep going, you will learn about those that have tried to stand in my way, and you will also learn why I am more successful and well-adjusted today as a self-published author, and why I chose not to go the conventional route for my books. You will even learn in this series about how I conceived of a pen name for a separate series of books, and what that did for me as a form or training.

Yes, it's all training. If you train your writing with strength, and skill, you will be simultaneously finding a balance between personal power and cleverness.

Merriam Webster defines strength as: the quality or state of being physically strong; the ability to resist being moved or broken by a force. Apply that early on to your writing life and you'll see how greatly your tap into your potential.

Merriam Webster defines skill as:  the ability to do something that comes from training, experience, or practice.

Remember those two definitions, because we will be coming back to them very often. Get ready to train, and train hard.