I’m back from a month off from blogging. Like any good vacation, I feel refreshed.
Blogging has been a daily habit for me during the week. I occasionally miss a day and take the weekends off, but the routine has been, in general, a good one for me around my writing.
Amy has an equivalent activity called “morning pages.” This is a private blog using an ancient technology where she uses a writing stylus on bound parchment. She uses it in a similar way that I use my blogging, which is to get words flowing each day, ideas out of my head, and gear up the engine for the rest of the day.
When we got to Aspen earlier this summer, I felt like my writing was stale. The daily blogging was a chore. My efforts around other writing were challenging and I found myself procrastinating on anything that I’d categorize as medium or long-form writing. Basically, I continued to crank out hundreds of emails a day, but anything proactive that was longer than a few paragraphs had become a chore.
In early July, I decided to take a month off from blogging. I did the same with writing and reading. I knew I had an intense work stretch coming and I wanted to give myself some space to get the work done without putting extra pressure on myself. So, I took a vacation from writing and reading.
I feel refreshed. I continued several of my other habits, including meditating and running, both of which are feeling great. But most importantly, I’ve been able to spend a reasonable amount of time with Amy even in the midst of the intense work. While I’m periodically not present in the moment, which elicits a “Brad, be a person” comment (or equivalent) from Amy that snaps me back to reality, the intensity of the work hasn’t overwhelmed me.
I love the Bezos Day One philosophy, so I’ll just end with it. It’s Day One again today.
I have awful handwriting.
I used to not care, but at age 53, I find myself writing on paper more than I have the past 30 years. I’ve decided that I’m going to improve my handwriting because I think it will increase my joy of writing on paper.
I’ve always rationalized that my bad handwriting comes from being the son of a doctor who has terrible handwriting, being left handed, and spending most of my time typing instead of writing on paper.
But that’s nonsense. I’m also the son of an artist who has beautiful handwriting. I’m married to a woman with delightful handwriting. I learned to type in sixth grade and have been practicing ever since in direct contrast to writing by hand, which I mostly avoid.
One of my summer projects is to improve my penpersonship (why is it called penmanship – what a silly word which apparently peaked around the 1930s.)
Handwriting is such a better word.
I started my journey with Google and quickly discovered 8 Tips to Improve Your Handwriting and How to Improve Your Handwriting in 30 Days: The Challenge.
Fortunately, that led me to a bunch of books which I bought, including:
- American Cursive Handwriting
- Spencerian Penmanship
- Spencerian Handwriting: The Complete Collection of Theory and Practical Workbooks for Perfect Cursive and Hand Lettering
- Improve Your Handwriting
- The Power of Letterforms: Handwritten, Printed, Cut or Carved, How They Affect Us All
I also bought a bunch of green Pilot G2 Retractable Premium Gel Ink Roller Ball Pens since one of the things I saw online said: “the pen is important and this is my favorite one.”
If you have suggestions for how to improve one’s handwriting, I’m all eyes (and ears, and hands …)
While I’ve been writing my entire adult life, I started writing consistently on May 4, 2004, when I began this blog with my first post To Blog or Not to Blog.
I ended that first post with the sentence:
“I’m still not sure if the world needs my musings, but because you have complete control over whether or not you decide to read this, here goes.”
WordPress tells me that since then I’ve written 4,890 posts. There are 5,095 days since May 4, 2004, so I write approximately a post a day (sometimes two, sometimes none). I’ve written hundreds of articles over the years for other publications, done countless online and live interviews, and written six books.
While that’s a lot of writing, I’ve had extended periods of being stymied. During the writing of several of my books, I had long spells of boredom, which some call writer’s block, but when I reflect on how I felt, I was bored of either the process or the content of the book. I never liked the feeling of writing as “work” and there were many periods where that’s what it has been for me.
I’ve always written to think and to learn, so I know that intellectually it is work. However, I get an enormous amount of joy out of thinking and learning, so that when I’m in a mode where one of these is happening, it doesn’t feel like work.
In 2016, Foundry Group became a registered investment advisor because of our Foundry Group Next fund (and our investments in other VC funds) which created another layer of work for me. Up to that point, my partners were fine with me posting whatever I wanted on this blog. Once we became an RIA, things changed, which I described in that post from 2016.
“… Because it will affect what we can say on the Foundry Group blog and personal blogs that we write. We’ll have to be careful with statements that we make about companies we invest in. We’ll also be cautious in what we write about our funds or the industry in general. According to the SEC rules, we can no longer write anything that “promotes” our funds. While we’d argue that we never try to promote our firm, but just write anything that comes to mind and try to have fun doing it, with our new registration status comes new responsibilities.”
This compliance process slowed me down and, for some of my writing, requires me to get approval from our compliance team to publish. This changed my rhythm a lot since I could no longer just write what was in my head about a company or a fund we were investors in. If that sounds like work, it is.
I’ve carried this around recently as frustration. I’ve allowed it to feel like work. I haven’t let my thoughts flow as much, as I’ve felt constrained. But I realized over the weekend that this feeling is artificial and unnecessary since my fundamental goal for writing is to think and to learn. If I go back to first principles from that first blog post in May of 2004. As long as my writing helps me think and learn, that’s why I do it.
Look for more “different” in my writing going forward. I’m going to let myself be less constrained, as I explore new topics that I’m playing around with. I’ll go deeper on things I am already deep in, and pay less attention to things that don’t stimulate me to think or learn. I’ve always tried to be playful and very personal in my writing, so my evolution will have more joy in it, even when talking about difficult or unhappy things. I’m thinking and learning, which is what I love to do.
For those of you who have been part of my writing journey for many years, I hope there is much more to come. I expect that will be linked to the number of days I have left on this planet, since I seem to write about one post a day, and one book a year, on average.
Regardless, the feeling of Amy patting me on the back as she reads what I’m writing over my shoulder lingers pleasantly with me all the time.
As I continue my exploration of feminist literature, I’ve become much more aware of pronoun usage.
I realized my default pronoun for writing and speaking has been male gendered. If I thought about pronoun usage in advance, I could alternate and use female gendered pronouns, but when I wasn’t paying attention, my default went back to the male pronoun.
I also noticed that much of what I read used male-gendered pronouns as a default. When referring to a specific person, pronoun usage was linked to the person, but whenever the writing referenced a non-specific person, the pronouns were usually male.
I’ve given several talks in the past few months where I consciously decided to use only female-gendered pronouns, except when referring to a specific person (where I then matched the gender of the person.) After these talks, I regularly got positive notes about this, from both women and men, thanking me for doing this.
Some of these talks were about gender issues in tech, but others were about something entirely different, so the positive reactions were instructive to me. I started mentioning this approach, including to several women I respected a lot for their views on gender issues. I specifically asked if my behavior around this was useful. All gave me a resounding yes.
So I’ve decided to try to use female-gendered pronouns as my default in writing and talking for a while and see how it goes. I’ll still occasionally use male-gendered pronouns, but by having the female as the default, I hope to have “her” appear more frequently.
All of this notwithstanding, I think it’s important to recognize that there’s an entire generation that is moving quickly past binary pronouns to epicene (or gender-neutral) pronouns. I write this way also and in lots of situations, it works well. But I’m not ready to shift to it, especially since I have a massive deficit of female-gendered pronouns in my historical writing.
As my writing progress on my two books – Startup Communities 2 and #GiveFirst – continue to equal zero and the pile of unread stuff reaches higher into the sky than the stack of turtles going all the way down, I’ve decided to try a new process thing.
I’m going have a reading and writing week starting today and going through 9/17. Any excess time I have next week will be for reading the turtle pile and working on the new books. The activities are self-reinforcing – I write better when I’m reading a lot, I can only write productively for a few hours a day, and reading refreshes me a lot for future writing.
Amy’s birthday is next week (yes – it now lasts a week instead of a day) so I’m taking the week off. We are together for every possible minute, other than when I’m running and in the bathroom, so it’s a particularly great week to try this experiment since Amy also loves to read and write.
Once the US Open is finished on Sunday, we’ll have no reason to watch TV. The books and a blank screen beckon. This will either work or not. Either way, I’ll learn something.
I took the last two weeks off from blogging. It was a nice vacation.
While I try to blog every day, I don’t have a daily ritual like Fred Wilson does. Fred and I have talked about this a few times – for him, it is meditation, discipline, and ritual. I’ll let him say it in his own words.
“But I’ve come to realize that the daily post, and its quality or lack thereof, is not really the thing. It is the ritual, the practice, the frequency, the habit, and the discipline that matters most to me.”
In the past four years, I’ve tried to move away from time-based disciplines. I realized that my obsession with time and schedule, such as waking up every morning at 5 am no matter what time zone I was in, was one of the inputs into my depressive cycles. My weekly “wall of blue” (what I refer to my calendar – and what it looks like – basically fully committed between 9 and 5 from Monday to Friday) was another.
About four years ago I started removing time-based disciplines from my life. I still have many time-based rhythms – often imposed by others – that I adhere to. Most of the business world runs on a time-based rhythm (hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually) so that’s a background that I have to operate within. However, I’ve systematically tried to eliminate as many of these self-imposed rhythms as I can.
I wake up whenever I feel like it. I try to schedule less, not more, phone calls. I try to leave an increasing amount of time unscheduled. There are long stretches of time where this is difficult, and the wall of blue takes over.
As I rolled into August, I knew I was facing an intense two weeks. I foreshadowed that in my post Total Failure at Summer Maker Mode. After writing one more post on July 31st, I gave myself permission to take a two-week vacation from blogging.
Regularly readers notice when I go off the grid for a vacation, which varies in length from a week to a month. This wasn’t a work vacation, but it was a blogging vacation. It felt good not to think about writing for two weeks as I just focused on work, running, resting, and being with Amy.
While my schedule is still pretty full, it’s not as full, and as I look forward the wall of blue has some space in it. Between that, and a nice two-week break, writing once again appeals to me.
Thanks to the 75+ people who have reached out about being willing to help me with writing and WordPress stuff. I’ve read all the emails, answered some of them, and will get responses out to the rest on Sunday after I have a nice digital sabbath starting in a few minutes.
On my run today, I thought more about what I was looking to do and decided that my approach wasn’t right.
I’ll put this in the MVP / fail fast category. While many of the responses were from people who are clearly talented and would be able to tackle the stuff I’m said I was looking for help on, I realize that my premise around what I need may be flawed when I think harder about what I really want.
So, for now, I’m going to rescind my previous post titled Looking for a Writer and a WordPress Goddess and keep pondering things.
I’ve decided to hire two people for 2017: a full time writer and a full time WordPress Goddess (or God – I’m good with either gender …)
I’ve been very reticent to add people to our team. However, at this point it’s clear that I can get a lot of leverage from two very specific people.
Writer: I’m looking for a full time non-fiction writer. This is not a research function, but rather a writing / editing / coordination function. The amount of writing I do is significant, but there is 5x more to do than I can handle. I’m turning down a lot of stuff that I’d like to write and putting off stuff into an infinite backlog which doesn’t feel good. So, having someone writing first drafts, editing stuff I slap together, writing some primary content, and helping get it posted in the right places would be a big help.
WordPress Goddess: I contribute to four – soon to be five – blogs that my best assessment of is a hot mess of different configurations. Every time I fiddle around with something on one of them I break something else. Ideally I’d be able to normalize everything into one configuration, but I accept that this will always be changing. The person I’m looking for here has a mix of design skills and WordPress programming / config skills. In addition, there’s a bunch of other stuff in the infinite backlog of goodness to work on.
Each of these people would work directly for me. Optimally they’d live in or move to Boulder, but that’s not a requirement. They must be interested in entrepreneurship and be able to deal with lots of ambiguity. They must be comfortable with a lack of daily structure and reporting. They must be able to work remotely at times.
I’m willing to make a two year commitment to them, so they need to be willing to make a two year commitment to me.
If you are interested, just email me at email@example.com. If you know someone who might be a fit, please forward this post to them.
In the cold light of morning, I just deleted three draft blog posts that I wrote last night during a bout of insomnia.
Their titles are telling about what was on my mind at 1am in the morning.
- SaaS + Transaction Fees
- Games Are a Hits Business, But B2B SaaS Is A Grind
- The B2B SaaS MRR Funding Dead Zone
I usually write posts in real time (like this one). I don’t have a lot of drafts stored up nor do I spent a lot of time editing and trying to get the posts just right. Instead, I use my posts to think out loud as I play with ideas, explore my thoughts, or just write what is on my mind. I generally do one edit pass after I’ve written the post and then hit publish.
When I have a thought that occurs to me during the day and don’t have time to write a post, I toss a title into my WordPress Drafts folder and add bullet points on what is in my mind to the body of the post. Each of the three posts above were in my WordPress Draft folder (which had 18 this morning and now has 15) which accumulated over the past two months. The number ebbs and flows as I use a draft about once a week to stimulate a post.
I jammed through all three of these last night – it was probably an hour of writing. I just read through them to see what I had written. I found a bowl of illogical word soup mixed with random crap. While there were plenty of interesting thoughts, the sum total of them was a giant pile of incoherence.
I started rewriting SaaS + Transaction Fees and then got bored. I realized it’d be better to just delete the crap and start over some time in the future when the urge to write about this hit me again.
Over the last twelve years of blogging I’ve deleted many draft posts. When I think about the books I’ve written, it probably takes 150,000 – 200,000 words to get a 50,000 page book. Highlighting something and hitting Cmd-X is second nature.
I often get asked how I write so much. As any writer knows, the answer is to write a lot more than you actually publish. Accepting that part of the process of writing is deleting a lot of what you write is soothing, at least to me.
Yesterday’s post titled The Silliness Of Recapping Seed Rounds generated a robust discussion. It also inspired Joanne Wilson to write a post titled Recapping a round?? which is a description of a different situation and a different company, but generated a similar negative response from Joanne. In her case, the new investor insisted that the cap on the notes (for money that had already been spent) be raised so the seed investors would get less ownership than they’d signed up for, regardless of the investment the new investor is making.
I’ll just let Joanne, who works harder than almost anyone I know, and certainly adds more value to her angel investments than many VCs do, simply speak for herself.
“How do I feel about this? I am furious. I feel like I got hosed. I took a big risk by putting money in early on and now a VC with power behind them comes in and says here is the deal or we won’t let you in to our fold. What should have the investors done? Revolt? What is the point of that? Then we all lose. So I did what I believe in first and foremost and that is supporting the entrepreneur. The one caveat I made with the entrepreneur (which is purely blowing air) is that if this VC doesn’t secure a killer Series A for you then I will personally come out to SF and make this all public and have a showdown. If you are going to screw me and all the investors who came in around me then you better make it something we can all feel good about in the long run because right now I am just holding my nose.”
In my comment thread, and in Joanne’s, a number of folks asked us to call out the various players (especially the investors and the company) by name. I have no interest in doing that and I’ve said so. I’ve gotten a number of private emails asking me about the players. Same response – I’m not interested in calling people out by name.
Someone eventually asked me why and I thought it was worth a response.
I don’t write things like this blog to attack people. I don’t do it because I need to vent when I get upset. My motivation isn’t to create public fights. It’s also not to use this blog as a bully pulpit to negotiate, as someone suggested.
Instead, I do it for the same reason that Jason Mendelson and I wrote around 30 blog posts about the term sheet in 2004 and 2005 and then followed it up with our book Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist. We started writing stuff like this to demystify the process for entrepreneurs.
I think stories and examples are often the best way for people to learn things, including me. By writing down my thoughts about situations, I process them. I put them out there for anyone who wants to learn from them, explore them, or match them against their own experience. I try to do it in a way that contrasts all the rah rah bullshit that goes around with the resistance, hesitation, or inability for people to talk clearly and directly about the challenging stuff. And it’s especially pertinent as time passes, as things continuously change.
Not everything I write ends up being correct. I miss nuances. I don’t understand all the pieces. I learn by putting my thoughts out there and engaging with people in their reactions to what I write.
As a result, there are many cases like this where there is no value in naming names. The actual participants are just part of the story, but not the central theme. It’s my interpretation of what happened. Whomever else is involved with this situation (the investors and entrepreneurs) can decide whether it matters to them, or not, and act accordingly.
But I’m not a reporter. I’m just trying to teach. And learn. And observe. And hopefully help a few more entrepreneurs as they continue through an endlessly challenging, complex, and stressful journey.