Post-Manuscript Depression

I sent my editors a nearly complete first manuscript of Working Jobs on Monday morning and unceremoniously shifted my attention to the design, marketing, and selling of the book. After months of coaxing words onto the page, agonizing over structure, and battling my inner critic, I now had at least two weeks to focus on anything but the production of a manuscript. It felt weird.

Producing the manuscript was like training for a marathon or studying for a huge exam. It takes a lot of effort to make that initial commitment, but once the commitment is made, it’s just a daily grind. Wake up, grit teeth, grind. Repeat. Then you realize that you’re at the finish line and the marathon is over. You get up and turn in your exam and walk out of the lecture hall. A couple days later, you look back at it and squint a bit because you can’t quite believe that you actually did that.

I started to feel disassociated with my work. I woke up with anxiety, nervous that I’d wrote the whole thing with blinders on, oblivious to the fact that it was unreadable. I started to compulsively refresh my inbox for any communication from my editors like a student waiting for test scores to appear.

But then I just started to focus on the other things on my task list. I designed a couple of book covers that I felt happy with and started conversations with a few companies that were interested in giving away products to future readers of the book. Whenever I’d worry about the manuscript ever reaching a publishable level of quality I’d find solace in the fact that my editors were working on it instead of me.

Then, I looked through my manuscript for blog post ideas that I could use to drum up interest for the book. I picked out five or six of them and thought up natural destinations for me to share them (e.g. subreddits). And something miraculous happened… I remembered why I wrote Working Jobs in the first place: to share the stories of people trying to love what they do so that others wouldn’t feel alone in their own pursuit.

For the last couple of weeks I’d been so caught up with the uncertainty of leaving my job and the rush of finishing my manuscript that it’d become all about me. I needed to make my book good so I could sell copies and pay rent. Now, I remembered what had carried me through the whole process: the prospect that somebody that I’d never met might interact with something of my creation and make a great decision for themselves… a decision that would move them closer to reaching their potential and benefit the world.

This might sound a little cheesy but I’ll end this with a quote from Paulo Coelho.

And, I don’t know — why do you use this word cheese? You’re too cheesy? [laughs] Do I have anything about cheese? When you say [laughs], oh, he’s being too cheesy when [he] manifest[s] something that it is the most important thing that we have, we become very cynical. Probably this is is defensive. You know? And not natural defensive attitude, because you want to love, you want to share your love, you want to show your love, but you don’t want to be cheesy. So, you destroy everything.


This Week

Next Week

  • Complete first full draft of website
  • Add recommended reading to each chapter of the manuscript
  • Search for an illustrator or sketch things myself

Recommended Reading (storyteller's edition)

  • The War of Art gr
  • The Right to Write gr
  • Save the Cat! gr
  • Daily Rituals gr


How am I doing? Is this interesting? I know many of the ~hundred of you currently receiving this newsletter personally and I’m treating this like a one-directional penpal arrangement. Are there any topics that you’re particularly interested in? Any questions you want to ask me?

Any suggestions on any aspect of this project is so deeply appreciated. And thank you for reading.

This is Week 2 in the series I’m Writing a Book (each edition is published a couple weeks after it's written)

Get weekly reflections (just like this one) on the *Working Jobs* project in your inbox every Sunday

DIY Book Covers for $10ea with GIMP, Google Fonts, and Stocksy

The book designer's responsibility is threefold: to the reader, to the publisher and, most of all, to the author. I want you to look at the author's book and say, "Wow! I need to read that […] A book cover is a distillation. It is a haiku, if you will, of the story. - Chip Kidd watch his TED talk

People that create things know that in the early stages of creation, a focus on the aesthetics can lead you down a deep, dark, hole of procrastination. The writer who edits obsessively while writing struggles to write. The product designer who focuses on every pixel while prototyping the concept fails to spend the adequate energy on the bigger picture. The start-up that focuses more on their website and social media than developing their product and talking to customers ends up falling behind competitors focused on the fundamentals.

The would be author that spends too much time on a book cover laughably early in the process eats into valuable time better spent making the book itself better, or pre-marketing it so that it might eventually get read by someone.

You know what I say to that? Who cares. I enjoyed making these covers and it’s my book and I get to spend my time how I’d like so suck it. So what if I spent a couple days mocking up book covers. Point is, now that I’ve done it, if you or your friends ever need to do it, you can just replicate what I did.

Here are three designs that came out of the process: 

Nothing special, and the most recent version is already different from these original designs (way less selfhelpy thank God). But having something done and imperfect was exactly what I needed at this stage of the process.

The whole thing took some time because I had to learn some of the mechanics of doing this in the process, but if you follow what I did, you can have a couple mock-ups in an hour for your own book cover or poster or display ad or christmas card or whatever beautiful thing you’re making.

Here’s how I approached producing these designs:

  1. Asked myself what kind of emotional response I wanted from the reader
  2. Picked a color palette
  3. Selected a complimentary font-pairing
  4. Gathered a selection of images and illustrations
  5. Mix and matched until something worked

1. Eliciting the right emotions

My book is called “Working Jobs” and focuses mostly on loving what you do for a living. The easy answer here is to create something fuzzy and happy, warm and approachable. Something that says, “Hey there, are you a little lost? A little disgruntled? This is going to taste like warm birthday cake.” Warm images, fun round serif fonts, happy colors.

But I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t set out to write click-bait in the form of a book. My book was serious. I wanted to share brutally honest stories and iconic thought leadership, not feel-good guilty reading. I didn’t want my reader to buy the book and then hide it in a drawer. I wanted it to sit prominently on the coffee table (never mind that most of the copies will be ebooks).

I wanted art. So I looked for inspiration in art galleries and found this beauty

David R Prentice Moon Flag 2 1979

I realized I wanted motion, sophisticated colors, familiar shapes. I wanted it to elicit the calm of really well designed furniture.

2. Picking a color palette

I generally knew I wanted it to resemble “Moon Flag 2,” so I went to Fabrizio Bianchi’s beautiful color palette generator, put in some of the colors and started generating palettes. The only significant change I made was swapping the navy blue from the Prentice to a pastel turquoise, because I wanted to lighter accent color to use for my web design.

The red was my primary color, the eggshell and grey would be light and dark background/text pairings, the turquoise an accent color, and the white would be a secondary color whenever red didn’t work.

This palette would serve as reference both the book cover and any visual design related to Working Jobs.

3. Selecting a complementary font combination

I’m actually quite bad with type, but I knew I wanted a sans-serif font for the header text and a serif font for the body text. Ideally, both fonts would come from Google Web Fonts because they’re free, well-supported, and easy to use in google documents and websites.

I already knew I liked Source Sans Pro for my sans serif font, so I just needed to find a nice, readable serif font to pair with it.

Honestly, I just kind of scanned Google’s web fonts at this point and picked Noto Serif because I knew Google used Noto in a lot of production projects for Android. If it’s good enough for Google production, it’s good enough for me.

If you’re looking for inspiration, check out femmebot’s beautiful Google Web Fonts Typographic Project.

4. Gathering Images and Illustrations

The quickest way to get graphic inspiration is to page through stock images that don’t suck.

My current favorite is Stocksy. I’ll just browse through a bunch of pictures, put the ones that jump out at me in a folder, and play around with them until I like one. When I decide to go with one, I pay for the rights and that’s it. Super easy, super cheap.

Stock images get a bad rep because of how laughably shitty the generic stock image looks, but there’s a new crop of stock images that look pretty dope. So I pay the stock image haters no mind.

I wanted something abstract and artistic, complementary with my color palette, so I picked a handful of pictures symbolizing work, offices, childhood, creation, and art.

5 Mixing and matching

I opened up GIMP (an open source photoshop alternative that I barely know how to use) and started to put text on top of pictures. I used a bold, all caps version of Source Sans Pro for the title, a light Source Sans Pro for my name, and a bold version of Noto Serif for the subtitle. I used either white or red for the header, and a grey for the subtitle and my name.

Picking a cover

I’m not sure which one will end up gracing the cover of Working Jobs yet, but I have a strong preference for the middle one that’s currently on the website. I’ll probably develop a few more when the publishing date nears and put it to a vote here. If you have a preference, let me know in the comments.

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What Happened to Man's Search for Meaning?

Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for. - Viktor E. Frankl

When man first walked the earth, we asked ourselves how we would find the day’s sustenance. Next, we wondered how we would protect ourselves from the dangerous world around us. And as soon as we felt full and safe, we started asking ourselves why we were placed on the earth.

We begin asking why as children and continue to ask it periodically throughout our lives. It’s a question that has spawned and sustained powerful religious organizations as well as a multibillion dollar self-help industry. But it’s a rare person who feels a deep connection to their life’s purpose.

The promise of this kind of self-actualization drives our life’s biggest decisions. As children, we incessantly ask question about the world around us so we can understand how things work and how they relate to us. We begrudgingly go to class because our parents and teachers tell us we’ll have more satisfying lives if we learn the material. And we pay our dues at work, slowly climbing the corporate ladder to achieve some kind of 'American Dream' that will finally make us the envy of our peers and solve all of our existential issues.

Viktor E. Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning and one of the most influential psychologists in history, believes that man’s relationship with meaning is the singularly most important relationship we have. After surviving life in World War II concentration camps, he dedicated his life to the study of meaning both in his clinical work and research. In one of his studies in France, he showed that 89% of people needed “something” for the sake of which to live. In another, he surveyed college students and found that their primary goal was “finding a purpose and meaning to my life.”

I think we can all relate. We’d love to find a purpose and meaning to our lives and live effortlessly, unburdened by the ambivalence of not knowing, in service of your life’s meaning.

Instead, we treat it like a teenager treats romantic love. We desire it from a young age, watching Disney movies and reading love stories, but will never quite know what it feels like until we experience it. With each new lover, we test whether our experience lines up with our expectations, but never really know whether our expectations are reasonable, or whether any lover will ever meet them. Until, for the lucky few of us, we fall in love.

Our introduction to work follows a similar pattern. As children, we dream about growing up to take on these heroic roles, idolizing figures that inspire us, hoping one day to feel the same kind of importance and purpose. As we enter the workforce, we inevitably feel a bit of a letdown, but aren’t sure whether what we’re feeling is what everybody else is feeling, or if we’re just being entitled millennials.

I’m curious about the experiences of everybody else. Did you feel let down by work? Did you feel like everybody was sharing that letdown or did you feel a bit alienated like I did?

Something I’m so grateful for since since sharing the Working Jobs project is receiving messages from old friends and new acquaintances (soon to be new friends!) sharing their stories from work. Stories of quitting and staying, stories of anxiety, fear, and love. Hopefully you’ll let me share many of these stories. They’ve had such a warm impact on me because—haha this sounds silly—but I was starting to take the entitled millennial thing personally. I didn’t want to be entitled or selfish but I also couldn’t stand working without purpose any longer.

This post is adapted from my forthcoming book, Working Jobs. If you haven't already, subscribe to my weekly newsletter to read more of the book as it comes out.

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Quitting Jobs

I quit my job this week.

I stormed straight into the CEO’s office and said, “I’m out!” I took the papers on my desk and flung them in the air and shouted, “Make it rain!” I grabbed the paintball gun that I’d taped under my desk for just this moment and peppered the room with neon pellets, aiming carefully at anybody who had wronged me: “Ari Gold, motherfuckers!”

Fine, it didn’t go down quite like that.

In truth, the whole thing lacked all drama whatsoever. I loved my team, believed in the company, and I’d planned my transition for a couple months to ensure everything would run smoothly without me (it didn’t take long… #humbling).

The Quest for Why

Why did I quit? I couldn’t answer why I was at work. I made a great living and got to work with some incredible people, but every morning I woke up wondering why I, specifically, needed to go to work that day. Once I realized I was bankrupt of purpose, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

I started waking up early to journal. I read books about psychology, history, and business to understand how to live a good life and how to have a passionate relationship with work. I listened to interview after interview with people I admired to dissect what they did to turn their work into effervescent energy.

Pages in my journal filled quickly and before I knew it, I had the beginnings of a book that I’d written for myself: all the clues I’d followed in search of meaning. I resolved to write the book.

Work on Working Jobs began.

The Plan

I’m going to write, edit, publish, market, and sell this book over the next three months, and share every single detail of the process. Every Sunday, I’ll summarize what I’ve done that week. I’ll write it first thing in the morning, you’ll receive it before you go to bed.

The contents of the email will resemble this one, but with more links to things that I’ve completed that week.

Big picture, my goal for Working Jobs is ambitious. I’m writing and self-publishing the book, launching a complementary podcast series and video course, and building a website from scratch. I haven’t done any of these things before, so I’m going to learn them as I go.

This Week (where I explain what I did this last week)

  • Completed first draft of the manuscript
  • Hired professional editors for the book
  • Wireframed book website

Next Week (where I explain what I plan to do next week)

  • Start editing the manuscript
  • Record first episode of the podcast
  • Launch the website
  • Write first blog-post

Help (where I ask for your help)

This week, I need help in three ways. First, please share this project with people you think could benefit. I won’t have the power of a publishing giant’s marketing machine, so I need your help drumming up interest. Second, I’m looking for mission-driven people to interview on the podcast and feature in the book. Ideally they're attempting to reach world-class performance in something they're passionate about for the first time. Finally, I’m taking applications for office hours, where someone comes on the podcast to talk about a question or problem they have. Email me if you know someone who would be interested.

In the meantime, subscribe here to get each weekly edition

This is Week 1 in the series I'm Writing a Book (each edition is published a couple weeks after it's written)