Thursday, June 30, 2011

36 Ideas For New Hobbies

I know that I’ve written an article about How to Have Fun Again, which is apparently one of the more popular entries on the site.  The main idea of it is that you should put yourself out there and try new things, no matter how stupid you think they are.  I’ve also heard from people that just need a little gentle pushing in the right direction to find a new hobby that will be fun and entertaining for them in their off-hours. 

So, I compiled a list, with editorials as I felt like including them, of potential hobbies so that you all might be able to find something that you enjoy.  Ideally, any of these would serve as a jumping-off point to becoming involved in or creating your own community centered on these things.  

And if you want more of these, be sure to check out my ebook over at Amazon, The Big Book of Hobby Ideas.


Start a Podcast: Easy, fun, and low upkeep with some very basic equipment.

Paint/Draw/Color: All you need is a box of crayons and a pad of high-quality paper and you’re off.

Learn a Foreign Language: Not only is it enjoyable, but it also gives you a skill that can help you break out of a boring, old job, and find exciting new possibilities, provided you’re willing to put in the effort to become fluent.

Start a Blog: I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily “easy,” especially if you want to go to five days a week, but it has low barriers to entry, and can get your name out there, especially if you’re a good writer.

Pick up a new sport: Tennis and golf are the easiest if you don’t know many other people.  Consider trading lessons for a service that you can provide if lessons would be overly expensive.

Join a Kickball League: I just joined one with my buddy Ralph in St. Louis—everyone can play kickball, and if you add a few beers, you have yourself a good little Sunday.

Become a “Buff” about a particular topic: It could be something as broad as “pop culture” or “American History,” or as focused as “17th Century French Poetry.”  The important thing is that you want to learn about it to the point where you develop an expertise in the area.

Start a Journal: Incredibly helpful to get your thoughts down on paper—a godsend to organize your thoughts a bit.

Take Improv Classes: Especially if you’re afraid of performing, it can be great to learn some basic games and try to get in touch with your creative side.

Take Cooking Classes: Another useful skill that can be very fun is cooking.  Assuming you all are at the same level in your development, you can make some like-minded friends this way.

Write a Story/Novel:  It’s tougher than you think.  Be prepared to chuck stuff after investing hours in getting it “just right.”  The sense of accomplishment when you finish something is fantastic, though.

Go Hiking/Camping/Rock Climbing: Get out of the house and do something outdoors—the fresh air will do you good.

Start a Collection: This one can get expensive and take up a lot of room with useless shit, but some people find collecting things adds meaning to their lives.

Become Big Into Beer/Wine/Food:  Again, these can get expensive, but that’s only if you get caught up in all of the bullshit surrounding these topics.  They can also give you great satisfaction.

Start a Garden: If you have the room.

Start an Online Comic Strip: If you’re so artistically-inclined and witty enough.

Start an Online Business: Plenty of ways to make money out on the internet.

Try to Contact Famous People/People that You Admire to Ask for Advice: Notice the “Contact” part—NOT “stalk.”

Woodworking: If you have the tools

Write a Screenplay: Not as tough as writing a novel, but still requires discipline.

Make Movies With Your Friends: Once you have that screenplay, see if you have the chops to put it on film yourself.

Board Games: Even if your friends don’t like them, see if you can find a local group that does.

Toastmasters: For those that want to get better at public speaking and meet some people.

Learn How to Program HTML/Web Design: An in-demand skill, at least as long as that “fad,” the internet is around…

Learn How to Program Computer Games and Make One: No matter how simple it is, if it’s fun, people will enjoy it.

Learn How to Play a Musical Instrument:  No need to have the most expensive instrument out there, and try the barter system for lessons.

Learn How to Make Basic Home Repairs: Good skill, and can save you money.

Travel the World: Using frequent flyer miles and hostels to save cash if need be.

Become a Fan of a Sports Team: If not already.

Fantasy Sports: Ditto.

Enter a Contest: On something you’re already pretty good at.

Take Up Photography: It can be fun.

Set an Outlandish Goal and Follow Through With It: Like setting foot on all seven continents, or eating at every Waffle House in the U.S.  The more outlandish, the better—that way it becomes interesting to others.

Take Dance Classes: Good place to find ladies for guys, and vice versa.

Try Sculpting/Pottery: An old favorite of mine—make something nice out of junk.

Build Something with a Hammer and Nails: Makes you feel useful.

These are only a few of the hundreds of hobby ideas that could potentially improve your life and well-being.

Fortunately, I've written a full-length ebook with hundreds more. It's "food for the soul" and probably costs less than your next meal. You can check out "The Big Book of Hobby Ideas" on Amazon right here.

D.J. Gelner is a writer, entrepreneur, and recovering attorney in St. Louis, Missouri. You can e-mail him at Follow him on twitter @djgelner. Friend him on facebook here.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Four Ways to Get Your Edge Back

When I embarked on my new career as a writer/entrepreneur/podcaster, I had a few real concerns.  Chief among those, though, was whether I had lost my creativity after almost three years of trying to suffocate it.

Being a lawyer is about a great many things, but rarely is it about true creativity.  Oh, sure, there are those that will argue that finding that one unique distinction in a line of case law is being extremely creative.  Or, they pride themselves on pulling out an argument that no one else on the case thought of that somehow carries the day.  To whom I say, “fantastic.”  This is the kind of creativity that your brain thrives on, and you obviously made a great decision to be a lawyer.

This goes for anyone who truly enjoys their job.  Well done.  For the rest of us, though, the long slog doing boring, repetitive, mundane tasks for at least eight hours per day takes its toll on the creative person within.

I know that I was the same way. After a long day of exercising my brain in a way it didn’t want to be exercised, it was all I could do to come home and turn on “Shot at Love” for an hour, or (gulp) “That’s Amore,” the spin-off about one of Tila’s jilted, over-caffeinated suitors named Domenico. (Hey, I had a live-in girlfriend at the time!). 

The point is that the creative side of your brain is a muscle like any other, and if you don’t exercise it properly, it can wither away and die. The good news is that I’ve been able to get back to about 90% of where I was at previously, before subjecting myself to the anesthetizing effects of BigLaw. 

The bad news is that it’s taken me over two months to do so. 

I figured that since there are probably people reading this looking to do the same thing, I’d go through some of the techniques that I’ve found most effective to get back in creative fighting shape.

1) Put Down the Remote

This is probably the most important step.  And I don’t mean “just pick one channel and volume level for the night and leave it be.”  If you have any time at all outside of work right now, it’s a goddamned shame to waste it watching TV.  There are literally thousands of other things to do with your time that are more productive.  Don’t believe me?  Okay then, smart-ass.  Build a birdhouse.  There’s one.  Make a sculpture out of modeling clay.  There’s another.  Become a wine connoisseur. There’s a third. There are many others.  Don’t believe me?  Okay, I’ll stop. The point is, once you stop vegging out in front of the TV and start putting your off-hours to a productive use, you’ll find that old edge sharpening up, if only a bit. Besides, part of the reason that everyone thinks that “every story worth telling has already been told” is because they watch the same kinds of derivative sitcoms and procedurals over-and-over again. Get your inspiration from other sources and you’ll start finding yourself having more original thoughts.

2) Find a Safe Place

I don’t mean a panic room, nor do I mean the horrible Jodie Foster movie of the same name.  I mean find a place, be it a journal, group of friends, hobby group, etc., where you can write or speak your mind, no matter how “offensive” or “repulsive” other people might find those thoughts.  So much of corporate employment is being taught to “play it safe,” “be non-offensive,” and “go with the flow.”  I’m sure many of you have a more rambunctious former self that was cast aside either because of implicit or overt pressures to conform.  The safe place allows you to try to rediscover that person without fear of reprisal or reprimand.  One quick side note: as Anthony Weiner can probably attest, your twitter account or facebook page probably shouldn’t be considered a “safe place.”

3) Create Some Kind of Art on the Side

Paint.  Draw.  Sculpt.  Write.  Woodwork.  Make movies.  Put machines together.  Podcast.  There has to be something that you either enjoyed as a little kid, or thought that you would enjoy as a youngster, but never had the resources to try. Sure, your first attempts might not be so great: as most of you can probably attest, my early work on this blog is probably not at the same level as more recent posts, nor are my first short stories or podcasts. But that’s part of learning a craft and the subtle nuances that make your end product go from “okay” to “fantastic.”  The sheer act of trying out these new hobbies will likely exercise parts of your brain that you never knew existed.

4) Find Your Personal “Line,” then Cross It

Maybe you’re afraid to publish your blog posts to your facebook page.  God knows I’m not, but I used to be worried that someone would stumble upon them, rat me out, and I’d be out of a job.  Then I realized I didn’t really care about my job, so I figured, “fuck it,” and started putting them up there. You know what?  Nobody cared. I wasn’t badmouthing anyone other than bitchers and other people that talk a big game but never do anything. What did happen was that I got a fairly substantial outpouring of support from friends and even long-lost acquaintances that felt similarly. Like anything else, without any risk, there can be no reward, unless the fix is in.

Though this “line” doesn’t always have to do with sensibilities, it usually does involve going beyond your point of personal comfort.  Don’t like talking to people?  Make it a point to talk to five strangers that day.  Then up it by one person per day until you’re able to talk to anyone.  Don’t like heights?  Keep pushing the boundaries until you literally become physically ill.  Uncomfortable with certain words or phrases?  Record yourself saying them until you realize that they’re just words, and don’t really matter.  Push the envelope, then take things up another notch, realize that it wasn’t so bad, and establish a new baseline.

So that’s it.  Kind of simple, right?  Anybody have any that I missed?  Let me know in the comments.

D.J. Gelner is a writer, entrepreneur, and recovering attorney in St. Louis, Missouri. You can e-mail him at Follow him on twitter @djgelner. Friend him on facebook here.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tuesday Mailbag 6-28-2011

I bet you all thought no one would send me mail this week, and I’d be forced to concede defeat in my quest to get this mailbag off the ground.  Well, you were wrong.  Though it doesn’t matter—even if there wasn’t an e-mail this week, I’d do something stupid like make up letters or go through my spam folder to come up with the questions. 

As always, if you have a question for next week’s mailbag, e-mail me at

This week’s question is from Alex W., and was sent with regard to the Retirement post I wrote last week:

Why not also address the issue of needing a decent education?  In order to find that well-paying job that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning, you need to be exposed to it in your education.  I feel that the beauty of our system, at least when it's done correctly, is that everyone gets educated and the brightest have the opportunity to succeed even if they're poor as dirt.

-Alex W.

I think being educated is probably more important than it has been at any time in the past.  However, our current formal educational system isn’t nearly able to provide the level of education necessary for modern life.

Right now, elementary and high schools are still geared toward educating the masses for manufacturing jobs.  Showing up on time, following directions, completing assignments, minimizing risk, and receiving approval for doing so are the fundamental tent poles around which this system is built.  Sure, there are some things, like discipline, that are certainly necessary that are taught well through this paradigm, but on balance, the current system of education may be doing more harm than good.

College is better, but not much.  Too many kids are still “catching up” from substandard high school educations in college, even at some of the most elite institutions in the country.  Others fuck around for too long in college while doing literally no work.  The smart ones are able to balance fucking around with putting in just enough work to do well, but even then the vast majority of the students are left with little practical experience and poor job prospects.

The problem is, we’re squeezing all of the creativity out of our kids by following this formula even when it has become hopelessly outdated.  As we continue to cut the “non-core” elements of education, like the arts and P.E., we’re automatically limiting what these people are exposed to as kids, and ensuring that the conformance factory will continue to push out good little workers that are content to work in similar jobs because “that’s the way it’s always been done.”

I was fortunate enough to attend a high school in the St. Louis area (John Burroughs) that takes a more holistic approach to the development of the individual.  JBS makes everyone play a sport every season of the year, in addition to requiring a certain amount of fine and performing arts electives, as well as more “practical arts” like computer-aided drawing and woodworking.  This formula actually exposed kids to a variety of different professions, while also providing the flexibility to allow students to pursue what they wanted to do.  JBS produces plenty of businesspeople, attorneys, and soldiers, as well as more creative-types like writers, artists, and even working actors, the most famous of whom are Jon  Hamm and Elie Kemper.  I have no problem saying that it was easily the most mentally challenging stop in my educational career—college and law school were actually kind of easy by comparison, because at JBS, you were always doing something, and had to manage your time accordingly.  As you can tell, I think this is the direction we should be looking as far as secondary education is concerned.

Unfortunately, many of our public schools are taking the opposite approach, cutting art and P.E. classes, ratcheting up test-taking prep to comply with the horrific “no child left behind” regime, and teaching more memorization of concepts that are going to be featured on tests precisely when these memorization skills are becoming less of an asset in today’s world.  This system doesn’t create thinkers and leaders; it forges cogs and sprockets, replaceable parts to be used in repetitive jobs forty hours at a time.

So, how do we fix it?  First of all, either through school-sponsored programs or extracurricular programs, kids need to be exposed to the arts, phys ed, and other off-the-beaten-path options that society has to offer.  This used to be the job of schools, but unfortunately, declining revenue is forcing them to cut these programs, so we may have to go outside of the official school channels to do so.  Kids need these creative outlets to experiment and enjoy themselves so that, when the time comes to pick a vocation, they know what they want to do.

Secondly, basics like reading, writing, and to some extent arithmetic need to be taught better at lower levels, and more quickly.  Don’t get me wrong, these things aren’t being taught particularly well now, but that’s why we need to ramp things up and get kids on the right path earlier.  Once they have the fundamentals at their disposal, they can move more quickly onto topics that interest them and exploring those options.   Let’s stop babying these kids and get their writing skills in order so that there aren’t so many shitty pieces of writing floating around the world like so many turds.

Third, the college experience needs to be drastically rethought.  My college roommate and sometimes commenter Matt and I spitballed a more project-driven approach to at least higher education a number of years ago.  Basically, after touching on “the basics” through high school, you’d be able to focus on major projects in college that would interest you while also benefitting the world in some way.  You’d have to complete four of these projects, approved by the school, before graduating, and one of these would have to involve proficiency in a foreign language in some regard.  These projects could be anything ranging from starting a non-profit and running it for a year, to experimenting to create a formula for a new patent, ownership of which would be split between the university and the student.  Heck, students could pitch their ideas to corporations to see if they’d be interested in a partnership, which would give the students more experience in the field, and more real, hands-on experience that didn’t involve fetching coffee, and position them better to get a job coming out of school.

Another upside of this system would be that since you just needed four projects to graduate, you could do these concurrently, and graduate more quickly with less educational debt.  Let’s face it: student loans are probably the single most limiting obstacle for young graduates in our society, often forcing them into jobs that they don’t want to do just to make the minimum payments to lenders.  By reducing the impact of these loans, or by entering into some kind of partnership with a company whereby the company pays for the student’s education in exchange for three years of work or whatever upon graduation, the effect that these crippling loans have on people would be reduced, and they could get on with their lives more quickly.

Of course, the schools would probably fuck it up, as they would go to a “per project” method of payment, claiming that a motivated student working on three projects at once would be using three times the resources of the bum slow-burning his way through one project over the entire year, but this is only true to a point, especially if corporations were willing to bankroll especially promising students through the program.

There would still be the need for faculty in an advisory capacity, and perhaps to teach lectures that were necessary for certain projects, but I imagine most of this could be accomplished by recording current lectures and making them available to students online.  Before you go nuts telling me off about how “people won’t learn the same things online—they have to be in the classroom!” , I’ve found that some of the most interesting, thought-provoking stuff that I’ve learned the most from have been the short, yet incredibly effective talks off of the TED site.  It would at least be interesting to see if the results could approximate the system we have in place now at a fraction of the cost.

All of this has been a long-winded way of saying that I agree with you, Alex, that education is of the utmost importance in today’s world, but in a much different way than the current system is set up.  Education should focus on expanding the mind, self-improvement, and results of projects that matter to both the student and society as a whole.  It should boost the idea of ownership in a project, and develop leaders instead of followers.  But as long as we focus on testing, teaching to that test, and making sure that these kids always take the safe path in life, we’re not doing our kids, or our society, any favors.

D.J. Gelner is a writer, entrepreneur, and recovering attorney in St. Louis, Missouri. You can e-mail him at Follow him on twitter @djgelner. Friend him on facebook here.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Does it Really Matter?

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably worried about something. Maybe it’s a big project at work, or maybe you’re stressed out over an illness in the family, or an upcoming event that you really don’t want to attend. 

Regardless--it's shitty.

All of this worry compounds upon itself; it grows like a fungus inside you, feeding off the negativity and the fear. At times, it can become consuming to the point where you can’t think about anything else. Though these moments start out as rarities, they start becoming more and more common as the years go by. You worry about whether you filed a motion properly, or if you forgot an argument that you previously had thought of. 

In short, it sucks.

Next time this happens to you, ask yourself one simple question:

Does it really matter?

Our minds are trained to worry about our primitive, “play-it-safe” lizard brains, the part of the brain that is left over from our reptilian ancestors.  The lizard brain paralyzes us through fear, and makes us second-guess our gut instincts by over-inflating the importance of many otherwise inconsequential events.  One good way to silence your lizard brain is to acknowledge it, realize how ridiculous it's being, and move on.

Literally say to yourself, "I know this is my lizard brain over-inflating something ridiculous."

Honestly, your lizard brain is an idiot. It's the first part of you to second-guess whatever your first instinct is (try to parse THAT out for a while...). On some level, sure, you want a nice dry place to live, some cash to flash around, a mate, etc. But by-and-large, in our era of modern abundance, your lizard brain has outlived its usefulness.

I guess this raises a larger issue: what does really matter to you?  Is it fancy cars and a big house?  Or are you craving the attention or reaction you will get from people if you have those things?  Does whatever report you’re working on at the moment really matter to you? Does the movie that you’re watching while putting off writing that book you’ve “always wanted to write?” Get to know your true priorities, align your life accordingly, and work toward those ends.  Family, friends, doing something meaningful in the world—these are the things that really matter.  And even if there’s a looming crisis in one of those areas, stay calm and look for a solution as opposed to just worrying about it.  If it’s a true tragedy, it’s okay to mourn for a while, but at some point, you have to get back up again and get back to living life.

Is whatever project you’re working on now important to you?  Or just to your employer?  Does your job really matter?  Or is it a means to an end?  Once you realize that you don’t honestly care about something, that it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, it frees you up to just say “fuck it,” and focus on getting to where you can do the things that mean a lot to you.  Once you realize that things like “titles” and “prestige” are invented by people that want to feel important, you can focus on the truly important stuff that lets you be you, and not on some stupid memo that keeps you up at night. 

I know this sounds like common sense, but we don’t have that much time on this planet, and life is too short to spend most of your waking hours worrying about stuff that doesn’t really matter.  Get your priorities straight, get your life together, and go out and live, damn it!

Action Item:  Write out a list of things that you need for basic survival. I think there are probably three: food, water, and shelter. Sometimes clothing makes it on that list, but hey, different countries have different sensibilities. Then write out another list of five of your priorities assuming that those essentials are taken care of. Cut back on activities and don't advance you toward one of those priorities.

D.J. Gelner is a writer, entrepreneur, and recovering attorney in St. Louis, Missouri. You can e-mail him at Follow him on twitter @djgelner. Friend him on facebook here.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday Links 6-24-11

I’ve had it up to “here” <puts hand shoulder…no…neck high> with RSS feeds.  If anyone knows anything about them, please e-mail me at  You’re lucky I’m not linking to some of the sites I’ve been looking at recently.  What?  No, not THOSE sites!  Get your head out of the gutter.

Happy weekend everyone!

Secrets of Money and Life Success: Trent over at The Simple Dollar has put together quite the collection of nuggets of sound life advice.  (@ The Simple Dollar)

Don’t Should All Over Yourself:  The Art of Manliness is a fine resource for men, and (I imagine) a good site for women looking to understand more about men.  This post, by Brett McKay about his decision to write for his blog full-time, is a fine call to action, and an eloquently-written piece on why you need to think twice before doing something just because you “should” do it.  (@ Art of Manliness)

Stop Being a Fucking Pussy:  Very helpful for when you’re going through weak moments or times you’re doubting yourself (may contain some adult language). (@ In Over Your Head)

Which of the Four are Getting in the Way?  Short, sweet, and excellent advice.  I highly encourage you to read through Seth Godin’s archives—he’s an internet star for a reason, folks.  (@ Seth’s Blog)

D.J. Gelner is a writer, entrepreneur, and recovering attorney in St. Louis, Missouri. You can e-mail him at Follow him on twitter @djgelner. Friend him on facebook here.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Get Your Shit Together Before Finding Someone Else

This one goes out to all of the unmarried people out there.  Married folks, I’ll have something at the end for you, like it or not.  I’ll even mark it with an asterisk so it’s easy to find (I know, I spoil you guys!).

Most of us know the traditional model of the “American Dream.”  Nice house, good, safe job, white picket fence, expensive car, loving spouse, doting kids.  This is certainly an admirable goal to shoot for, but part of my introspective journey has been to question a lot of the “fundamental truths” that we hold dear, including the traditional model of the American Dream.

One idea related to the notion of a loving family is that there is a certain timeframe where everyone “has” to find someone else, or else they’re dicked.  Some people think this window closes sooner than others for whatever reason, and might panic a bit on the dating front.  Consequently, they are more likely to actively seek out relationships and try to settle down.  Others just “know” that they’ve found “the one” early on, and feel no need to continue their search.

On one level, this is fine; if you find someone else that you connect with and will support you in your goals, no matter what, and you will support them in theirs, perfect.  I’m not making the argument that marriage is necessarily bad.  What I’m trying to say is that marriage isn’t necessarily the best thing for someone who is unhappy in some other aspect of their life, either.

Take it from my previous self, if you’re unhappy in a major aspect of your life (in my case, “career”), you’re likely to carry that unhappiness over to other aspects of your life, especially your relationships with others and your behavior.  I thought that vegging in front of the TV and drinking heavily were natural after a hard day of work.  I was wrong.  As fun as watching TV or getting blasted could be at times, it wasn’t getting me closer to any of my life goals; namely getting out of my job and starting a new career.

This goes doubly if the other person is unhappy, or feels somehow stifled in their own pursuits and goals.  Basically, it takes two to have a successful relationship, and to disregard this fact is to proceed at your own peril.

So what’s the natural solution to this problem?  Get your shit together before deciding to settle down with someone else.  This is never easy, especially since you’re shooting at a moving target.  Times change, and people change in terms of their goals, wants, and desires.  You might really connect with someone on a very primal level, but you might not have any idea where you’re headed.  The more you can figure out before trying to make a go of it with someone else, the better off you’ll be.

(*)“But D.J., I’m married already, and you said that times change and people change!  Fuck you!”  Hey, I didn’t say that once you change, you’re doomed to failure!  In fact, I think that one of the most important qualities you can possibly find in a life partner is to accept them for who they are, even if they decide to do something different, and support them when they’re trying to follow their own dreams.  But this is a two-way street, buddy.  You have to do the same for them.

Often times, the key (as with most things) is communication.  The sooner each of you honestly brings up what you want to do with your life to the other, the more potential problems you’ll avoid down the road.  A lot of times, you can reach a compromise.  But sometimes, the situation might break.  Hey, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows out there.  Still, especially if you already have kids, you owe it to each other and the family unit to think of creative solutions to make things work, and facilitate each others’ goals and dreams.

I know that a guy who’s been out of “the game” for about a year now probably isn’t the best person to be listening to about relationships.  But consider what I’ve been doing with that year.  I accomplished several of my major life goals, most notably starting on a career track that I care about.  I’m happy to wake up every day and “go to work,” even if the work is FIXING A FUCKING RSS FEED ON A FUCKING PODCAST SO THAT FUCKING ITUNES FINALLY ACCEPTS IT!  somewhat dull, at times.  I’m finally starting to get to the point where I feel good enough about my place in life that I can finally get back out there and start focusing on other aspects of my life.  Relationships?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  All I know is that I’ll be ready if the right girl presents herself because of all of the hard work I’ve put in on myself.  At the end of the day, isn’t that all you can ask for?

D.J. Gelner is a writer, entrepreneur, and recovering attorney in St. Louis, Missouri. You can e-mail him at Follow him on twitter @djgelner. Friend him on facebook here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Taste of My Own Medicine

I don’t know if you’ve noticed yet, but I’m somewhat of an advocate for doing things instead of just talking about them.  I know I talk a big game, but recently I had one of those moments that served as my own personal kick in the ass.

It’s kind of weird to tell everyone that I’m a writer now.  It’s even stranger to explain the whole convoluted way that I got to this point in my life, so that’s why I usually just direct people to this post and this episode of the podcast.  I mean, sure, I’ve been writing a ton—five posts for you guys every week, plus working on my novel (35 pages so far—a little behind schedule but coming along nicely) and several other projects which may or may not amount to anything.

Still, I was recently having this same conversation with someone, and I realized that I haven’t actively been searching out freelance opportunities.  Consequently, I haven’t been making much money off of my writing yet.  Part of me wants to blame the post-Australia “funk,” somewhat, as I’ve regressed into a pattern of staying up until 3 am and waking up at 11 or so, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that it’s just the schedule that my body prefers left to its own devices.  Hell, I’m writing this post at 3 am with an old episode of Breaking Bad on in the background.  It’s just when I can focus and do my best work, uninterrupted by gchat, texts, and phone calls.

Another part of me thinks that if I keep churning out these blog posts, someone will just “discover” me and offer me my dream job.  This is not only incredibly stupid, but incredibly self-destructive.  It’s pure arrogance to think that anyone will stumble upon some of these posts and think “I MUST HAVE HIM AS A WRITER!!!”  Don’t get me wrong, I pride myself on putting a good product out there, and I’m very grateful for all of you faithful readers out there, but the act of creation and releasing that creation to the wilds of the internet is no way to get people to notice your work.  You have to work at promoting and basically getting your stuff out there in every channel possible so that other people might see it and enjoy what they read.  This is why I’m such an annoying prick on Facebook—I know it clutters peoples’ newsfeeds, or whatever the fuck they call them now, but if people like what they see and I can influence another couple of peoples’ lives through my writing, I’m doing my job.  Ultimately, I want to create a community among all of my like-minded readers so that we can create a more organized way to tackle the problems of modern life, and eventually realize our full potential with the support of like-minded individuals.  That isn’t too much to ask, is it?

At some point, though, I have to pay the bills.  And instead of trying to will people to the site through more content and better writing, I need some writing gigs that pay.  So, a few nights ago, I started sending out applications for freelance writing gigs.  “Wait, what?  You’ve been selling us a bill of goods this whole time, you bitcher asshole!”  Not really.  I still was writing, just not getting paid for it yet.  I figure if I apply for some interesting-sounding freelance gigs (and one in particular sounds like it’s especially in my wheelhouse), I’ll write more, which will improve my writing and get me greater visibility, which may, in turn, lead to more writing gigs.

I guess the whole point of this post is that you can’t wait to be discovered; you have to go out and create your dream job.  I don’t care if you’re an attorney or mopping floors at McDonalds—you should always work hard and do your best.  But hard work and “doing your best,” by themselves, aren’t enough to ultimately get that position that you want. You have to look for—and create—opportunities to get you where you want to go.

The flip side of this is that it’s easy to become an overly-self-promoting douchebag.  I know I’ve…err…”walked the line” on that one.  Hopefully you haven’t been inconvenienced, and if I have crossed that line, I do apologize.  But I figured it was no good of me to pontificate from up here if I wasn’t even taking full advantage of all of the resources available to me, so what’s good for you all is good for me, too.  And don’t worry—even if I end up writing for a bunch of other sites, I’ll keep the little nuggets of wisdom coming on this blog weekdaily for the foreseeable future.  So rest easy, exhale, and wish me good luck.

Any examples of when you had to take a little good old-fashioned American (or whatever country you’re from) initiative to get you where you wanted to be in life?  Let me know in the comments.

D.J. Gelner is a writer, entrepreneur, and recovering attorney in St. Louis, Missouri. You can e-mail him at Follow him on twitter @djgelner. Friend him on facebook here.

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