Be the wind, or risk becoming the sail.
I got thrown into this. Two-fold.
I got thrown into the work I’ve been doing. And I got thrown into a situation that’s led me to question everything, rethink and restructure, and make decisions that feel like an overall “brand.”
While I’m happy I’m here, one of the strongest forces that’s guiding what I do next is precisely avoiding how I got here: no more being thrown into stuff. Seem easy? Maybe. Probably not.
I’ll get to that in a second, but first the back story.
I wish I never had to read another email.
This is something I’ve said thousands of times, aloud and in my head (mostly in my head). I’ve said it in anger after opening another death threat. I’ve said it in frustration when an email sent me down a rabbit hole that took me away from a project I had planned for the day. It’s been an underlying sentiment for years, but it wasn’t until recently that it turned into a concrete plan:
I am going to stop reading emails.
But how?Continue reading → “The Road Away From Email”
2016 was, well, quite the year.
All in all, I side with what appears to be the consensus that it was, if given only one descriptor, a dumpster fire. That said, it was also more than a dumpster fire, and I want to take a moment to reflect on some of the things I made this year — something I basically never do.
So, with that said, following is what I finished, published, and/or created in 2016.Continue reading → “2016, A Brief Review of Creativity”
I’m going to keep this short, because I only have 56 minutes of battery left on my laptop and still have about 100 emails I want to write today.
If you want to get work done, and are having a hard time controlling your focus (Facebook), keeping yourself from being distracted (Twitter), or hurdling any of the other hurdles between you and what you need to do today (Taylor Swift’s instagram account), take your laptop to a coffee shop and leave your charger at home. Continue reading → “1 Simple Productivity Hack: Leave your charger at home”
In a few short days, I’ll be debuting a new show. To those who have followed my work, I understand that the topic (faith) and setting (a church) feel like they are coming out of left field. And that feeling couldn’t be more right — that’s why I’m doing this show.
Granted, I’ve written about Christianity a bit, both here and at It’s Pronounced Metrosexual, but it would be accurate to say that Faith is not my usual go-to topic when I hop on stage. In fact, I’ve never talked about faith on stage, and, if I’m being completely honest, I feel palpably uncomfortable in churches. But again, that is, in essence, why I’m doing this show.
Christian/Religious people don’t often engage in dialogue with Atheist people. Straight/Cisgender people don’t often engage in dialogue with Queer people. Don’t get me wrong: there is a lot of talking at these different groups, but that’s not the same.
There are a lot of “national conversations” led by members of all four of these groups, but so few actual conversations. And who’s leading those conversations? Who do we have speaking on behalf of us? Are we comfortable with everything those folks say on our behalf? Do we (whatever We you are) really feel that way about them? (whatever Them they might be).
There is this idea that there is no common ground, that we’re all at extremes, we’re against, at odds, “irreconcilably different,” fundamentally opposed. These are identities that are thought to have clear lines in the sand — party lines, political lines, permanent lines. Us. Them. And a big gap between the two.
But here’s the thing: I don’t buy it. Any of it. I think we’re getting duped, that an extremely vocal minority is misrepresenting the majority, and that we’re more alike than we are different — at least where it counts. From my perspective, it’s becoming more and more clear that’s the case. But I’m aware of how odd my perspective is at times. I’m hoping this show will help build a bigger Us and a smaller Them.
There’s this thing about me — about my identity — that mixes people’s signals
I’m not gay and I’m not Christian, and these are two things that people are surprised to find out (if this is news to you right now — surprise!). So many people assume the opposite that I’ve become accustomed to correcting people, sometimes even before they say anything — an anticipatory strike. And when I do that, I never hear “Oh, I didn’t think you were,” but instead “Really?!” or “How did you know I thought that?” or (the most common) “Are you sure?”
“But what you’re doing with your life is so Christian.” “But you smell so good.” “But…” “But…” But…” The responses to both my not-gay-ness and not-Christian-ness are many and varied and not worth getting into here (so many for the gay assumption that I wrote an entire show about it).
I’m hoping this show to serve as this middle part of the venn diagram that brings these four distinctly different groups together
I’m an atheist who is often assumed to be a Christian, a straight, cisgender man who is often assumed to be queer. As a result of that, or at least as a result of me engaging with those confusions, I’ve had a ton of conversations with people who fall somewhere into all four of these groups. And what I’ve found is there really aren’t four groups at all. Instead, there are a ton of individual people who align somewhere on, between, beside, or outside of each of those dimensions.
A lot of good can come from this conversation, if we do it in a healthy, non-threatening, safe way. It’s a conversation that’s already ringing in a lot of folks ears, but by no means the majority. I’m hoping InTolerance will help folks feel more comfortable joining the conversation in their own lives, and nudging that seemingly-silent minority toward a vocal majority.
Hell, or maybe it’ll just be fun to tell stories and laugh for an hour in a church. I know it’ll be a first for me. I hope to see you there.
I’m currently in the process of finishing two books, starting another, publishing two new sexuality models, three new live social justice comedy shows, running half a dozen volunteer-based initiatives, building I’m-not-even-sure-how-many websites, and the list goes on. It’s a lot. And as I type that, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But I’ve found a way to make sense of it all, to not lose any of my little ducklings, and to retain a semblance of peace of mind.
It’s just a matter of coming up with a way of not losing track of ideas before they develop into things.
I want to first say that I’m not very good at this — I’m just good enough. And if you’re a notebook/physical thing person, you’re not going to like this, because I’m all digital, baby (in the cloud! disruptive! innoventive!). I keep track of ideas, actions, and creation using [mostly] Evernote, Wunderlist, and Google Drive. I also have a pile of external hard drives. Below is how I specifically use each.
All of these things are [or can be] free, other than the hard drives. They are great for collaborating. And they work on my phone, tablet, computer, and web browser.
To remember ideas, I use Evernote
Evernote is amazing, but it can easily get unmanageable. The trick is to effectively use tags and journals.
I have different journals for different ideations within Evernote (e.g., a comedy one, an IPM one, one for my forthcoming EP, one for each of my books, etc.) but use the same universal tag system for everything. That way, everything has its own place, but with the tags I can draw connections between otherwise unrelated projects.
For example, I originally wrote my gender TEDx talk to be a song, so I tagged it “lyrics” and while it changed from there, it still comes up when I’m looking at “lyrics” to see all the songs I’ve written, which I like (cuz it could be easily changed back).
To remember actions, I use Wunderlist
Wunderlist is almost as powerful as Evernote in its ability to organize, but it far surpasses Evernote’s ability to push me to get tasks done. You can have separate lists for different projects, assign tasks to people, or just have an inbox of incoming assignments (I use this feature a lot with my manager & project coordinator, Chum and Bethany, where we assign tasks to one another on share lists).
I have about 60 – 70 Wunderlists going at any given time. I have one for each of my live personal projects (things like IPM site, Jack and/or Jill, etc., which is about 30ish), one for each of my collaborations that are still ongoing (like the Safe Zone Project), for every freelance gig I have open, and then I have some general life ones (e.g., “Rainy Day in Austin,” “Things I Need to Buy”).
Some of the tasks have due dates, which makes it easy to know what I have to get done today, if anything (by browsing the due “Today” tab). But if that’s not absolutely necessary, they don’t. And I just open a list and work through it when I’m inspired to work on that project.
I also recently started doing “pre” and “post” lists for speaking/shows/trips, and I’ve really liked that idea. “Pre” is things to pack, print, buy, etc. “Post” is all follow-ups I accumulate while I’m there. And I have those forever until they’re complete, like the one from a trip I did back in January that is still not complete. Gotta get on that.
To get started on writing and creation, I use Google Drive
Google Drive is amazing because you can create, share, edit, and publish [limited, but not bad] all from one place. It’s as much a shared drive as it is a studio, and because of the universality of google accounts, it’s perfect for collaboration.
Right now, I have 22 top level folders in my Google Drive. As you’re starting to likely get the sense, I use these separations to help me stay organized. But for Google Drive, I don’t separate just by project, but also by collaborators. I give Chum and Bethany access to all of my personal projects, so there’s just a “CHUM & BETHANY & SAM” folder. I share access to that folder with them once, then they have everything inside, which includes everything from new articles I’m writing for a variety of sites, to bios, to show schedules, to contracts, to budgets.
Some of my other top level folders are more broad, but all with the same goal of making the sharing easy. The only reason I’m writing and making things on Google Drive instead of my laptop is because I can click a button and allow someone else access (to edit, provide feedback, take over, etc.). So it’s with that in mind that I choose how I will organize what goes where.
To finalize and publish, I use my laptop
Granted, I’m using my laptop for a lot of the things above as well, but here I mostly mean Adobe Creative Suite (for all the design and print stuff) and Sublime Text 2 (for programming web stuff). And I back up all of the finished products of everything on external hard drives.
To organize my computer, I created a new top level folder (on the same par as “Documents” and “Movies”) called “Projects.” In Projects, I have a subfolder for everything I’m currently actively working on. Everything finished or dormant stowed away on an external drive. The nice thing about the Projects folder is that now I can still use the Documents folder for what, I think, it was meant to be: a hodge-podge of personal things (like tax returns) and other files you’re not sure where to put (like resumes, animated .gifs of Ellen dancing, etc.).
As far as backing things up, I have separate external hard drives for three different divisions of my work: photo/video (all on one hard drive), design, and organizational. So I know that if I need the raw video clip of a testimonial from a keynote that I gave three years ago, I plug in my blue hard drive where it’ll be organized hierarchically by type and date, and I can find it in 2 minutes. Ditto with a poster I made four years ago and haven’t thought of since (just happened as I was redesigning Dear World). Or an organizational structure and position descriptions for something I did in 2012. All on separate hard drives, waiting to be resurrected.
Each of those hard drives is backed up as well, of course. And my computer (with all of my live projects) gets backed up every couple of days on a separate hard drive altogether.
This is how I do it, not how you should
The above system works really well [enough] for me. But I came to it through a ton of trial and error. And the best advice I can give to anyone is exactly that: try things, try different things, then try some other things.
You can start with the things above, but don’t stop until you’ve found a system of techniques, software, writing on your hand, pinning notes to your shirtt, whatever, that feels right. You’ll know when you find it. Or, rather, you’ll know when you haven’t, so keep experimenting until you hit your stride.
A couple months ago my friends Karen Rayne and Heather Ross approached me with an idea. I don’t remember the wording, but I don’t think it was anything less tongue-in-cheek than “Wanna do a sex show in Austin?”
I’ve been wanting to find a way to bring what I do — the social justice comedy-ness of it all — to a more adult crowd (if you will) for a couple years now. When I first moved to Austin the plan was to produce my show, It’s Pronounced Metrosexual, in town as a standing gig, then take it on the road to colleges. That fell through for a ton of in-the-end beneficial reasons, and I ended up rewriting the show into what it is now: something that’s perfect for colleges, but not so perfect for ATX.
The idea behind the show is that I get to tell a bunch of stories I rarely/never get to tell (like my orgy story, or this new one about a massage in Dahab), and Karen gets to answer questions that adults [in Texas, or, really, most places] have never been able to ask (like, “How does fisting work?“). And we’re doing it on stage.
It’s a perfect date night. Great for 20s, 30s, and 40+s couples, getting away from the kids, or just opening your mind to something new.
Every month, the show will have a different theme, and for the first one, it’s [obviously] Our First Time. It’s going to be a blast, an adventure, and a bit terrifying; awkward, clumsy, messy; I’m definitely not going to tell my parents about it — but above all it’s going to be perfectly Austin.
Below is a little video we put together that might help make it all make sense. Further below is an interview I did with a delightful person that was supposed to be about the show.
When I came to Austin a few years ago I had nothing, at least relative to what I “have” now. I’ve achieved much and gained a lot in a short amount of time, which are all good things. Well, mostly good. There’s one thing that’s grown from an afterthought that pops into my head before I fall asleep, to an elephant in the corner of the room, to a lead backpack inexorably attached to my back: my “career.”
I didn’t have one of those a few years ago. I knew I was supposed to. We’re all supposed to have one, like a government-issued ID or an anus. Butt I didn’t. And, in hindsight, I didn’t miss it. I spent most of my days creating, most of my nights creating, and the rest of the time living. I put so many creations out into the world that year I can’t even recall many of them now, nor did I document it particularly well. I didn’t spend any time thinking about the creations, or managing them, bolstering them, advertising them — those are all things a person with a career does; they’re some of the main side effects of catching career — I just created.
Then I came down with career.
Career is what gets in your way of trying to do work that is meaningful and enjoyable to you. It starts as an unplanned pitstop on your way to some project you’re excited to work on. Next you find yourself scheduling regular check-ups in advance. And before you know it you’re doing full tune-ups with a certified tuner-upper every time you try to get out of the garage. Career is “risk mitigation” and “goal setting” and “trajectory” and “email” — so much email.
It’s tough to create when you’ve been afflicted with career. Creation requires a lot of empty mind space, room that you can fill with new ideas, a place for them to bounce, to grow, to take shape. Creation requires a relaxed mind, a peaceful mind, a calm to set the stage for the forthcoming storm. Career is want to fill the mind and keep it agitated, ever turning, ever grinding, ever aware. Aware of the things you should be doing, the tasks that need completing, how you should be spending your time right now. Creation doesn’t well abide shoulds and needs and nows.
The past couple days, since writing about remembering what you do, I’ve been trying to turn career off, or at least down, just to see what would happen. Beyond the simple peace I allowed myself to experience (which was great), one huge thing happened. Around midnight I put my guitar down, put a kettle on, studied French for a while, then decided to have a workout. During my post-shower workout at about 2am (a time I never shower, because career is usually at high volume at 2am) I finally had a breakthrough on a human sexuality model that I’ve been working on for almost a year now. A model that I’ve sent a few dozen ideas directly to the trash, but kept forcing out new ideas because I know that I need to create this model for this book for this publication date for my career.
As Mickey Smith says in my favorite video (almost) ever, “I never set out to become anything in particular, only to live creatively and push the scope of my experience for adventure and for passion.” That’s how I feel most of the time about my career.
I love what I do. I really do. Genuinely, with all my heart, never want to give it up love. I just want to be able to do that more again, and worry about doing it less. So it’s clear I don’t like something, now I just have to figure out how I’m going to change it.
What do you do?
No matter your answer, if you’re anything like me you probably have an iceberg-esque situation on your hands, with 10% of your time spent doing what you do and 90% of your time doing maintenance to allow that 10% to happen.
I’m a “social justice comedian.” Tonight, I got to do that. I performed my show at St. Martin’s University in Olympia, Washington. It was a blast. During that hour, I remembered, for the first time in too long, what I do. Because the vast (vast!) majority of my time as a social justice comedian is spent not being a social justice comedian.
The 10%/90% split is ambitious. Last year, only roughly .006% of the time I spent working was me onstage. The other 99.994% of the time I was reading emails, writing, writing emails, meeting, reading emails, traveling, designing, coding, and writing email. Now, in my case, I don’t need to spend most of that time in those ways. In fact, most of the work I do actually gets in the way of me being able to do what I do. But even if I was just focusing completely on my show, I wouldn’t be spending the majority of my time on stage.
When I’ve gone a long time between performing my show, I get depressed, and find it harder and harder to do the 99.994%-type work I do. It’s easy to lose site of the forest for the trees, and to forget that every email I read and send, every article I write, every little promo thing I design — all of them are little steps that get me to my next time on stage. If I can find the joy on those things that I find in performing my show, my life will become the kind of dream that right now only ZzzQuil can induce.
I’m going to start trying to remember what I do while doing everything I do.
We don’t live in the same world, you and I. But I’d love for you to try to show me yours, if I try to show you mine.
If you’re an artist, you see line and shape wherever you look. You take note of the cues that create perspective, and imagine mixing the colors you see. You wonder how the reality you’re looking at might appear in pastels, oil, and acrylic, and how you might recreate that reality later, and how you might alter it.
If you’re a comedian, you see humor between every line. Every word you hear, every thing you see, is passed through an algorithm in your head. [q:] Would that make people laugh on stage? [if no:] What do I need to change/tweak? [if yes:] Write it down.
If you’re a photographer, you see light and the absence of light in everything. You know that everything you’re looking at, and everything you can’t see, is being translated to your eyes through myriad reflections and refractions. Continue reading → “Many Lenses Construct Reality”
Have y’all heard of Laura Vanderkam’s “List of 100 Dreams” idea? I hadn’t, but I have now, and I love it.
To me, it feels like a bucket list, but better: the items don’t have to feel realistic, or things you can only do if you put the time aside. They can be big and scary and feel impossible.
I don’t usually do things like this, but one of my goals for this year was to put myself in unknown situations more. And now that I’ve done it, I can’t recommend it enough. Let’s get uncomfy together.
Here’s my list of 100 dreams:
Note: 1 – 42 are professional-ish, 42 – 69 are personal-ish, and the last 31 are all experiential. I’m occasionally updating with a ✅when a dream has become a reality (last update November 2018).
- Write this entire list with 100 legitimate dreams ✅
- Create a line of social justice-y greeting cards ✅
- Write and illustrate a children’s book
- Publish 3 books, then keep writing more ✅
- Keynote a conservative conference/event
- Record and release my EP
- Translate A Guide to Gender into 5 languages
- Perform/speak on every continent (yes, especially Antarctica)
- Perform/speak in every U.S. state (I’m at 49/50, and looking at you, Alaska — I’ll do a free show if anyone at UofA is reading this!)
- Give Ellen DeGeneres a hug
- Give away 100,000 copies of A Guide to Gender
- Host SNL
- Open a vegan restaurant/food truck
- Create a fun audio book version of A Guide to Gender
- Do my show or give a talk at all the schools I personally attended
- Have a book on the NYT Best Sellers List (organically, not by buying my way in)
- Collaborate with three different activists on three different projects in a year ✅
- Earn enough money to pay all my bills doing Good (and no freelancing) ✅
- Appear on a Late Night show talking about something positive
- Create and curate an activist/artist retreat collaborative camp thing
- Hire someone to read [and respond to most of] my email
- Write a column for The New Yorker
- Speak at Creating Change
- Launch the Uncopyright Movement ✅
- Serve on the Board of some cool national organization I love ✅
- Publish a piece in a print magazine ✅
- Translate the Genderbread Person into at least 7 more languages
- Shift my income to be primarily from writing (not speaking/performing) ✅
- Work less than an average 14 hours a day in a year
- Make a documentary inspired by and following the development and reaction one of my projects
- Publish a book of poetry and prose
- Tell jokes on Comedy Central
- Get a studio space that I can share with collaborators
- Teach at a university ✅
- Finish writing a novel
- Go one week without receiving any hate mail or hate campaign related garbage
- Write and produce an off-broadway show (or produce one of the ones I’ve already written)
- Create a social justice conference
- Give a talk/performance in a language other than English (German, Russian, Portuguese, or French)
- Write a screenplay
- Create and sustain jobs for at least two wonderful, passionate people for a year
- Convince people “social justice comedian” is a thing, and that it makes perfect sense ✅
- Build a house for myself
- Learn French and Portuguese
- Yoga with regularity and consistency
- Paint a mural in Austin
- Become 100% debt-free
- Cook for friends on a regular basis
- Halve my possessions once more, for the last time (probably)
- Pay someone to do my taxes
- Get my PhD
- Find a secret place in the world where I can escape and sabbatical (and tell no one)
- Attend a culinary school academy type thing
- Brew my own beer ✅
- Get a puppy and love it to death (after he’s lived a long, happy life, of course) ✅(Chewbacca!)
- Drink more wine, more tea, and less coffee ✅
- Learn to be less afraid of money
- Fund a scholarship for students “who otherwise would not consider higher education an option”
- Get surgery on my eyeballs so I can see better
- Actually live in Hawaii near my fam for at least a little bit, if nothing else but to confirm my theory that I’d get island fever despite all the wonderfulness
- Get braces or whatever is necessary to straighten my teeth so I can chew better
- Grow a garden
- Build a motorcycle
- Develop a family of friends in Austin, or wherever I live next ✅
- Live abroad for at least six months
- Continue finding healthy ways to mitigate the stress of this life I’ve chosen and go a year without asking for permission to smile.
- Spend a month with no contact with any other human beings
- Spend a month touring/performing/speaking every day ✅
- Spend a month following the 253 vows of the Vinaya
- Swim in the Sea of Stars in the Maldives
- Fly in a helicopter
- NYE in NYC
- St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin
- Scuba dive the Great Blue Hole
- Road trip around the great lakes (including seeing a movie at the Cherry Bowl drive-in) ✅
- Surf the cliffs of Moher
- Go on a safari and shoot a rhino (with my camera)
- Read Anna Karenina ✅
- Ride a train from Austin to Mexico City
- Visit Flores Island, Indonesia when the Lake of Old People is blue, the Lake of Young Men is green, and Maiden’s Lake is red
- Do a backflip out of an airplane (ideally with a parachute attached to me) ✅
- Ride in a hot air balloon (ideally in Anatolia in Turkey)
- Go to the Sasquatch Music Festival
- Visit the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx
- See Zhangye Danxia in China
- Buy a van/bus/station wagon and live/work out of it on the road for a while
- See Flight of the Conchords live
- Climb Mount Roraima
- Literally walk 500 miles to see someone I love
- Go to Burning Man
- Swing on the “End of the World” Swing in Baños, Ecuador
- Ride an elephant, ideally one named “Bubbles” (but I’m not picky) ✅(Not Bubbles, Meena)
- Spelunk the caves of Hang Ken in Vietnam
- Walk from the Shire to Mordor (or, rather, the real-life places in NZ those locations were shot in)
- Oktoberfest in München
- Walk the Tunnel of Love with a коханець in Klevan, Ukraine
- Experience zero gravity, ideally in space
- See Mike Birbiglia live ✅
- Attend the World Cup
- Visit the Himalayas and a Zen Buddhist monastery in the region
That’s it. That’s a lot. If you want to make any of these dreams a reality with me, or have a tip/inside track for one, I’m all ears.