Hello, everyone. I am Ithaka. And this is Sponge, a podcast where we absorb elements from the world to form a perspective of our own and find beauty.
The theme for today’s episode is this: Within a given life, longevity trumps almost everything else. That is something I absorbed from the recent folding of Coil.
And I will explain what Coil is, or was, shortly, in detail. For now, the short version is that it was a tool with which creators of various kinds, such as bloggers and Youtubers and streamers, were able to accept micropayments in a remarkably elegant and easy way. I was so so so so very excited about their existence.
More on this later. Right now, I want to emphasize that this episode isn’t about Coil itself. As always, Sponge is about what we’re absorbing from the world. There are the world events and then there are the interpretations. What we absorb shapes the interpretations. What I attempt to do is rarely “to see things as they are.” Actually, I think it’s probably impossible for humans to see things as they are. But that might be a discussion for another episode.
For this episode: within a given life, longevity trumps almost everything else.
Now, we gotta know what Coil is, or was, in order to talk about it in any shape or form at all, tangential or otherwise. Specifically, I want to talk about the benefits that Coil had. These benefits are what make it worthwhile to talk about Coil, despite its folding.
According to its website, which still exists, quote, “Coil is the world’s first Web Monetization provider. Web Monetization is a new open technology that enables the flow of streaming micropayments to websites as you read, watch, and listen.” End quote.
What this meant for the users, in practical terms, was this. A user subscribed to Coil for 5 dollars a month. With those 5 dollars a month, the user could access any exclusive content behind the Coil paywall that exists anywhere on the internet. And I mean, anywhere. Coil could be used on Twitch, on Youtube, on any website. And not only that, Coil also streamed payment to non-exclusive content, if the creator enabled that feature.
This means that Coil required three participants. One, the user who pays the 5 dollars for the subscription. Two, the creator who sets up their website or other assets in such a way that they can accept Coil payments. And three, Coil itself.
The frequency at which Coil streamed micropayments to the creator, who had enabled its features, was every second. Yes, every second. Instead of the creator having to wait a year or a quarter of a year or a month or even a week or a few days or even a few hours, Coil streamed micropayments in seconds.
How Coil did this was that it divided the 5 dollars of subscription money at a rate of approximately 36 cents per hour. So, if a user watched a Twitch stream for one hour, that Twitch streamer, if they had Coil enabled, would get paid 36 cents.
Based on this, you can calculate that after about 13 to 14 hours, the 5 dollars would run out. But instead of the user being shut out of the paywall completely, what Coil did was this. After the 11th or 12th hour or so—I don’t know the exact number here—but toward the end of the budget of $5, instead of paying 36 cents per hour to the creator, Coil would use a different rate—a significantly lower rate—to still stream very very very tiny micropayments to the creator.
To me, this wasn’t an issue at all. All Coil users had different starting dates for their monthly subscription cycles. So, overall, the amount that the creator got paid would have been averaged out. As in, it wouldn’t have been like, the creators were all getting paid less near the end of a calendar month. All the different users with different starting dates for their monthly subscription would’ve meant that the hourly rate would’ve been lower than 36 cents at any given time, but also, that there wouldn’t have been a calendar month date on which the creators would all be better off not streaming, because they knew that they would get paid less.
Folks. This system, this instant micropayment streaming, was revolutionary.
Instead of users having twenty different subscriptions to twenty different specific websites, the vision was that, should Coil take off, everyone would be able to afford the entirety of the internet—eventually—with a 5 dollar subscription. And my opinion was, and still is, that if there is mass in this movement, then, yeah. It could work. It doesn’t matter that the subscription is 5 dollars and not 10 dollars. You know, cause, that could be the argument, that 5 dollars are too cheap for the entirety of the internet. But I didn’t think so and still don’t think so. In fact, with very simplified math, one might argue that if the subscription is 5 dollars and not 10 dollars, then there will be twice as many people who are willing to pay than not pay.
As in, with Coil, all the corners of the internet which could, so far, not be effectively monetized, could be monetized. And that is great, not only for the creators, but also for users of every kind. The monetization of those who create is great for the entirety of the world. And I will explain later why I think monetization is so great, especially having different options to monetize.
For now, I’ll talk some more about Coil.
Coil started in 2018, according to its website. And in early February 2023, it folded.
I wasn’t impacted by their folding in a monetary way, because the amount I used to earn from Coil was very small. And I expected that. It was a new service. I mean, in the world of technology that is as new as this, I think 5 years is very young. Coil was a baby tool. When it comes to services like these, not only must you sell the service to find users, you must sell the very concept of what the service does. I just gave you a short version of what Coil does, but I’m certain that a lot of people would like to have more information before they decide to use Coil, or before they feel comfortable enough to say that they know enough about Coil at all.
Coil wasn’t like an email provider selling their services. Most people in the year 2023 know what emails are. But Coil? Web Monetization? Micropayment streaming? In fact, I would bet that some people don’t know what Twitch is. So, I wasn’t expecting to make more than literal pennies from Coil.
But I did get paid. The way I did get paid a little from Coil was by setting it up everywhere I could. It was on all my websites and blogs. Most of what I do is provided for free, so the content was not behind a Coil paywall. However, I was still paid through Coil’s streamed micropayments for every second the user was online on one of my sites, because I had enabled that feature.
Mainly, I used to have what was called the Vault. Everything I had ever written, in its entirety, existed there. Anybody who had paid for the 5-dollar Coil subscription could read all that for just 5 dollars, and possibly for even less, depending on how many other creators with Coil-enabled websites that user was following. Because, there is no cap on the usage through those 5 dollars. If the user spent 100 hours online, all of that on sites that had Coil enabled, then what I would’ve been paid would’ve been far less than 5 dollars.
And I was happy with that. Getting paid more money right then and there wasn’t the point for me. The point was that the reader didn’t have to make the decision to pay or not pay. That’s the beauty of all subscription models. Once the subscription is paid, paying or not isn’t in the picture anymore. The only thing in the picture becomes “Will I like this?” This book, this movie, this stream, this music, whatever. “Will I like this?”
Also, most likely, because I have a lot of stuff, the reader wasn’t going to read everything in a month anyway. They have a life of their own. It would take them months, if not years, to read everything I wrote, even if they were to read only my stuff and no one else’s.
Not only that, say, even if a reader had indeed wanted to read everything I had in the Vault, so they could spend 5 dollars and not a penny more, even so. Wow. Wow, the honor. If anybody is crazy enough to read everything I wrote in one month, then, wow. If anyone ever does that, please email me. I want to talk to you, because you’re insane.
Anyway. That was my Vault. Coil was enabled on that website, mostly behind a paywall. On the other websites of mine, Coil was enabled without a hard paywall. Either way, the payments were there.
The way Coil worked was revolutionary. There were minimum fees. Compared to the 30% that the retailers such as Amazon take from the retail price, and compared to the 10% that Payhip takes, and on top of that, compared to the 3% plus 30 cents or whatever the exact amount that Stripe takes? What Coil took was… it was near-nothing.
Not only that, there was no hassle with taxes. The ridiculousness that independent creators must go through to cater to the whims of national governments, in terms of taxes, is astounding. I mean, I can pay taxes. But I will not register myself to however many local governments there are. It is fucking ridiculous. And now the UK is separate from the EU and it’s like… what? What the fuck? I don’t have time for that. Nobody has time for that, unless they do it full-time. A complicated tax system is just another way to cultivate the middlemen.
Thank gods that Payhip handles the VAT calculations, which is why I am happy that they take 10% from me. Payhip also does many other things, I love Payhip. It is so simple to use.
Also, Amazon handles many many hassles in return for taking 30% from me. So do all the other retailers.
But see, with Coil, there was perfect privacy. I had no idea where the user was located. Thus, I could not collect taxes. This was one of the things I loved so much about Coil. It completely eliminated taxes from the picture. Anytime a tool can eliminate bureaucracy from the lives of creators, I’m sitting here clapping like mad.
And there were some other reasons I loved the idea of Coil, which I will talk about later in this episode. But. You know. The really important point is that… Coil is gone. All this greatness, gone. That is what got me thinking about today’s theme. Within a given life, longevity trumps almost everything else.
“Within a given life.”
I put it that way because I don’t think that living a long life as an entity in the human world—including as humans ourselves but also as any products or services that humans create—is necessarily good. I mean, it’s not bad, or evil, but it’s not good either. It’s not like a government that tries to preserve itself no matter what is better than a government that knows when it’s time to leave because times have changed. Similarly, it’s not like I will do anything to live to be three hundred years old. Or even fifty years old. There are some things I will not do. There are things where I say, “Wow, I would rather die than do that.”
But, within a given life, say, within the lifespan of a government or a human, for the elements that exist within that life of the government or the life of a human, longevity trumps almost everything else.
So, within my life—for however long I live—I want things to last. The elements in my life. The tools, the relationships, the work, so on and so forth—ideally, they will last forever. By forever, I mean, until the day I die. That’s how it is for me, practically speaking. If something lasts until I die, it might as well be forever for me. It has the same effect, because after my death, I will be no more anyway.
But if not forever, at least I want these elements to last for as long as possible.
Eternity and if not that, longevity, are what I pay a lot of attention to when starting things. In more modern slash practical lingo, you might also call this sustainability.
When I started a podcast, when I started a blog, when I started writing at all—I thought about eternity as the first choice, and longevity as the second choice.
I wasn’t always like this. There was a time in my life when I wanted everything to end. I always wanted to go somewhere else and do something else, because I hated where I was and what I did so much. But now, not anymore. Almost everything I do, I want to keep doing, and the things that I don’t want to keep doing are there because they are necessary for the things I want to keep doing.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that I don’t quit things. Oh, no. I quit many things. Actually, in order to ensure longevity of the things I really care about, I quit almost everything else. But even the things that I do quit recently, I started with the intention of making them last.
To this, some might argue, “Well, if you’re quitting things that you intended to make last, then what’s the point of the intention?”
And that’s a great point. I am generally of the belief that intention matters less than the outcome, so I definitely agree that intention alone may be futile, depending on what the word “intention” results in. I mean, if someone drove over my pet, then most likely I will not care that it wasn’t intentional. I don’t think I could bear to see that person ever again, because, what, they’re gonna say they’re sorry? My cat is dead! Or my dog is dead! You know? Who cares about intention?
But “intention” means different things to different people in different circumstances. In the case of starting things with the intention of making them last, the way I use the word “intention” goes beyond a vague feeling. Because of my intent, I structured my life in such a way that I could make things last. At the simplest level, I will clean out my schedule for the foreseeable future to make this important thing, which I intend to keep in my life, fit in my life. Such a cleaning out of the schedule may not happen immediately, but eventually, it will—unless plans change. Of course plans change, because, who knows, more important things might take the first spot on my priority list. But until the plans change, whatever has the highest priority gets prioritized, as much as possible. I mean, it sounds obvious, but sometimes that’s not how things happen in life. That’s why I state the obvious.
Whatever has priority gets prioritized, as much as possible. No excuses about, “Ohhhh I wanted to do this but then I didn’t have time” or “Ohhhh I think you’re really important but I needed to do this or that”—no. No.
And, you know, after all the restructuring, if, for some reason, I cannot fit everything into my life, then… then it’s time to let go. It’s time to eliminate not only the things that don’t matter, but also things that do matter, in order to protect the things that matter even more.
And that is how the things that I used to think I would keep forever ended up being removed from my life. Yes. Removed. Yup. They’re gone.
And even though such removals are painful, even so, I would much rather only include the things in my life that I want to keep forever, with the acceptance that I might have to say goodbye to them at some point, rather than fill my life with elements that I don’t care for. The best thing, actually, is to leave some room in life. To leave some parts empty. This was my state, this somewhat empty state, in… in early 2021 or so. Since then, my life has been so full. Oh gosh, so full. I needed to eliminate some good things because of this fullness. But it cannot be helped. If not for that, I would’ve had to sacrifice the quality of relationships I form with the elements that I am keeping. And one of the elements that add to the quality of relationships is longevity—or the intent of longevity that results in tangible structural changes in life.
Imagine you’re building a living space. The key element that differentiates a hut from a house isn’t only the material, but how long the structure was meant to last, from the beginning. Sure, a house may be deconstructed after only a year, but if that doesn’t happen, it will likely last for decades or even centuries. Whereas, a hut? It will go away when the wind blows. Even if you wanted to, you couldn’t keep it for a decade. Besides, if you had really wanted to, you wouldn’t have built a hut. You would’ve built a house.
And thus, even a short stay in a house is way more desirable than one in a hut. And I only used to build huts, a long long time ago. A decade ago. Now I just don’t build huts. Either I build a house or I won’t build anything at all.
And one of the reasons I think I am more and more thinking this way—aside from the aforementioned fact that I like what I do and I like where I am now, way more, compared to a decade ago—is that life experiences like the folding of Coil added up.
Sure, the technology behind Coil still exists. Someone else could come and use the technology to build a new tool. And of course, the people who made Coil possible are still there and they will use what they learned to build other tools.
But Coil? Coil is no more. Any excitement that they might have built up around Web Monetization? This part, at least, is gone, for now. If and when another tool comes along, educating and re-educating will need to happen again, almost from scratch. But the thing with creators is, many of them are either hyper-focused on their work so they cannot or do not want to try new tools, or, they have been burned before by structures that go away, so they explicitly avoid new tools.
At this point, I want to emphasize that I do not know why Coil folded. I have no insider knowledge.
But I was using Coil for the Vault, which was a place that I intended to make last. I mean, look at the name, the Vault. It was supposed to be sturdy. It would have lasted. It was to be one of the homes for my writings.
Because of this, the folding of Coil brought up memories of what I had heard about Pronoun.
Pronoun used to be an aggregator for ebook publishers. What I mean by “aggregator” is that, when a user uploaded their EPUB file to Pronoun, it could send it to the actual book retailers. Multiples of them. So, instead of the user having to upload the files one by one to each retailer, the user could upload it once to Pronoun and boom, be done with it.
But I have never used Pronoun in person. Why? Because by the time I started publishing, Pronoun was gone. And the general consensus in the writerly sphere is that, it disappeared because it didn’t make any money. Why did it not make any money? Because it was a free service.
In 2016, MacMillan bought Pronoun. In 2017, MacMillan shut down Pronoun. Pronoun wasn’t making any money. An article from Techcrunch states, quote, “Pronoun, a self-publishing service for authors, is shutting down after promising free ebook distribution for authors. The company, which raised millions in funding and ended up being sold to Macmillan announced the shutdown in an email to authors and on its website.” End quote.
And then Techcrunch also says, quote, “The decision follows a long and arguably crazy mission to distribute and sell ebooks for free.” End quote.
So what happened to the users—as in, the writer/publishers who were using Pronoun? They had to leave.
Presently, in the year 2023, there are many aggregators. There is Draft2Digital, Streetlib, and Publishdrive. There are probably many others that I don’t know about. All of them take 10% of my royalties. And I am happy that they do.
I am happy knowing that these aggregators have at least set up a structure through which they can last eternally. Now, this isn’t to say that they will last eternally, of course not. But, do you see the point I’m trying to make here?
Pronoun’s death was inevitable, because it friggin didn’t even try to last. What did it think? That it could survive on ether? Even electricity, which I presume is required to keep their servers running, or whatever, cannot be created from ether. None of us are alchemists.
So, this story of Pronoun is, to this day, sometimes mentioned in writerly spheres when a new tool comes along. Writers ask “How are they going to stay in business?”
Yeah. No kidding. Writers, especially writer publishers, worry about the business model of platforms, because some platforms are just… They don’t plan.
The writer publishers of the year 2023 are no special snowflakes who must be protected from the realities of life because talks about money and business will kill their art. If anybody’s art is so weak and vulnerable, then probably they will not survive this era of creators. There are writer publishers who are just as savvy as musicians. The market is different, so what can be done with written works might be different from what can be done with music. But writer publishers aren’t fools.
Unlike in previous decades, the failures of companies like Pronoun are well-documented. Granted, due to this well-documentedness, there is a lot of buried material to dig through. But, you know, occasionally, a podcast episode like this brings certain information back up to the surface.
There are structures that are designed to last. Then there are structures that, from a mile away, are bound to fail. Even if MacMillan had invested heavily in Pronoun and continued to provide it for free, I wouldn’t have used Pronoun. Because, frankly, I don’t trust traditional publishers, especially the ones in the English-speaking markets. The stuff that came out during the Department of Justice trials, recently, is just… I mean, I knew trad pub was bad, but it is really bad. In this era, in 2023, there is absolutely no reason for me to give any publisher the majority of my royalties and most likely, my copyright for life, as well. And even if MacMillan had said that Pronoun was free, I always would’ve mistrusted them.
I would much rather gladly pay Draft2Digital, Streetlib, and Publishdrive, these aggregators, 10%. I am glad to pay them, for the hassle-free uploads and distribution. They also serve as backup places for my files. Also they send me a neat tax document, instead of me having to worry about a thing. I also don’t worry about chargeback protection. It is great.
Same with Payhip. It is great. I love paying Payhip 10%. I love paying Stripe its 3% and 30 cents, whatever the exact number is.
I may not be a big seller right now, but hey, all these other writer publishers, all of us together, can sustain these platforms. I know that these platforms will not go out of business purely for the reason that they were too silly to set up a structure that could last.
Pronoun died because it was foolish, but that isn’t to say that that is why Coil folded. I don’t know why Coil folded. Nevertheless, because I was using it for my written work, its folding reminded me of Pronoun.
The point isn’t how these two different companies disappeared. It’s that they did disappear.
Meanwhile, Ithaka is here, loving eternity. Within a given life, longevity trumps almost everything else.
And I think this is one of the reasons creators gather around big platforms like Youtube or Spotify, despite some drawbacks of such large platforms. At the very least, nobody, in the year 2023, worries that Youtube and Spotify will disappear. Being a creator is a business. And like all businesses, there are risks. There are artistic risks, there are financial risks, there are legal risks. Of course we’re going to try to eliminate risks, especially all risks that aren’t artistic risks.
That’s the reality. A given business entity cannot take an infinite amount of risks. For an entity to take risks in one field, the risks in another field had better be mitigated—otherwise it’s not a business anymore. It’s gambling.
So, as an artist of the year 2023, who is a business, whether they sell directly to their fans or to a gallery or whatever else, what is prioritized? I say, frequently, art is prioritized. Artistic risks. And thus, financial risks need to be mitigated. In the same vein, structural risks need to be mitigated.
A platform like Youtube helps this mitigation process greatly. Youtube, with its in-built ad revenue system. Youtube, with its clean upload interface. Its clean payout system. It is built to last, for the foreseeable future, so it has few structural risks. It generates income, so it mitigates the financial risk for the creators on its platform.
Instead of spending time and mental health on tools that appear and disappear, creators can simply use Youtube. It is no wonder that Youtube grew to this extent. I mean, it’s a cycle that feeds itself.
Not long ago, in early February 2023, I wrote a blog post titled “Sponge sustainability thoughts.” And therein, I talk about Youtube’s in-built revenue generation system through ads, as well as what Anchor is doing in the podcasting sphere, and how such a system is, despite its many shortcomings, probably good for everyone.
I will read snippets from that post.
Yesterday, there was a lot of talk with a friend about ads, especially in podcasts.
Anchor is building more features around this, and I am looking into them.
Ads in and of themselves aren’t necessarily bad. These days, a variety of ad platforms are open to indies. They include artists as well as small business owners. They gotta get the word out there, somehow. It’s not just big business that does advertising.
Also, there is evidence (IMO, concrete enough to call evidence) that the existence of ads and the ease of adoption has led to more content, more diverse content, and some would say, better content. That evidence is Youtube.
Would there have been as many Youtubers and viewers as there are today, had there been no ads? I don’t think so. Many Youtubers would not have had the resources to create their videos, had Youtube not generated income. And thus, there would’ve been less knowledge, entertainment, and plain pleasant silliness.
Could paid subscriptions have led to the same/similar results? Nah. The amount of money that most of humanity wants to or can afford to pay, for things that aren’t directly tied to survival, is zero dollars. Nobody ever died from not watching a Youtube video. Thus, a significant enough number of people are willing to trade their attention for happiness (from education, entertainment, etc). But not as many are willing to pay money for content—even educational content.
With a more developed ad market, will something similar happen in the podcast sphere? More content, more diverse content, and (depending on whom you ask) better content?
Same as with Youtube, nobody has ever died from not listening to a podcast. So, it is no surprise that the core monetization strategy in the next several years will probably be ads, rather than paid content.
(Heck, some folks are suggesting that Amazon should start inserting ads into their books. Because, no matter what book lovers may say, let’s face it: the vast majority of the population does not die from not reading books. Books aren’t “useful” for direct survival. Thus, not everyone wants to pay for books.
I do wonder if ads within books will increase readership. You know, the struggle for survival is real. Just cause some folks can spend $5 on an ebook doesn’t mean they get to snob at people who can’t afford to pay $5. Libraries are great, but not perfect. They have long lines and they have limited budgets too.
Think about how much free education and entertainment a person can get from Youtube, for no monetary cost whatsoever. Makes me wonder if the book sphere would benefit from a system similar to that. Such a system would not need to be mutually exclusive from the current system of retail sales. Plenty of systems can coexist for different types of readers.)
Yeah. Sustainability thoughts. As mentioned in the snippet I just read, monetization is great for users of every kind, not just the creators. If you want more of something, you gotta reward that something. Realistically, that might not be possible, because you—the generic you—also have things that you want to prioritize, and your resources may not be as prosperous and abundant, yet, as you would like them to be. That is why ads are such a great bridge. They’re a bridge between people who don’t want to pay or can’t pay, and people who need to get paid.
In this same blog post, I also talk about some instances when ads are really annoying, but barring such cases—why not ads? Realistically, not all creators will be able to support themselves through the subscription model. It’s not just about people having to be able to afford so many subscriptions—it’s the hassle. And that was, again, why Coil was so great. Because with something like Coil, theoretically, there only needed to be one subscription to rule them all. It might not have eliminated the actual subscription support that is going on now, but it might actually have eliminated the need for ads. You know. As a sort of blanket income generation system that could replace ads.
But. Coil is gone. Ads are still going strong. People gotta sell their stuff.
But, it doesn’t have to be just ads. The more different options to monetize, the better.
Fortunately, beautifully, and happily, many more creators of this era know that. I think there are very few people in the year 2023 who still do not see the value of multiple streams of income. This is an era in which multiple past depressions and recessions have been so well-documented, it would be insane to think that the job you have, even when it is a cushy corporate job, even when it’s a government job, even when it’s any kind of job—will last forever. Needless to say, if you don’t have traditional employment, then even more, multiple streams of income.
Ads. Sponsorships. Merchandise. Royalties. Subscriptions. Stock dividends. Real estate. Anything. I mean anything that helps us to sustain what we do, shouldn’t we… shouldn’t we do it?
Within a given life, longevity trumps almost everything else. If we don’t want the elements in our lives to last…then why would we keep them? And if we want to keep them, why wouldn’t we do our best to build structures that will increase the likelihood of their longevity?
From now until the end of this episode, this last part, might be only of interest to folks who’re interested in how I do things, personally, and why.
In January 2023, I wrote a post on my blog, titled “A post that I read a long time ago.” I wrote it after I read another post on a blog called “Stories. Not a blog.” The post title was “soulless labor.”
I will link to both my post and the post from “Stories. Not a blog.” in the show notes.
And I will read snippets from my blog post, because it explains why I wrote the post about “Sponge sustainability thoughts” and why I am doing this episode and, in hindsight, why I have a podcast at all. Or a blog.
You know, sometimes you don’t know what’s going on or why it’s going on. And nevertheless, you do things. You write blog posts, you do a podcast, you write privately, you write fiction… and then after a while, there are enough dots to connect and suddenly it all makes sense.
That is what happened in this case.
I read this post the day it was written. It showed up on the read.write.as feed, if I remember correctly.
Quote, ‘i can’t leave this fucking job that i hate because that would jeopardize my future with you, and i don’t know what to do.’ End quote.
The author heard someone say the above from outside an open window, in the middle of the night.
I still think about this part of this post occasionally—possibly for the same reason as the author. It is, indeed, quote, “one of the most heartbreaking things i’ve ever heard.” End quote.
These days, some of the things I mainly think about are 1) freedom from money and 2) the inevitability of needing some money to be free from it.
I don’t want to go into the woods, never to interact with the outer world, ever again. I mean, I say that occasionally, that I am willing to go into the woods—but that is the worst-case scenario. Being willing to do that and wanting to do that is different. If I had wanted to do that, I would have done it already. It doesn’t cost a lot to find a livable hut somewhere on this planet. Even with the purchase of a car, I would probably survive for the rest of my life, if I were to live to be, say, 70 or so.
But, again, that’s the worst-case scenario, in my case.
For one thing, I want to publish what I write in a form that is reachable by the majority of the human population. This means the internet, money to buy design assets or labor, a bank account (or several), electricity, and so on and so forth.
Second, I enjoy the occasional anonymous crowds that create public privacy a.k.a. big cities. This means flight tickets, room and board in big cities (expensive), clothing that at least doesn’t offend fancy city people (hopefully I’m not smelly), and so on and so forth.
To continue doing what I do and enjoying what I like, I need money. Not a lot, but some, definitely.
So, I think about building a community for people like me…
…and I also think about feeding us, clothing us, and culturing us. I don’t want to cut us off from the greater world. I want some kind of money generation system so we can interact with the world…
…and on top of that, I think about allowing us to go wherever we want to, at least occasionally. To big cities, to ocean towns, to deep forests, wherever. Actually, what would be so perfect is to have two community headquarters; in different countries; one in the countryside, another in the city…
…and then I think about the inevitability of the sheer amount of resources (time, money, labor, effort, strategy, raw material, etc) that’s gonna take to build all this.
The scariest parts aren’t all those measurable investments, however. It’s that the more love one feels (emotional investment), the more susceptible one might become to the above-quoted feelings.
That creates terror.
I am so terrified these days, it doesn’t even make sense. This is happening in my mind. I know that. Outwardly, my situation hasn’t changed much. But… Oh, gods, that guy in the quote above actually has someone he loves and he might be losing that person. For gods’ sake. What the hell. The terror.
I see why some people choose to settle for something, whether it be a person or a job or the place where they live. If you settle, you can never get hurt too badly. It is logical, almost, to settle for something that can’t hurt you. Things that can’t hurt you are nice. There is nothing wrong with nice. Nice is nice!
I think part of the reason for the cold is this. The terror. Psychology affects the body a lot. In my life, there were several major periods in which my body screamed for attention because I was ignoring what was happening in my mind for too long.
Granted, this cold right now isn’t a severe case. I wouldn’t count this as one of the “major periods in which my body screamed for attention.” But I think that is only because over the years, I’ve gotten somewhat better at noticing physical changes before things get too bad. (Ex: I am sleeping A LOT these days instead of resisting the urge to rest.) This cold could have been a lot worse. I can’t remember the last time I had a cold twice in three-ish months. Also, as I’ve said yesterday (or the day before that)—this cold is weird. It feels weird. The chills are weird.
Physical signs like this visit me when something shifts. These days, the shifts revolve around love and fear.
I’ve always been somewhat ambitious, but such ambition has been, until a few months ago, for myself. So, depending on the observer, I wasn’t ambitious at all.
There were many reasons for that. I was young(er), I was preoccupied with figuring out if I could do what I thought I wanted to do, and I guess I was just a different person back then.
I still think my core has always been the same. But outward behaviors have been changing recently, is what I’m saying. The universe/gods/higher force/the unfathomable chain reaction of chance events threw a bunch of new possibilities at me. These possibilities aren’t realistic, immediately reachable possibilities. They are literally just possibilities—possible outcomes that I haven’t thought about before.
Why. Why. Why. Why.
Suddenly, the field of vision of my mind expanded tenfold. With that, my ambition expanded. It is approaching the territory of the objectively ambitious. This is not all good. This is quite annoying and inconvenient, actually. Imagine how peacefully I could’ve gone on living without all these thoughts. But now, this! The view is dazzling and dizzying.
I think I cannot handle all this yet. I cannot handle any of this love.
This last part, I realized even more recently—in the past several weeks. So, now I am literally, physically sick.
What is worse, not finding love or finding love and then losing it?
My answer: the latter.
There used to be a time when I couldn’t answer this question. Now I’m certain: it’s better never to know love. It’s better never to start. Some ends, I know I will not survive. The way everything else is rendered small in comparison to that one big wave is terrifying. After the wave sweeps over me and is gone, I will only have small things left—become a collection of insignificance.
But then, if that’s the case, the opposite would be true too. So long as the wave stays, it will be so significant that all ambitions of this world will pale in comparison. Nothing will be impossible. I would have the ocean on my side.
How do I make it stay.
I do not know.
My laser focus, in the next few years, will be on staying. And to achieve that defensive goal, most likely, I will need to adopt offensive tactics.
So, it is my plan to talk about mindset and general well-being on this podcast as well as through all the other channels. And you know what supports mental health and general well-being? Income. Yeah. Income. Money.
Look at this man quoted in this post. He was crying because he hates his fucking job but he cannot quit it because he loves someone so dearly, he friggin can’t quit. What are they going to live on, fucking ether?
Money would contribute greatly to his and his loved one’s well-being. Oh, tremendously.
Money for survival, but also, heck, why not money for luxury? The world isn’t made of zero-sum games. So, why not prosperity and abundance for all who want it, including monetary prosperity and abundance?
Especially for creative people. People who accept that they are creative.
Money is critical for creative longevity. This is because any kind of caging is bound to affect creativity. Some schools of thought argue that money can be separated from creativity, so even though, say, an artist must decide between buying paint and buying shampoo, if they’re a true artist, they should be able to make great art.
I completely disagree. An artist should not only not have to choose between buying shampoo and buying canvas and paint—an artist should be able to buy multiple different shampoos, because, folks, apparently it’s good for your scalp and hair to rotate multiple different shampoos. Same with toothpaste, by the way. Apparently, using various shampoos and toothpaste has the effect of them washing out each other. Shampoo and toothpaste can accumulate on your hair and teeth, and so the other shampoo and toothpaste can come in and do the cleaning, which kinda sounds messed up, since you’re using shampoo and toothpaste to get clean, but, well, that’s what I heard. And it also goes beyond cleaning, it’s also that the body can get too used to one type of product, and that’s not necessarily good.
Anyway. Perhaps there comes a point where money doesn’t make a difference anymore. Say, the difference between a million dollars a year and two million dollars a year may not be that great. I don’t know. It is difficult for me to imagine, because I don’t even make a million dollars a year. Not even a meager million dollars a year.
But hey, the difference between five hundred thousand dollars a year and a million dollars a year? Huge.
Not to spend all the money, no. But a million dollars in one year means that the artist could make zero dollars for the next ten years and still live abundantly and prosperously, barring any big tragedies like natural disasters or war. Imagine the mental room for that artist. Imagine the risks such an artist could take. Imagine how much this artist could say no to the things that inhibit them artistically.
Ah. I feel for this person in this post so much. And this isn’t just in a distant, “Oh, it will never happen to me but I am sorry it is happening to you” way. No. I mean, my past self might have felt that way. Incredible as it may sound, I never thought I would be in a position in which I would feel for him at a visceral level, because until mid-2022, I was laser-focused on something else, which was the act of writing itself. Writing—it doesn’t go anywhere. Vocation-related things, in general, don’t go anywhere.
I believe that is one of the reasons humans become workaholics—because work doesn’t betray by dying on you, so long as you don’t let it die. We talked about risks in this episode; work is risk-free in that, within work, there may be risks, but work itself doesn’t go away. Not the way people leave you and die on you.
If you keep nurturing your relationship with work, it will outlive you. My writings will outlive me, and storytelling itself? Phew. Even after a nuclear war, when the world consists of cockroaches and no other living organisms, there will be bits in the form of paper and digital information. They will outlive all of us.
But oh, my new laser focus. My new vertex, as I call it, because I like geometry. This vertex, like a North Star, shines so brightly. I have this love now. Parts of it aren’t alive because they are like writing—they are things that will outlive me. But other parts. Oh.
This community and everyone in it—I am not going to cut us off from the rest of the world. I’m not going to demand that creators live on one set of clothes, unless they themselves want to. For gods’ sake. Clothing is art. Everything is art. Fabric is art. I want my people to be able to wear clothing that they think is beautiful. I want us to prosper in the greater world and create a virtuous cycle of glorious, harmonious, splendid victory.
Also, some people in that vision of the vertex are so specific, I… I’m gonna die a very sad person, if they’re not in it. It is terrifying to think that you want something specific and nothing else. And it is beautiful.
So, I will not forgive myself if I don’t restructure my life in such a way that I can at least accept prosperity and abundance. You know, it might sound ridiculous, but I think I actually didn’t want them. Prosperity and abundance. Until early this year, I didn’t fully accept that I wanted them. I wanted peace and quiet. And ironically, peace and quiet sometimes go against prosperity and abundance. They aren’t mutually exclusive, but sometimes they don’t go well together, which is why priorities are so important. What do I want more, now? Prosperity. Abundance. I will gladly give up some peace and quiet, and I will be happier for it.
And as mundane as the following may sound after this dramatic, suffocating, intense love talk…
For now, I am starting smol. So smol. Ithaka so smol, presently, but oh, does she have visions.
Smol Ithaka will start by doing what she can right now.
Okay, I’m gonna stop talking in the third person.
I am going to open every channel that may contribute to the longevity of what I do. That includes trying to ensure my own longevity, as in, my life itself, through exercise and mental health and general well-being.
That also includes trying to ensure the longevity of what I do more directly, mainly by diversifying. Diversification can happen on all fronts. On the retailer front, for example, I will continue to sell my ebooks everywhere I can, such as Apple, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, so on and so forth. Also, I will keep selling on Payhip, and that way, I have a diversification method outside of the traditional retailers.
I will also not only write fiction but also probably venture into nonfiction books this year or next year.
This podcast is also a method of diversifying my storytelling. My storytelling doesn’t absolutely have to be written. It works perfectly well in audio as well. If and when I can use ads in this podcast, I will use them. If and when I can use sponsorships in this podcast, I will use them.
In addition, if and when AI narration and translation become usable, I will use them both to diversify even more.
Also, speaking of diversification, I have opened donation options.
Mainly, someone who chose to go by the codename “Patient Zero” is the reason for these new options. The very context in which Patient Zero contacted me, for the very first time ever, was to ask if I accepted donations. At least that was the surface reason. And the answer, back then, was “No.”
But, this Patient Zero, he is quite persistent. Patient Zero patiently bid his time. For several months, he didn’t bring up donations again. Oh, he waited a long time. But when he did. Oh, when he did, wow, the persistence. Multiple times he kept mentioning the donation option and not only that, setting up a contact page that clearly outlines where and how to donate.
And after enough reptition of that, I thought to myself… you know what? I think he’s going to keep mentioning this again and again. Like. Again. And again. Until I do it.
Also, his reasoning was this, if I remember correctly: that I should not take away the option to donate. Something along those lines.
And I thought… Yeah. Maybe he’s right. It’s so weird that I felt so… reluctant about having donation options, given that I get annoyed when creators don’t accept money.
So, thanks to Patient Zero mildly pestering me about this point, I now have a Buy Me a Coffee page, and also, I accept Bitcoin. Yes. BTC love. [bc1qcna5ufd8gdxm6zkll8nxmskp0cx2nsw6lrzm5u]
Thank you, Patient Zero. You who were a complete stranger only some time ago. This codename is so suitable, this Patient Zero. Many things began with Patient Zero. He thinks, and I agree, that he was probably the very first listener of Sponge. Literally the very first person who ever streamed Sponge. He might even have been the very first reader of my blog under this pen name. This is more difficult to figure out, but it is possible.
And if he didn’t cause a series of events, then they happened around the time Patient Zero appeared in my life. I changed my pen name to this current name, Ithaka, and I changed a lot of the structure of how I do things.
Yeah. The universe can be an interesting storyteller. It throws events at you and you connect the dots and wonder, what’s this supposed to mean now? And so, when many coincidences co-occur, suddenly they become serendipity and you wonder if some of the things that the person at the center of those series of events should be listened to, such as when they say you should have a contact page with donation options. Such is the story regarding Patient Zero.
Okay. I think I’ve mentioned Patient Zero about a dozen times now. So I hope Patient Zero is happy with how I mentioned him. Patient Zero, I thank you.
My transformation does not end here.
In July 2021, I mentioned in episode 3, titled “I have an excellent example of a monopoly that must die.” that I wasn’t publishing on Amazon at the time. For the record, the monopoly that needed to die in that episode wasn’t Amazon, it was Bowker.
But regarding Amazon and me, there is a long backstory to this, about Amazon’s bots flagging me and threatening to shut down my account if I don’t provide an explanation, yadayadayada, while said bots didn’t provide an explanation about exactly what they thought was wrong with my uploads.
Anyway, despite all that, I decided to put all my books back on Amazon, hoping that it won’t be flagging them this time. Publishing on Amazon, that act by itself, does nothing, except that I can see the page saying that the book is published, and thereby I will know that I did everything I can to cover all potential income streams. I mean, I don’t actively advertise and there are many many books on Amazon, which is great, but that is why just uploading the books there won’t do anything.
The point is that I’m gonna be everywhere, if I can. If Amazon lets me, this time. I’m gonna be on all retailers, in my store, in the library services, and in the subscription services.
Anyway. Longevity. Income streams. Creativity. Beauty. Love.
Oh, this man from that post. I hope he found something that allows him to be with the person he wants to be with, while doing what he likes, or at least, doing something he doesn’t dislike. And I also hope that he doesn’t cry anymore.
And I wish all of you listening to this prosperity and abundance. You deserve them. Other people have them, so why not you? You who are willing to listen to this obscure podcast to the end, why not you? Clearly you’re overflowing with love of some kind. Love for weird stuff.
And, as beautiful as love is, love is also pressure. It’s a risk. Damn it, I was so fine without it. And now I’m terrified. And I guess other people who love other things are similarly terrified to different degrees. This desire to protect and nurture and make great, of something that isn’t you. It’s intoxicating, but also so heavy.
Hey, maybe this is why they say love makes us stronger. It is like weightlifting for emotions.
And so I wish all of you abundance and prosperity so that all the weightlifting will be worthwhile and lead to much protection and nurturing and making great of everything and everyone you love.
I will do my best to stay, to never disappear. Yes. At the most basic level, if you have put me into your structure—and I mean, I think Sponge is gradually settling into longer episodes, so, wow, if you’ve put me somewhere into your schedule, then that means a lot—so if you did that, then the least I can do is to try to last, so that choice of yours is worthwhile. I will be a house, not a hut. I will be a mansion. I will be a whole estate that will not go away when the wind blows.
I will do my best to stay, as I go to my vertex. And I will keep you updated through Sponge, my blogs, my fiction books, which will reflect all the changes in one way or another, and depending on what new and exciting options the world opens up, probably through other channels as well.
And that is all for this episode. Thank you for listening.
If you liked this episode of Sponge, please share it with a human. Technology is a great tool, but let us also do things for and with other fellow humans made of flesh, blood, and bones.
If you would like to find out more about everything else I do besides Sponge, visit ithakaonmymind.com.
Stay true, everybody.
- MacMillan buys Pronoun (2016.5.26.)
- MacMillan shuts down Pronoun (2017.11.9.)
- Sponge sustainability thoughts (From February 2023)
- A post that I read a long time ago. (From January 2023)
- soulless labor by “Stories. Not a blog.”
- My Buy Me a Coffee page
- BTC love: bc1qcna5ufd8gdxm6zkll8nxmskp0cx2nsw6lrzm5u
- Episode 3, “I have an excellent example of a monopoly that must die.”
- Lalinea – Funkymania – Lalinea Remix
- Less Gravity – Frosty
- LOLEK – Cruise Control
- Magiksolo – Taito
- Drowned Synthesis – Jon Gegelman
- Mansij – Lonely Mind
- Ghost in the Machine – GHST MDRN
- MEOD – Kayakim
- H2O – A.M. Beef
Everything I do is organized here:
© 2023 Ithaka O.