FAQ

I thought I’d add a full page for frequently asked questions because they come up in comments so often.

When is your next book coming out?

The short answer is never. I don’t write under my real name anymore. Check out my post on What I Wish I Knew Before Self-publishing for more details.

Basically, my name is way too common. I can’t build an author brand with it. Also, if family and friends read my book because they are curious, they wreck my sales by screwing up the way Amazon does its targeted advertising.

Lastly, I put out a lot of opinions on this blog. People who haven’t even read my books have gone and given fake bad reviews to harm me for these opinions.

So, even if my name was viable, the fact that it is linked to this blog makes it impossible to continue.

I still enjoy writing short stories, and so I may put out a collection under my real name since those don’t sell anyway.

Are you an expert?

Most of the world thinks about expertise the wrong way. I wrote an article about it.

It’s true that I did not go to school for, or get a degree in, creative writing. But there are people with degrees that scraped by with minimum effort and poor grades and never once filled in those gaps after graduating.

A degree does not make an expert (also, people tend to not understand what a degree entails).

I’ve put in my 10,000 hours of very intense, focused study of every aspect of the craft of writing. I now have over five years of publishing experience of 200,000 to 500,000 words per year.

I can usually tell how long someone has studied writing and which aspects they haven’t paid attention to within a few paragraphs of writing.

Take or leave my advice. I’m not Fitzgerald, but if I’m not an expert, I’m not sure who is.

Do you actually make a living writing books?

I won’t discuss my finances with random strangers online.

That being said, you should know that I have several blogs as part of my “writing job.” These blogs are monetized through various methods.

I also have a lot of fiction out.

I’d be uncomfortable living off it right now. Going full-time was a decision I made with my spouse. I plan on it being enough to live on in the next few years.

I’ve had a lot of profit growth every single year, but this is also a numbers game combined with some luck.

Because I’ve experimented with all the things the self-publishing gurus talk about, I feel I have a pretty good understanding of what actually works and what is misguided for people who don’t already have success.

Why Not Teach?

To properly answer this, it would take several thousand words. In short, I don’t believe in teaching.

No one can teach anyone anything. Teachers can motivate people to learn, but the learning happens on the student end.

As such, the students that succeed would succeed without their teachers. The students that don’t succeed can’t be helped by standing in front of a room and telling them things they don’t care about.

This has gotten worse in the recent decade. Nowadays, the students that most need to attend class never show up and the ones that would be fine without you are there.

In almost all things, students can get a far better understanding by interacting with things online and doing homework than attending a lecture.

I do believe in one-on-one type education in a coaching or tutoring format. This is because a good tutor can pinpoint places of misunderstanding before the student even realizes they lack something.

Great tutors can work with a student to develop more effective study habits.

I’ve looked into “professional tutor” as a career, but that doesn’t really exist.

P.S. I think teachers are vital at earlier ages. I’m only referring high school and beyond here.

Why Not Academia/Research?

Most math is useless. Sure, knowledge can be valuable in the sense that it could have some unimaginable use in a hundred years.

But I think most people overstate this. People point to a handful of examples, but ignore the millions of subfields of study that have no relevance to anyone, including most people who “care” about it.

I get one life. I don’t really want to spend it computing eigenvalues of the Frobenius action on crystalline cohomology of Calabi-Yau varieties to test whether certain notions of “ordinary” are the same.

One of my books has been read by over 2,000 people. This is abysmal in the grand scheme of things, yet has had infinitely more impact on people’s lives than doing academic research would have done.

I’m in the early stages of my career. Hopefully, my reach and impact will only grow from here.

P.S. If you love it, do it! Spend your life doing what you love. I most certainly did not love it.

Why not industry?

Should I work for Google, spying on people’s lives? What about Facebook, implicated in aiding a foreign government’s influence of our presidential election?

But…there’s lots of big data research firms out there. Yeah, but they are definitely all centered on figuring out what will make you buy things you don’t want or waste time clicking on things that only serve to radicalize and misinform you.

There’s always finance. I mean, that field definitely didn’t almost cause the collapse of the U.S. in 2008 resulting in the deaths and destruction of thousands of people.

If someone is paying you to do math, they are expecting a return on that investment. That means you’re most likely weaponizing it to trick people somehow.

I’m sure there’s an industry position out there that isn’t as terrible as I’ve cynically put it, but I haven’t found one. And I certainly haven’t found one in driving distance of where I live.

Why writing?

The short answer is that writing is the thing I always made time to do. I enjoyed writing about math on this blog eleven years ago more than I enjoyed doing actual math.

I actually found the time to write short stories and a novel while in grad school. When you’re that passionate about something, why not choose it as a career?

There’s a saying: facts don’t change people’s minds, stories do.

It’s true. I believe that books, or more generally, stories, are important in our world today. Great books are how we change people’s minds.

They are how we will empathize with those we don’t understand. They teach us we aren’t alone. We learn valuable lessons and grow as humans through books.

Why not have it as just a hobby?

Here’s the thing. No one writes a great book if it’s just their hobby.

It takes 10,000 hours of intense study and practice to get good at something as complicated as writing a novel. I managed to do that in my first five years by making it full-time.

If writing were my hobby, I’d have taken 20 years to do that, burned out, quit, then regretted my life.

No one asks an artist at Pixar why they don’t just work at an insurance company and doodle on the side if they like drawing. Their art is affecting millions of lives.

Ask More

Feel free to ask others in the comments. I may not answer it if it’s not something I get a lot. But I’m sure I’m missing some.

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