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From Typist to Writer
Notes on becoming a more honest, vulnerable, loving, creative, open, conscious, spiritual, and hip-moving individual
Important news from the Fosterverse: Season 4: A More Beautiful Question kicks off in less than a week! Over four weeks of facilitation and workshops, we’ll each discover the questions that bring us alive, and begin using them as fuel for our most courageous writing. The deadline to apply is Friday the 13th. 🎃
On February 18, 2021, I got on a 15-minute intro call for a paid, invite-only community of online writers. I don’t remember why I joined the call, but I do remember focusing on the fact that it was paid, as my dad would have.
Most Saturdays growing up, my dad would look through the rear-view mirror at my sister and me and say, “Where should we go for dinner?” We would exchange looks and pull a face. There were only about three restaurants he wouldn’t refer to as attempts to lead him to bankruptcy.
As a kid in the 70’s, my dad would sew fabric scraps into school pants that he would rip apart the same day by sliding down a hill on a piece of cardboard. To him, spending money on anything beyond food, education, shelter, and clothing was nonessential. He indoctrinated this belief in our family through timed showers, limited empanadas, and unflushed toilets with little pee.
On March 1st, I rejected the acceptance letter from the community. I had just gotten a contract from an American father of four who needed to offshore a project, and that would fill my whole calendar. Or so I said. The truth was that the community’s pay button made me fidget despite the fact that I was about to earn ten times the fee.
A few months later, Foster, the writing community, invited me in for free in exchange for editing other writers’ work.
Initially, I operated in Foster as a Typist. Furrowed eyebrows. Fingers racing across the keyboard. Tabs cluttered with words, videos, and sounds that helped me keep up with an output goal. I would start writing a personal essay and pivot mid-Pomodoro to a business article idea, such as how to rank articles on Google.
For Writers, not writing is stifling. They set output goals like Typists, but their priority is releasing pent-up creative energy. If Writers don't make it by 30, they give themselves ten more years. They have no other choice.
I transitioned from Typist to Writer when I quit trying to be a Writer.
Initially, being a Writer felt outside of my identity. The New Yorker hadn’t featured me. Tobacco didn’t linger on my linen. People would ask me about the title of my latest novel, and in a reticent tone, I would say, “I write essays.”
I justified my writing time through tangible metrics:
Connecting with influencers
During a period of burnout, I began answering personal questions through my essays. In “You Could Waste Your 20’s And Still Make It,” I questioned my obsession with work. I argued that hustle culture was a countermeasure to the reality of life’s finitude and pondered the ephemeral nature of external happiness. 20 essays in, I dropped every goal except for stopping the emptiness born out of not writing for more than five days. My transition to Writer was almost complete.
On January 9, 2023, Foster's founder, Dan, invited me to participate in Foster Season 2. Seasons are somewhere between a writing and therapy course, a boot camp, and an accelerator. (In Season 2, Foster also added a delightful in-person retreat component that cultivates fluttering stomachs, fight-or-flight-responses, shortness of breath, and chest tightness over the course of three days. But that’s another story.)
Seasons are a space to explore one aspect of ourselves through an essay.
In my Season 2 essay, I reflected on my emotional, intellectual, and bodily reactions to spending more time with an ex-partner than with my mom, who had cancer. Each word I wrote increased my heart rate. Will my friends label me as a psychopath? Am I a bad son? Will my girlfriend break up with me? When I finished the essay, my stomach knots dissipated, my cranium lost a few kilograms, and my breathing regained its natural pace. I have never asked myself these questions since this time, and neither have I for the other essays, at least not the same questions.
My priorities have shifted since 2021. Through unwavering commitment, I work eight hours daily to increase online business for my clients. But, through essays questioning what I believe, my routines, and how I think, I went from being an emotions-repressing rational hustler to someone who, at the time of writing this essay, dances salsa weekly, meditates with a Dutch monk, studies The Unpanishads, writes a newsletter on the limits of science, has enrolled in a Master’s in Liberal Arts, and travels the world—without ever checking his bank account.
When people ask me what I do, I no longer say “marketing” or “marketing and writing.” I say, “I’m a writer,” and, “No books yet.”
Foster wasn’t the entity who bounced one leg up and down while writing more than fifty essays for my newsletter, Microcosm. But it did create a space for me to talk with other writers and accept the inherent creative side I had neglected since middle school, at least months, but most likely years before I would have done it. I'm now a more honest, vulnerable, loving, creative, open, conscious, spiritual, and hip-moving individual. If I write long enough, I might end up as one of the lucky ones: obese, divorced, and obsessed with Moby Dick. Butterflies will perch on my stomach during tax season but resume flying as soon as I hit publish. I will still refuse to preheat showers for a minute, but only because that's unnecessary.
Ok, here’s one more obligatory reminder about Season 4. It’s gonna be great!