All material is my writing of a certain time



Going through a few pieces from ‘99 and 2000, a theme takes shape: I was an ordinary man who just wanted to get married, hold a regular job, buy a house and raise children, but then something scrambled my programming. Since that time, I was lost and confused and unsure of what to do with my existence. I was between a rock and a hard place, as I explained: I wanted everything and I wanted to do everything, and I knew very well I could end up with nothing.


Personal Agenda is no longer “My collection of writing” that has to include every piece of text I had considered good enough to show other people at one point or another. There is text in the original Personal Agenda that I do want to publish, like “Thirteen minutes on a Saturday night”, but I also reckon Personal Agenda has a broad theme, right? (I especially realised this when I read the “Preface to the complete project”.)

To put it differently, there are pieces that are currently part of Personal Agenda. These pieces are only part of the project because they were written between January 1999 and February 2004, because I thought at some point they were good enough to show other people, and because I only had one book project at that stage (namely, Personal Agenda) it made sense that all the pieces should be included in that project.

Fact is, I have since developed two internet properties with hundreds of pieces of content on each site. If I wrote something in 2000 or 2002 that I would like to share with other people, it no longer needs to be part of Personal Agenda for me to do that.



Personal Agenda is about certain issues: to be alone; self-imposed exile (why? where? how long?); identity; family and friends and life partner; language and culture as part of a theme about place and belonging; experiencing meaning in life; understanding life well enough to be able to function outside a mental institution (including dealing with the religious beliefs with which you grew up, either incorporating them into your worldview as an adult, or rejecting them; if the latter, why?); creative ambition (in my case writing) as something that gives value to your life, something that gives you a sense that you are doing something with your existence that is appropriate considering what magnificent animal you are. It then follows that only pieces dealing with these issues should be included in Personal Agenda.


A new day has brought clarity: Personal Agenda is indeed “My collection of writing” of the period February 1999 to February 2004. Certain themes do stand out as mentioned in this note last night, but in the first place it was and still remains my collection of writing from that period, just like Post Untitled, volume one is my collection of writing from March to December 2004, Post Untitled, volume two is my collection of writing from 2005, and so on. To take out certain pieces because they do not touch on particular themes is to say the book was planned and written with those themes in mind. It was not. I just wrote whatever I felt like writing. Only later did I start collecting all the pieces.

Bottom-line: In 1994, I started taking notes on topics that interested me. In 2003, I started bundling together notes in a single project, and continued writing. Then I conjured up a title. I cannot now look at the title and say, “Wait a minute, this title seems to indicate that the book is about certain themes, and these 12 or 34 pieces aren’t about those themes, so they’re out.” Each compilation, starting from Where you are nobody to the collection that will contain the 2017 material is a collection of my writing – in the first place of a particular time period, and then if you look closely you can identify specific themes. BrandSmit.NET and Assorted Notes are just new platforms where I can share what I have written. The material, as I wrote it, remains my writing from a particular time.


Delusion or valuable assets, the good work shall continue


There are a few reasons why I regard it as important that I spend a few hours on my writing projects on an almost daily basis. One reason is happy delusion. A well-known cartoonist explains that, since you are probably to a great extent delusional anyway, you might as well choose a delusion that makes you happy. I choose to believe that hundreds of people regularly read what I have so far published, and that it is only a matter of time before more people tune in to my frequency, so to speak. It is a belief that makes me happy, it keeps me going, and it makes it easier for me to do other things that I do not much enjoy, but that brings in money.

I can also point to my writing projects as a positive legacy of my existence, and that I may actually succeed here and there to convince someone to do something positive rather than negative, or to give life another chance, if it ever comes to it.

Earlier tonight it struck me that there is another reason why I ought to continue with my hard work, even if it doesn’t pay. There is a business model that says that you create value first, and then you see how you can profit from it. This is exactly what large technology companies like Twitter, Facebook and Google have done, and the model is also followed by smartphone applications like WhatsApp: first provide value to many people; make money later on. This is in a sense also what I do. I am on track to reach the 700 pieces of content mark on BrandSmit.NET and AssortedNotes.COM within the next year or two. This content is personal, original, and dates back all the way to 1994 (naturally, the oldest text predates the sites themselves).

I can see in the monthly statistics that the sites are visited by more than a few people, and that a significant percentage of people spend at least 15 minutes at a time on the sites. And there is still a lot I can do to expand readership – social media, more formats, a newsletter.

In short, I am in the process of developing two valuable assets that don’t make money at the moment, but – I might produce a book two years or five years from now that does have some commercial value. And if there is a commercial item on the proverbial shelf, then two websites (one of which has already been on the Internet for more than a decade) with hundreds of pieces of content, with a regular readership, would definitely be valuable assets.


A title for supper


I woke up this morning just before 5 AM. I went to the bathroom, went back to bed, straightened the bedding, rolled myself up again, and for the next 30 minutes or so, in-between waking and sleeping, two thoughts knocked around in my skull.

The first thought was about the piece in the project, Where you are nobody entitled, “The problem is … city planning!” What is the connection with Korea? I wondered. The text is all about my neighbourhood in Taiwan, and how it compares to the average South African suburb. Funny that I hadn’t realised it until that moment. [It turned out that there were other pieces that were not published until recently that did make it clear that the piece is about my dislike of life in the average middle-class suburb.]

The second thought was about what I am going to call the material that follows Post Untitled vol. three – that is, all the material dating from March 2011. I had thought about this on and off for the past few weeks and hadn’t really been able to come up with a satisfactory proposal. Suddenly, I thought, snug under my bedding, my eyes shut, everything from March 2011 is also actually “post” something, namely post-emergency. Not only does it follow on the piece, “The state of emergency is over”, but my view of my daily existence changed in 2011 after I had decided I was no longer in a state of emergency. I also realised I could call it something like, “Stop kicking against the pricks, vol. 1” – referring to a fact I can no longer ignore: I am happiest when I’m working on a writing project, and seeing that time passes anyway and one doesn’t always succeed in what you think you ought to be busy with (in my case, trying to make money with all sorts of projects on the Internet), I would rather use more of my time to edit what I have written so far and work on what I still want to write, even though I won’t make any money in the process.

The title train of thought continued throughout the rest of the day. An hour or so ago, I thought of another title: “Surrender, vol. 1”, with the meaning of surrendering to what I had written on Friday, 31 December 2004: “Writing has, in the end, outmanoeuvred, outsmarted, outgunned, and outlasted every other possibility of what I had ever wanted to do with my adult life.”


What I don’t like about “Post-Emergency” is that it indicates the end of a period of my life – good for the title of a single piece, but for a whole series of essay collections?

The same can be said of “Surrender” and “Stop kicking”. They are good titles for single pieces, but do I really want to name a series of essay volumes after my realisation that writing is of existential importance to me?

I thought, okay, if I can’t name it after a period of my life that is over, what about the current period of my life?

Which brought me back to ideas I had had last year, namely “Middle” and “Forties”.

Then I thought: of course age is an important factor of the period of your life in which you find yourself, but isn’t there anything other than “Forties”?

“End of my youth,” it hit me.

And then I arrived home with my supper.

* * *

Apparently, it was Victor Hugo who said, “Forty is the old age of youth; fifty the youth of old age.”

Another few witty remarks:

“Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.” – Samuel Ullman

“You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.” – George Burns

“I will never be an old man. To me, old age is always 15 years older than I am.” – Francis Bacon

“There is always some specific moment when we become aware that our youth is gone; but, years after, we know it was much later.” – Mignon McLaughlin


Why do I, or you, need to make money?

Believe it or not, but there are people stupid enough to forget the answer every now and then, and then it falls to someone in the vicinity to explain.

I am one of these simple-minded people. Fortunately, I have enough complexity within me to awaken from my trance after a few minutes, and then I can usually manage to scrape together enough brain cells to formulate a response.

The explanation goes like this:

Reason number 1. You need to survive (if you don’t want to survive, none of this applies to you). To survive, you need money to buy food, pay rent, and pay for water and electricity. You also need to buy clothes and every now and then medicine. It will also help if you do something that will make it easier to survive a year from now, ten years from now, and when you are much older than you are now and probably cannot or wouldn’t want to work anymore. Your survival may also be closely linked to the survival of people close to you for whose survival you are responsible. This means more money for food, clothing, medicine and other items.

Reason number 2. If your survival has gathered enough momentum, it makes sense to make your survival worth the effort – otherwise, what’s the point? To make your survival worth it, you need to do things you enjoy. That means you’d need money to buy books or to play sports, or go to the movies, or cook for the fun of it, or dozens of other things that people do for pleasure, or because it makes them feel happy and generally positive about life.

Reason number 3. You might want to assist others in their struggle for survival (doing so might even be something that makes your own survival worthwhile). Odds are good that you will need money in your efforts to help others.

Reason number 4. You may also want to assist other people in their efforts to make their survival worth the effort. Again, it is not necessary to lay cash on the table, but it will probably ease the process.

So, there you have it – or perhaps rather, there I have it, once again. We need money to survive. We need money to make our survival worthwhile. We need money if we want to help others survive, and we need money to help other people change their opinion if they think their survival isn’t worth the effort.

How much money do you need? That’s an easier question to answer.


A good and successful day is built layer by layer


Who begins their day with a manifesto on their lips, and a fine-worked blueprint in their heads?

The fact is, most people’s days start with necessity: you get up because you need to go to the bathroom, because you are hungry, and because you have made arrangements with people and businesses, and if you do not show up, you’re going be in trouble.

And so begins your day. Eventually, you shower and you brush your teeth, you get dressed, and you go somewhere to earn your bread and butter, or to otherwise be of value to the community.

Layer upon layer your day is built up. Here and there you make a mistake. Here and there you say something or you do something that embarrasses you, but after a few minutes or an hour or so you are in full swing again.

By the time the day is over, you will see perhaps look back on a good and relatively successful day. Did you start with slogans rolling over your lips, and a neatly printed plan waiting next to your bed for you to follow like an obedient robot? Most likely not, although you may have had a good idea of how you would like your day to progress.

So it is with other endeavours and projects that you undertake. You have a good idea of what you need to do to achieve reasonably good results. You have a good idea what you should do to stay out of trouble. You still make the occasional mistake, and every so often you slide on a banana peel. But successful results, like a good and successful day, is built up layer by layer – ten, twenty, a hundred big and small actions and steps following after another to produce a good result.

Slogans are good. Manifestoes have their place. Surely you have to know what you must do. But success is more often than not the result of layer upon layer upon layer of small, seemingly insignificant actions. Just like a good and successful day.


Not exactly on the same subject, but in the same spirit nevertheless: Scott Adams: “The idea of a talent stack is that you can combine ordinary skills until you have enough of the right kind to be extraordinary. You don’t have to be the best in the world at any one thing. All you need to succeed is to be good at a number of skills that fit well together.” [Source]