If I can do it, you can do it too.
Today marks one year since I published my book, Everywhere But Home: Life Overseas as Told by a Travel Blogger.
Since the book went live, a lot has happened. I completed my Master’s and an internship at BuzzFeed News, then recently started a Fellowship at Business Insider. I’ve been writing a lot more fiction, too.
I’ve become known in some circles as “the guy who wrote a book.”
Much of the time, the people who call me this say it out of admiration rather than mockingly. So that’s a plus. But then again, a lot of those comments come from people who haven’t read the book.
Either way, there are worse things to be known for.
Writers are naturally selfish — they want you to spend your time reading something they wrote, regardless of its quality. That’s the nature of the work.
Sure, there’s value and necessity in doing work for works’ sake — but it is much nicer to feel like someone else other than your mother will read what you write.
I’ve done my share of marketing and self-promoting in the last year (isn’t that what this blog post is?). But my own efforts have proved modestly remunerative.
The book sold well; a good amount of people have read it, especially for a book that’s self-published.
It reached №1 on multiple bestseller lists on Amazon.
Over 125 people have left reviews (most of them positive, some of them less so).
Publishing my book has helped mitigate some of the existential dread that seems to creep up on me now and again.
The fear of the fleetingness of everything.
The fear of not leaving an impact.
The allure of a posthumous presence.
All of these things are what stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius warned against. He cautioned against thinking of legacy because, in his ancient eyes, that’s the type of thinking that can preclude you from leaving one behind.
According to Aurelius, what’s more pressing is to focus on what you’re doing now, and how you got there, rather than focusing on how to arrive at an end-destination.
And that’s the thinking that guided my initial writing of Everywhere But Home. I wrote every day because I wanted to improve as a writer, not because I had the goal of publishing a book or building a legacy.
The day immediately before me was enough to worry about, and that’s what I focused on.
String enough of those singularly focused days together and the book sort of just happens. I had 250 pages right off the bat.
Then I edited it down to about 190, did some proofreading and chopping. Had some peers read it.
Then I went to press.
Now, one year later, it’s still nice to see new reviews pop up on my book. Sometimes strangers email me or message me on social media saying they just read it.
These messages make me feel like I’ve made a small contribution to the world of letters and words.
When I reread some of the passages from my book today, I get a bit embarrassed at the writing.
“A third adverb in the same sentence, really Phil?”
“We get it, you travel and you like big words.”
But I’m happy to be somewhat taken aback by my own writing from a year ago. That tells me I’ve improved as a writer.
I hope and believe it means my writing has gotten more terse, more precise and more agile, with less need for adverbs and zero need for words like “punctiliousness” or “cacophonous.”
In any case, today’s the one-year anniversary of one of my proudest works of my life. Take a look.
I’m old-fashioned — I always like to feel words on physical paper — but it is free to download on Kindle.
And, if you’re feeling extra kind and generous with your time, leave me a short review on Amazon. Even if it’s negative.
Especially if it’s negative.
I have tough skin, I promise. Criticism is part of how writers get better.
You can watch the video below for some of the early reviews that came in last year.
Thank you for reading. See you on Amazon (I hope).