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I started writing TJOHEARN.COM when I graduated college in 2016. Before then, I was publishing articles on Medium. Even earlier, I used Tumblr, Reddit, Facebook, and some niche sites that readers today won’t have heard of. Creating a website branded with my own name was something I had wanted to do since I was a kid. I deeply admired the variety blogs I encountered on the early internet, and I was motivated to keep things interesting here starting on day one.
I’m really happy to say that I kept the website active and true to my original vision. Now, the time has come to write something of a farewell post.
Between 2016 and 2019, I read over 200 books and gained a small following on Goodreads. Trying to explain what fueled this hobby and if it “was worth it” has been challenging, but I’ll make another attempt here.
During the summer of 2012, I pulled The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test from my grandmother’s bookshelf. It was the perfect blend of edginess and literary importance for someone who had just graduated high school. I began reading for pleasure, and continued throughout college. My parents bought me Michael Lewis’ Flash Boys which I read during the summer of 2014. A week later, by complete coincidence, I was contacted by a recruiter at a high-frequency trading firm. In a way, I credited having read the book with having helped me get my foot in the door in the in industry.
Reading broadened my perspectives, kept me entertained, and comprised the engine of a valuable feedback loop. I kept reading for pleasure and to satisfy my curiosities, and my life kept moving in a positive direction. Turning pages and finishing books brought a basic sense of progress and structure to my life. Reading books in certain domains seemed to provide clear benefits. I read a lot of books about investing, and my grasp of personal finance as a 21 year old was supreme. I read books about software, some of that translated to on-the-job skills. I read a bunch of other stuff and felt my reading speed and reading comprehension reaching freakish levels. So, my senior year of college, that Flash Boys internship having turned into a job, I began my journey completing and reviewing an average of one book each week.
My book reviews almost immediately gained traction, and some of those reviews today remain the #1 “most helpful” summaries or critiques of well-known titles. Further, when I published my year-in-review post, 52 Books in 2016, my friends, family, and colleagues received it very positively. Life was good and I continued reading.
Into 2018, though, I began questioning how I was spending my free time. I had a crappy year-end review at work, an unexplained medical episode, a breakup that really upset me, doubts about my social circle… and all of this brought an identity crisis that demanded reflection. I changed jobs as quickly as I could, but I saw no reason to stop reading and writing, which had certainly become my main hobby.
2019 was the last year in which I read 52 books. When I recapped that final push in early 2020, I was frank about the whole experience. I loved reading then; I love reading now. But I found myself at a place in the spectrum where it required serious commitment which I was starting to view through the lens of opportunity cost. I made that final push, trying to brand myself as the-guy-who-reads-a-lot, and I found no fulfillment and no upside. I actually contacted a few “reading influencer” types and they discouraged me. Clearly, almost all of them were doing it as a hobby and not as a “side hustle.” Moreover, it was no secret that I was spending less time analyzing books and was selecting easier reading in general to meet my ambitious, though arbitrary, goal of 52 books per year. In my last summary post, I phrased it quite simply: “I no longer consider book reviews to be a good avenue for advancing my creative ambitions.”
In 2020, I stopped reading books and writing reviews as if it was a religious calling.
I reallocated that time toward my day job, pretty much simultaneously with the COVID-19 pandemic starting in March 2020. I put in extra hours, extra effort, extra focus, and by June I had meaningfully altered my career trajectory. It was this stark, uncomfortable realization. Like–was I just asleep at the wheel for four years? Had I actually been reading books because it became comfortable, and had I become apathetic toward other areas of life?
I continued investing time into more productive hobbies.
By early 2021, largely driven by the explosion in interest in the Helium cryptocurrency, I began earning money from writing. I was making money from affiliate sales made through this blog. I was making money from writing technical articles. I was making money managing teams of writers at a few different companies. I was parlaying each opportunity into more opportunities until I simply ran into a cap on my free time. I was coming off a dreamlike year at my day job. Shockingly, I was paying my living expenses by being a freelance writer.
The extra income, which on one front was investor money being lit on fire, was great! The real satisfaction, though, came from realizing that I had some innate talents and that I had developed skills that magnified those talents. Especially in the realm of content editing, I found myself running circles around those who called themselves professionals. I remember parsing a press release penned by a New York PR firm for one of my clients, being horrified at how bad it was, and then writing a justification two times its length in an attempt to convince the management team that the PR firm was, essentially, scamming those who were not native English speakers.
In some venues I might have been overqualified but I knew that the top tier of writing was not something I was ready for. I continued to hone my craft, while making sure to keep my day job as the main focus.
If you were to check my blog archives for 2022 and 2023, you’d probably say, hey, this guy isn’t much of a writer at all. Not only is the published content a bit sloppy, there are barely any articles to begin with! What happened to those new creative pursuits alluded to in 2020? What happened to writing, period?
All the crypto and alt-investing dumb money dried up. Further, convincing business owners that it’s worth paying a freelance technical writer the same rate as a novice software engineer will always be a difficult proposition. I had no interest in continuously pitching myself just to almost always find myself at odds with existing writing teams. The writing was sufficient, the results couldn’t always been guaranteed. On the other side of the coin, using this blog to continually get out ahead of new technology and investing trends just to profit off affiliate links and other schemes just felt… slimy? I have a technical background and I write pretty well. There will always be something to cash in on, even if I’m only the 15th best writer covering the topic. Going down the path of thinly-veiled salesmanship didn’t interest me at all. If I spent serious time pursuing affiliate blogging, it would detract from the purpose of this blog, and it would always–always–result in lower ROI than if I dedicated the extra time to my day job. With this, I started to crystalize what I felt was my next step as a writer.
After some time, I became convinced that I was good enough to justify writing my first book.
The energy that used to be dedicated to weekend brain dumps on niche topics, page-turning marathons, and contract content production has been refocused toward writing books. In 2023, I wrote more than ever, but only a few people have seen what’s been created. My first book is pretty close to being finished, and I’m certain I’ll publish it in 2024. In the meantime, what is purportedly a portfolio site is not even remotely representative of my last year of output, nor the previous several years of “professional” output. This incongruence bothers me. It has bothered me for a long time.
Something else worth noting is that I started a new job in 2023, and my employer’s compliance department asked that certain posts under an umbrella of questionable topics be entirely hidden and not re-approached as long as I remain employed. I respected this request, and I hid many posts, several of which were in my top 10 for all-time traffic (but, admittedly, were nowhere near my highest quality writing).
The last reason behind this post is that I’ve met a lot of new people since I moved to New York in March 2023. It’s pretty normal these days to try to find someone’s social media profiles after you meet them. Not having any active social media accounts, I’ve become aware that people harbor the tendency to dig just a little deeper. Those digs lead them to this site, them along with somewhere between one and ten thousand organic visitors each month. The ironic thing here is that, even as I shun apps like Instagram and boast about the freedom I have on TJOHEARN.COM, it turns out that it’s significantly harder to establish and maintain a persona on a self-hosted blog than it is on any social media platform.
I accept that this is the most accurate representation of me that most people will ever find. You could spend the next twenty hours clicking through the archives. You’d learn more about this writer than you would about any topic covered. My writing, simply, is the voice inside of my head, and part of intertwining my personality with my writing means that sometimes there are “personal” threads. This type of vulnerability is rare these days and I’ve encountered several cases where I found (usually via absurdly roundabout means, years after the fact) that having a large, though poorly-promoted, body of writing out on the internet worked against me professionally, personally, and even romantically.
Many people find writing essays for fun to be a weird, even sadistic hobby. Anyone who visits this site with the express purpose of confirming that the weird person they met in real life is also weird on the internet will find confirmation. This wasn’t started as an attempt to be likable, it was started as an attempt to write down and connect an audience to the ideas that would otherwise only exist in my head. Back when I used Instagram, I never once wished I could retake or even edit a picture. Yet, almost every time I read my written work, I find I have something new to add or desire to change some phrasing. Innately, I am a serious person, and it’s seldom what I say but is actually the seriousness of my writing that triggers the most adverse reactions.
The plain truth is that this blog and its offshoots had a major impact on my life. I revel in the imperfections here partially because I’m indebted to the twenty-one year old who thought this might have been a good idea. I’ve found so much satisfaction in writing this blog; I’ve found a different type of satisfaction in writing the draft of my first book. Thank you for following along, whoever you are. My hope is that this will not be the last time you’ll read something written by Tim O’Hearn.