I conducted an email interview yesterday with Everett Bogue from Far Beyond the Stars, a blog dedicated to minimalism and location independence (two topics we address in Issue Three). Here are Everett’s generous responses to my questions:
Do you believe freedom is the natural state or a modern privilege?
Freedom is a choice, one that we’ve been brainwashed out of taking by advertising and factory culture. We’re taught to conform, we’re taught to buy until we fill our oversized houses. All people have to do is make the choice to stop consuming and freedom becomes an easily grasped reality.
Did you always have minimalist tendencies or was there a turning point for you?
I’ve always lived with less, but my mininalist journey really went to an extreme last year. I quit my day job with $3000 in the bank and hopped on a plane to Portland, Oregon with everything on my back. I had to learn how to survive in a new city with very little money. I turned to minimalism for the answer, I reduced my possessions to less than 100 things and stopped consuming. This enabled me to launch my online business that now allows me to live and work from anywhere.
If you could loudcast one piece of minimalist advice to the entire western world, what would it be?
You’re working too much because you’re spending too much. So many people create these lives where they work 60 hours a week, and commute huge distances to their jobs. This makes them tired and unhappy, which makes them buy more things, which in turn leads to them having to work harder. This is the endless cycle of consumerism, and it never ends unless you make the decision to opt-out.
Right now I’m working something like 10 hours a week on projects that I care about. When you don’t buy, you don’t need to spend all day hustling. I spent the morning writing some fiction to relax my mind.
To you, what are the most important motivations for minimalist living?
Freedom. So you can work on what you believe in and follow your dreams.
I’ve always had a utopian idea of owning just “two outfits and a laptop”. Too extreme? What would be your ideal lot?
I totally believe that’s doable. I recently reduced my possessions to 50 things as an experiment, and that was too far for me. I don’t like doing laundry so often, and I missed my Moleskin. I’m working my way back up to 75 things slowly, because 50 just wasn’t what I was comfortable with –though it was great for moving to SF Bay in May. Everyone has their limits, I think it’s important to reduce slowly and make sure you aren’t pushing yourself too far.
As a webmaster, what is the most important thing people do when visiting your site? Subscribe to the RSS? Purchase the eBook?
This is complicated! It all depends on who the person is. Only around 10% of the people who visit my site will ever spend money on my work. That’s fine! Only about 20% of the people who ever visit my site will subscribe or even continue reading. That’s fine too! The web is a big place, and not everyone is interested in what I’m writing about. I’d personally rather only people who the work really helps consume it.
Also as a webmaster, how do you attract people to your site and do you have any tips on getting them to stay?
1. Create work that helps people around an incredibly specific topic. Niche is the only way to get attention, a good resource on this is Chris Anderson’s book The Long Tail.
2. Establish relationships with people who have larger followings on the web by helping them spread their content. Twitter is so good for doing this. A good resource on this is Seth Godin’s book Tribes.
3. Keep working, keep refining your message, keep writing what interests you first and foremost. The people will come. My favorite person who teaches how to attract people to your blog is Viperchill. He’s absolutely brilliant, and never will mislead you.
You used to work for New York Magazine. What are your primary memories (likes, dislikes) of working for such media organisations?
Wow, hard question. Working at New York was an honor, and I really learned a lot about blogging from some of the people there – especially in some cases what not to do blogging (write about Lindsay Lohan every day.) I also learned that I really hated sitting at a desk doing the same thing every single day.
Here’s the thing about magazines: they are dying. These jobs get talked up as being extraordinary, because they used to be twenty years ago. The modern magazine writer has to write the same garbage about top-40 celebrities every single week in order to appeal to the largest percentage of the population as possible — so they can continue to get advertising dollars, which still isn’t enough to cover the cost of printing the magazine. This worked when the only way media was distributed was on paper or the TV.
Everything has changed now, we live in a bottom up media society. The people create the work that matters and distribute it digitally (which is free.) The remarkable individuals who realize this are blowing the magazines out of the water. This is why I’m making more money now than I ever did at New York Magazine, and my little niche media channel has only been up and running for 8 or 9 months.
Anything printed on physical media isn’t profitable anymore. The people who stop making things on paper can support themselves easily.
[As the editor of a small-press magazine, I feel obliged to comment here. It is true that magazines have one foot in the grave but this declining industry still has a loyal audience. The fact that it’s declining makes the privilege of working in it even more ‘extraordinary’ than it was twenty years ago. We print out of commitments to quality and craftsmanship. True, New Escapologist is not financially profitable but it’s only our code of conduct that prevents this. We would make money if we were to fill the mag with advertising. If magazines weren’t profitable, GQ, What PC? and The Chap simply wouldn’t exist – Rob]
Now that you’re location-independent, is there anything you miss from the more conventional life or is there no looking back?
I don’t miss it. This really is the future, I just hope I can help more people achieve a location independent life.
Would you like to leave us with a final thought about your personal philosophy?
This is the first time we’ve been able to separate income from location, so yes, it’s a modern development. The hardest part for people to realize is that all they have to do is choose to put their effort in the right places and also stop buying stuff they don’t need. I know, easier said than done.