I don’t think people change much. We change a little over time, but probably not as much nor as easily as we would like. We have our personalities, which our parents see early on, and we seem to carry these personalities right to the grave. That’s not to say our accumulation of knowledge and experiences and relationships aren’t important; it’s just to point out how imperceptible or not at all our core personalities change over the years.
I feel like the same person I was at age fifteen. I’ve gathered more raw knowledge and have seen more of the world and met more people than that kid, but if you put the two of us in a room today, we’d be like clones. Hell, it’s practically like this with me and my dad, and we only share half our genes. So much of who we are is inborn and inherited. My two best friends in the world are Scott and Chris. I’ve known Chris since I was 18, Scott since I was 20. We’ve all had a good 21+ formidable years since then, and these have been the real adult years, when we come into our own. But our conversations haven’t changed, nor have our personalities. Not much.
Some of my ideas have changed over time. I used to think guns were awesome. I grew up with guns, had my own guns since I was ten or eleven, and I’m still a crack shot. But I’m now disgusted by them and those who fetishize them. I’ll be posting something about this soon-ish. I’ve also changed my views on taxation. I used to think a flat income tax made sense, but I think the distribution of wealth has gone too far. Too much money is sitting, uncirculated, clustered at the very top, and this hurts the overall economy. (There are warehouses of art sitting in crates as an investment. This does not create jobs or help fund infrastructure. It’s a silly development in a world of widening income ratios, and there are many more examples like it). I think the top tax bracket should be closer to 80%, not 41%. I also think corporations should be paying a lot more in taxes by simplifying the code. A blog post about this is also coming soon-ish.
I’ve been sharing my views on sensitive topics for a long time. It used to be in a friend’s forum, or in person, or on my blog back before anyone read it. Those views are rarely simple or even consistent, and they’re often wrong. There’s a lot of hypocrisy in my mish-mash of opinions. I’ve been a hippy since high school. I worked in a Ben & Jerry’s, where the income ratio between the lowest scooper (me) and the owners (Ben and Jerry) was capped. I wore my hair long, a goatee, and Grateful Dead t-shirts. I also read Ayn Rand and thought we needed far less government. I volunteered with my church as an atheist. I owned a gun, but felt sick when I shot my first dove, and I never went hunting again. I’m a pacifist who’s good with his fists. I think it’s okay to terminate a pregnancy, but not okay to end the life of a serial killer. I live in nature, have always had a minimal ecological footprint, but I think attempts to preserve nature are foolish, and the idea that we can harm nature is ridiculous. I write science fiction, but I think the future will come slowly and look much like the present. I write dystopias, but I think tomorrow is going to be better than today.
Here’s the thing: I’m going to blog about the things I think with the hopes that I might think about them more deeply and perhaps even change my mind. This blog is mostly for me. It’s a journal that my mom can read (hey Mom). She will often email me after a blog post with something to say. Or my dad will call me to let me know his thoughts. I started this blog not as a published author, but as someone embarking on a journey of writing for fun. I’ve used the blog to advocate for authors, for the LGBT community, to promote other people’s works, and to write about my travels and my life.
The reason for this blog post is that I’ve heard from a few people over the years that success has changed me. Or that my views are no longer valid or shouldn’t be shared now that I’m a public figure. To which I say: bullshit. And I’d like to expound on that. I want to paint as clear a before and after picture as I can. Not just to set the record straight, but hopefully to help inspire those who have similar success or who also face these sorts of accusations. And also to let those who wish to know me to really get to know me. I try to be transparent in life. This is a continuation of that process.
Before I wrote my first novel, I paid cash for the house I lived in. My living expenses at the time were about $800 per month. Total. I owned my vehicle outright. I had long paid off my student loans. My house in North Carolina was 700 square feet. Yearly taxes on this house were roughly $300. My yearly insurance premium was under $400 per year. I made the economic decision not to have children. I had slowly saved up over $25,000 in the bank, which represented over two years of living expenses, which meant I was nowhere near the edge of my means. I’ve always lived WAY below my means.
This is all to say that I haven’t worried about money for a long time. For as long as I can remember, actually. And it hasn’t been because I’ve been rich, but because I haven’t shied away from living poor. I lived on a 27 foot sailboat in college. I had a $50 automobile. I didn’t have a toilet or a shower. I had a pot to piss in (literally). I’ve worked since high school, would only take money from family if I could repay it with labor (at a fair rate, preferably). My dad was legally obligated to pay for my college, but I paid it myself anyway, because it would’ve been harder to ask. Even when I was broke, I would alternate paying for lunch when I met my mom out. I cooked a lot of rice. For lunch, I ate the same PB&J every single day. When I was in the Bahamas, I did odd jobs for older sailors in exchange for food. I’ve never been motivated by money. I’m not motivated by it today. My wealth is all in cash, which is the dumbest thing I can probably do with it, but I’m not interested in seeing how much wealth I can generate. I’ve turned down 7-figure offers for books just to keep the ebook price low and maintain artistic control. I don’t know how to say it more clearly: Money hasn’t changed me. I was an outspoken ass and hypocrite before, and I’m one now.
A few examples, so you can get what my life is like today. I still wear the same clothes I wore before I wrote a book: cargo shorts and t-shirts. I’ve switched from Crocs to flip-flops, but mostly because I was getting small pebbles inside the holes that would then not shake out. My shirts have shifted from the green spectrum to blue, but mostly because Old Navy went that direction. My cargo shorts have gotten a few inches longer, but mostly because shoppers seem to hate their knees being seen? I don’t get it. I long for shorts when they were short. But that’s about how much I’ve changed when it comes to fashion.
I wash my own boat down. I gather my laundry up in a bedsheet, tie the four corners together, and walk it a mile and a half to a laundromat in Jersey City. I eat the same yogurt and fruit breakfast and smoothie lunch every day. The occasional fancy dinner? My ex girlfriend and I used to have the same attitude before I wrote my first book. Rather than go to Chilis once a week, we cooked dinner every day and saved up to go to a really nice meal now and then, like at Boone’s excellent Gamekeeper. We valued experiences more than things. We hiked every day rather than go to the theater, so that we could afford to charter a sailboat for a week in the summer. There were more sacrifices than extravagances. The same is still true. I take the subway, the bus, or I walk. Occasionally, I’ll UberX or Carpool, and it feels like I’ve rented a limo when I do.
Sailing around the world on a sailboat sounds glamorous, but is a lot of hard fucking work. Yesterday, I was pulling apart a toilet and putting it back together. And hotwiring an engine. It’s not an easy life. But it’s an amazing life. I think constant strife is a key to true happiness. I loathe comfort. Or routine. Most of the people who romanticize my life wouldn’t enjoy this life at all. And this is the same kind of life I was living when I was a broke college student. I paid $10,000 for that 27′ sailboat and lived on it for five years. Think about that. Do the math. The truth is, I’d be doing this no matter what, just on a different kind of boat, one that wasn’t as accommodating for friends and family. I was sailing and island hopping nearly two decades before I wrote my first novel. This is who I am. Very little has changed.
I recently wrote in response to an accusation that success has changed me, that my views have not changed, but how I’m viewed has. That’s not entirely true. Of course my views have changed. I’d never want to celebrate the calcification of my opinions. But they’ve moved along a trajectory that they were already on. I’ve grown more tolerant across the course of my life, and I started from a pretty tolerant place. I lost my religion when I was twelve, and I’ve been looking for answers since. Some of the things I’ve changed my mind on are gun control, invasive species, GMOs, and the environmental impact of cities. Just to name a few. But most of these changed before I started writing. I was a lot more opinionated on my blog prior to having any success. The only reason I’ve modulated my outspokenness at all is out of respect for publishing partners. I care about them recouping their advances. But I haven’t clammed up much.
I used to blog a lot about publishing, and those were political and controversial viewpoints as well. My view of self-publishing has become more generally accepted and embraced by others, so the advocacy is no longer as necessary. But anyone who has been reading this blog for the last seven years (god help them) will have read about homosexuality, religion, politics, and discrimination from the beginning. Back when I was unknown. What’s really changed is that when I post something people vehemently disagree with, they often think it has something to do with my writing career. It doesn’t. That’s something going on in their heads, not mine.
Here’s something that not many people reading this will get and most probably won’t fully grasp, but I am still a complete unknown. I know this and truly believe this. Even when I get recognized on the street, or meet fans with tattoos related to my works, I marvel at the unreal and surreal and do not incorporate it into my view of myself. Practically no one has ever heard of me. I’ve made no real contributions to society. I was more useful, as a human being, when I was a roofer. I look at my yachting career as a complete waste of oxygen. I look at my writing career as a weirdly high-paying hobby/passion. When I sit in a restaurant, ordering a burger and a beer, and I watch how hard the staff is working, bustling about, I feel guilty. I tip way too much. I’ve worked in food and beverage, and the knowledge that I’m earning more sitting there than I’m spending troubles me. It doesn’t feel fair. I pay all my taxes, and I give where I can, and it’s still not enough.
In the ways that are truly important, I’m a failure. I failed to make my last relationship last until old age claimed one of us. I’ve failed my parents by not returning that gift to a new generation. I’ve failed my readers by not providing all the sequels they would enjoy. I failed one of my dogs as she died in my lap in a canoe. I failed my other dog by not being with her today, raising her until her last breath. I fail the writing community by not advocating more, reading enough manuscripts, blurbing enough books, and in so many more ways. These are burdens that I feel every single day. There’s very little smugness here. There’s more shame than anything.
So that’s who I am. I’m irresponsibly traveling the world like a vagabond, just as I did straight out of high school (and to some degree did while still in high school). I’m not motivated by money or chasing more of it; rather, I’m walking away from the pace of output that brought me riches and could bring a whole lot more. I’ve given away most of what I’ve owned, setting it on the side of the road, or donating it, or sending it off to readers for a nominal fee, or leaving it with my ex. My sailboat has operated like a floating hostel, with friends, family, and strangers coming and going and taking bedrooms as their own for extended periods of time. I feel like I’m getting dumber every day (degeneratively dumber, not “I’m getting so wise because I know how little I know.” I mean, truly dumber). I feel like I have almost nothing to contribute either intellectually or creatively. I reluctantly blog, worried that someone might actually read what I write. I barely social media, other than occasional bursts on Facebook. I plan on doing even less and less as time goes on.
So for those who think success has changed me, this pacifist with a sailor’s salty mouth says: Fuck You. Which is exactly what I would’ve told you had you been rude to me before I wrote my first book. I’m generally a nice guy, and kind to strangers, and more prone to hug someone than argue with them. But seriously, if you think I can’t share my views because I wrote some stupid books, or you think I have an attitude borne of acquiring wealth, fuck you. I’ve always hated assholes like you. I’m pretty sure I always will.
P.S. Hey Mom, love you. Hate I missed the dinner party last night.
90 replies to “Who I Am”
Omg.. I would love to post some eloquent response but instead i’m balling like a baby! Seriously, what a fabulous post. (Curling up in the detal position now)
Epic. And real.
Hugh… I absolutely love your blog. Yours is the only one I don’t shy away from because of the length. I connect with you on so many levels and totally not on other, but not many. I’m publishing my first book in September and I’m hoping to make lots of money from it. Please read it & blurb me…that would help a stranger, lol! But seriously… I want to enjoy the riches & explore (for real, not Google) the places I write about. But most importantly… I want the power (cash) to make a difference in animals lives. My biggest beef is Animal Kill shelters. I find the idea of ending an innocent animals life just because it is merely inconvenient to humans sickens me.. I don’t see how anyone cannot be outraged about it. Just think about it. Animals, like the rest of us, just want to survive. They aren’t malicious or ill-intended like people can be. They’re beautiful, loving creatures.. Okay…rant over. Again, I love you blog..and I loved Wool, too.
I will remember your name, and look forward to your book in September. You sound like my kind of people!
Thank you, Elaine!
Love it! As you said, you Blog mostly for yourself, so this is more like an affirmation of who you are in relation to your own vision. It’s nice to remember, or reaffirm, that you are living to please yourself and find your own bliss and happiness within. I really enjoyed reading this, though, so thanks!
Hugh, I genuinely appreciate your openness and honesty. I’ve been following your work for years and I know you haven’t changed in that time. I truly enjoy your work and your example of how to make life the fullest it can be. I may not always agree with your opinion, but I respect the hell out of it, and you. Keep fighting the good fight, and doing the good work.
You rock. Don’t change except to get even more of what you are.
Thanks Hugh! That’s one of the best writer’s biographies I have ever read. Really honest and “aggressively humble” – “like a complete unknown” from Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone”. I could criticize your sailing away from reality, but I do exactly the same – when my “solitude” which I often regretted, became my tool for truly being who I am. I like to write, and get out of my way, because I won’t be distracted. And too bad if you don’t like what I write. Playing favorites and “people- pleasing” isn’t me. Am I failing when I’m not sociable? Philosophically, I sort of notice some anti-social tendencies on my part, I dream of being acceptable to 8 billion people – ha ha. I have a “god” in my life, but I’m asking lately if he/she/it could send me a fax because I’m tired of trying to figure out what God wants me to do. But, yes, even the hard parts ARE part of the privilege of being you and me – here and now. Thanks again.
Nice post, Hugh. I agree with a lot of what you say, and my family also lives below our means, although not to the degree that you do. (My husband will sometimes claim that “We’re too poor” to afford something, and I admit I get annoyed because we are not poor. At all. We just don’t spend our money on expensive things, which is different.)
I’m not so sure your “constant strife” idea works for me, but I do agree we all need to be pushed beyond our comfort levels in many ways. I also don’t know the circumstances of your divorce, but I don’t think a divorce is necessarily a failure. Did you become a different and better person in some ways? Sometimes, separation helps us learn the things we need to learn.
Thanks for this post, because some of your comments lately have come off as very negative and snide, and honestly, I’ve been feeling like maybe I should unfollow because I don’t need any more negativity in my life or the world. However, social media can be interpreted in different ways.
Cheer up, dude:) I didn’t know you before you wrote your books, but this blog and your books have had a positive impact on my life, far more so than if you were roofing. Sorry people are being haters and jealous. Fuck ’em. Dealing with selective fame within the writing community sounds like a good subject for a new Wayfinding book…
I agree with so much of what you said, except that stuff about you not doing anything of value or whatever. I can’t imagine how many authors you’ve inspired, and still continue to inspire to put their work out there. I’m just one of them. You’ve given me courage to chase my dreams, I couldn’t pay you how much I think that is worth. Maybe your list of failures is wrong, but honestly you can’t do it all, no one can. There just isn’t enough time in the day, or enough years to live. I bet your list of successes far out number that list of failures. How many people do you think you have given a voice? Or courage to speak up about what ails them? There is nothing wrong with living a life that makes you happy. Fuck those people that make you think it is.
I read this and one thing stuck in my mind more than anything else. How did you find a $50 car?
You haven’t seemed to have changed much to me, Hugh. And, I don’t know if I ever said thank you for all the encouragement you gave me on my first book, but I say thanks now.
Indeed, we all change, just not the way others think we do. I for one am happy that you are doing great money-wise, because that means you can focus on writing (if you want, of course). Our identities are always a struggle, aren’t they – i wrote this little thing on the same topic but maybe from a slightly different angle:
P.S. Any hopes for Molly Fyde? I miss traveling with her!
Well said, Hugh.
Its refreshing to hear from someone who who kind of has himself figured out. I see too many these days that, while they are we would consider grown, still more worried about others opinions than what they themselves are or are becoming.
I won’t pretend to have something to add other than to say explore this word: Fiduciary. (It makes helping others a bit easier.) :)
Safe journey, R
I definitely can tell you have not changed a bit Hugh. I still remember that first boat and playing video games with you. I also had one of the best times in the Bahammas with you and the family. Great to see you are doing well and enjoying life. I feel like you got that part down since I first met you. Cheers
That was fun to read. Thanks.
Touché, man. We should all endeavor to do the same, and in the same spirit. I think if we were all less inhibited and refrained from lying to ourselves about what we “need” to do or “should” do (usually entirely based on other people’s/society’s expectations), and instead pursued what mattered to us and spoke freely and openly about our opinions, the world would be a much happier place. And at the very least, much more transparent. Sure, there’d still be assholes because for them speaking freely would bring about inciting rhetoric, but, hey, that’s debate. That’s dialogue. And everyone is entitled to their opinions, so long as they do not try to force their will on others.
But, yeah. Sing it, Hugh.
Just a comment to say I read this. Good luck in your continued journey. Don’t let the existential dread set in. Lately I’ve been feeling like I made a very wrong decision sonewhere– life is so not what I had in mind. But it’s a good life. I’ve failed a ton. But done well in other areas. I want to be a beloved writer one day but have yet to, you know, actually write. That’s always been my goal but now I don’t really remember why… Anyway, thanks for sharing!
Out of all the typos my phone catches, it didn’t catch “sonewhere.” Sigh.
Whether you realize it or not, you’re important to people. Maybe not every person, but a lot. Don’t underestimate your worth just being yourself, even if you don’t feel you contribute enough. I almost died recently, and the reality of that has yet to set in because I simply fell ill (oops, it wasn’t the flu) and awoke in the hospital wondering how I got there. It was everyone else who was worried about me, people who wanted to keep me in their lives, people who for whatever reason think me being around somehow enriches their own existence. I could have never woken up and never had a regret because I never saw it coming, and while I don’t think of myself as particularly important, others do. If you feel the need to contribute more to society, do so, but never sell yourself short when it comes to how others value you. Those connections are what I believe life is all about, and you can never have too many of them. Hang in there; you are loved more than you know.
WARNING– my opinion follows, and I could be (am?) totally wrong.
Hugh, of course your success has changed you. Just as someone else failures changes them. Life changes all of us. I think what is most difficult for fans, is that “unknown” Hugh was someone who was able to dialogue with fans via comments/email/etc to discuss controversial issues. Now, it would be totally unfeasible for “successful” Hugh to be that accessible. This matters, because if unknown Hugh tosses out a controversial view on a topic, fans could engage and discuss the subject in a dialogue as equals. When successful Hugh does the same thing, it becomes a proclamation of truth that fans have to hear/accept without a real opportunity to engage. I think fans can struggle with being on the “other side” of the topic– there is nothing worse than feeling that your favorite writer/actor/artist who you LOVE has contempt for you/doesn’t respect you because of your religious or political leanings (PLEASE DON”T MISUNDERSTAND–I am not saying you don’t love/respect your fans, I am speaking more generally of the feeling people can have/interpret).
I am working this over in my mind as I write this, so it is a bit of a ramble. What I am trying to say is that while you have not changed anymore than the next person, your changed circumstances created a new relationship with your fans which affects how people view you (for better for worse).
First, (((hugs))). I spoke to you through a common writers’ forum before success hit, and you were gracious enough to meet Todd and I while we were vacationing on the other coast. Wool was just taking off, and you had signed a movie option at the same time I had for my first book.
Your “dream” then, you told us, was to get back to sailing so you could see the world, and meet the people who were living all those different lives half a world away, a quarter world away, or just around the corner.
I marveled at our similarities, and at our differences. Both debt free, living frugal lives, not giving a fig about money, but about experiences. I, however, believe life begins before birth and those innocents (as a former fetus) deserve a life , but I am okay with putting serial killers to death, but I digress.
I think a key factor you’ve left out that makes you tick, is: you feel people matter. All people. All equal. All deserving of being noticed. Afraid, if you don’t notice them, you’ve let them down.
Your core is caring. God bless you for that.
Having had that conversation with you a few years ago, I felt sorrow for you both when your relationship didn’t last, but also felt joy that you were able to pursue your dream of getting back to sailing and having the experiences, and meeting the people you might have missed.
Jealous people who don’t know you might think “riches” have changed you, but they never really knew where your heart was anchored in the first place.
Enjoy your journey, it’s much too short for most of us.
I don’t disagree with you often, Hugh, but I must with your statement that you’ve made “no real contributions to society.” Society is the world at large and the people in it, sure. And your society is the people you meet every day and change their lives by making them feel important with a smile, a word, a large tip :), a shared meal, or the many other ways you show kindness and humanity every day. Those things aren’t small. Neither is the way your writing illustrates the values that help define you for your readers. And what we take on board from reading what you’ve written we can put into practice in our lives and move the ripples ever outward. That’s not small either.
Love everything about this Hugh. Own that shit. F Them.
We miss you in the mountains.
Stay you, Hugh. And, yeah, they can go fuck themselves…lol
I am a regular follower on FB, and your posts put a little spark in my day. The reason is that I enjoy seeing that you just do what you do, living your life on your terms, regardless of what others think, generally. And I think many of us would love to do the same thing but haven’t figured out how. You’re real and courageous to put yourself out there and so worthy of admiration, even though you may not think you are. Aside from us sharing similar social beliefs, we share just being good people. So I’ll continue to follow and believe in the person you are and have always been, and read every one of your books because they’re pretty cool too. I wish you continued life success and adventures.
I can tell this was an emotional post. Bravo for having the courage to write it. With regard to failing . . . we all fail, by that measure. So, at the very least, understand that you’re not alone with that shame. I don’t read your books and follow you on social media because I think we’d agree on everything like politics, religion, etc. I read your books because they’re fucking good, and they’re good because (I expect) they come from a place thick with emotion, just like this post. We’re not close personal friends, so very little you say could ever really affect me on a personal level (except maybe “I’m giving up writing forever”) I expect the reverse is also true: do you really care what someone who enjoys your book thinks about gun control? I don’t expect you would. How could you, possible? Your opinions are yours. Share them as you see fit. You know when you’re liable to offend people, and I’m sure you weigh that potential outrage from a few against whatever desire is compelling you to put your opinion out there. People will react as they see fit. Which, for some of us, means not reacting at all. Assholes will react like assholes. Whatever. You keep on being you.
I feel hugely motivated by this to write my own “Who I am”. I’ve been thinking about it a while, but your leadership counts.
I’ve met you (Cape Town bookstore), have read some of your books and have followed your life story. I’m so proud you are sailing a South African built yacht. In a strange sense I see a lot of me, when I was 40 (am 51 now), in you and that makes me feel closer. I got dumped by the love my life, experienced outrageous success in the sale of my software in Silicon Valley, buffed up like never before and felt sexy without my shirt on … and a decade later and still single … now all I care I about is Earth and “her” life. I hope that transition is still ahead of you.
“I live in nature, have always had a minimal ecological footprint, but I think attempts to preserve nature are foolish, and the idea that we can harm nature is ridiculous.”
I’d love to try change your mind on this .. your celebrity could help make a difference. So I challenge you to sail through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and say after that “attempts to preserve nature are foolish”.
Earth isn’t fair, but we could make it more fairy, with your help.
Yes! Thanks for being you and sharing with us. Your lack of ego is inspiring. Keep at it. Kevin
Youre a kick ass dude who is incredibly generous with your time. Can’t thank you enough for your inspiration and help.
Keep writing your daydreams and nightmares in your books and ill keep reading them.
Im hoping I can steal another hour or two of your tine one day to get your eyes back on my work.
Always loved your quick wit, your impatience with bullshit, and your immense capacity for kindness and generosity (despite the occasional explosion of curmudgeonly glory). You do Hugh Howey better than anyone else I know. <3
Wow. Talk about transparency. I’m impressed. Hold a berth for me on my next visit. I’ll trade for it.
I fell in love with your books from Wool on. I’ve enjoyed watching, from afar, your adventures traveling the world occasionally dipping in with a comment on Facebook. I was excited to see that you enjoyed your recent trip to my “back yard” in Banff.
Today, reading this, I feel honored to know just that little bit more about someone I think sets an example for the rest of us. Today, I’m inspired to reconnect with my own dreams.
Point well taken, bases all covered. Your success is worthy praise, and your failures most likely mirror ours.
D. Owen Powell, or Dave to most
I met you in BEA in NYC, along with a couple of other self-pub superstars, and the thing that impressed me the most about all of you was the fact that you all felt like regular people. Even your bio photos were casual, not posed like some other authors, and that gives me a sense of how you are. I do believe there are people who do change when they come into money. Since they change, they probably think everyone else changes too, probably to exonerate themselves of the crime. It’s the herd mentality.
The best folks are those who you can’t tell if they are “well off”. They don’t wear their money on their sleeve, or act superior to others, or talk about promotions, expensive shoes, exotic cars, bonuses, or in any way speak of money. They talk about their families, their adventures, their trials and tribulations, or the funny thing that happened in the grocery store where they bought their own groceries. Self-deprecating humor is a solid indicator of these great people, as if they are alleviating the guilt of their personal successes in a world where people are getting run over by trucks for simply going to the beach. You can be proud of your success without behaving like an ass.
Those folks who talk about money often, those are the folks who would change with money. Those are the folks I steer clear from, if I can. Those are the folks pointing fingers.
People don’t change, but they do evolve. We are the same at our cores, but, as you say, your opinions and attitudes about things grow and evolve over time as you gain information and insight about the world.
Don’t carry guilt, Hugh. It’s an albatross you don’t need or deserve. You’ve done more for those around you than most and no one can argue that. Know that your voice, leadership, and activism is appreciated by a great many people and always will be. Thank you.
Hugh Howey knows who he is, how he wants to live and what he wants to say- and he’s not afraid to do any of it. I love it. Just glad he’s one of the good guys!
I truly love this post. This may sound ridiculous, but your words moved me enough that I got a little choked up toward the end when you talked about what kind of person you are. No one is going to like every post a blogger will make. There were times when you were docked in South Africa or on your voyage back to the states when I would occassionally get bored with your food posts. Did I say anything? No. Because I thought, “Hugh is genuinely excited and in awe of his life and wants to share it. Why would i want to spoil that because I want more from his posts. That’s not his job. ” So whenever I would read a comment from a reader saying that money or fame changed you because they suddenly didn’t agree with your political or social opinions, I had a feeling it was really because they were envious and displaced those feelings onto a person who they felt was no longer their equal. And if that is the case, then they were never equal to you to begin with, because asshole does not equal Hugh. Just keep doing you.
And maybe treat us to a sequel to Sand sometime down the line. ;)
Heh heh. Nicely said, Hugh.
It’s always weird to me that people successful in the arts aren’t supposed to have opinions outside of their career field. I’ve seen this not only with you, but other authors and artists I follow via social media. As though you’re only supposed to opine in your creative bubble.
Authors are some of the most opinionated people I know. Most keep their opinions low-key, because of all the reasons you’ve listed. Doesn’t mean we don’t have them.
I’m fine when one of my creative heroes shares an opinion I disagree with. That’s one of our basic rights, to have and speak differing thoughts. (I still love playing Pokémon Go, however.)
There’s more to those who create than just the work. Just because we create doesn’t mean we have to be silent on the state of the world.
Hugh, I met you once at the Tampa comic-con, and I really don’t know how anyone who read your books or met you (even for a few seconds!) could say that wealth changed you, or that you are now super-duper famous and divorced from all reality.
I follow you on facebook, although we aren’t friends, and I always find your posts insightful in some way, even if they’re just pictures of your travels.
I do have to disagree with one thing, I will never believe that writing books provides no service to humanity. That is absolutely not true.
Let me start by saying I don’t know who you are other than I read the Wool series (loved it) and checked out your blog (starting reading it because you had some inspiring posts for authors and continued to read it because I agree with your politics). So I can’t comment on the pre-wool days. But I can say the post-wool person is awesome and an inspiration.
Also, this post reminds me of a documentary by the guy that directed a lot of the Jim Carrey movies (Ave Ventura and so forth). Some of it was silly (seriously, like making ooze happy or something) and preachy, but there was this part where he talks about why he decided to move from his mansion to a trailer park. It’s called “I Am”. Check it out.
How was Gamekeeper? I never had a chance to try it while I lived there. I think the fanciest place I went was Tupelos (or Hob Knob Farm Cafe). Can’t remember which one changed into the other.
I really like this post. Those same thoughts have been in my head recently too. About whether we change or not. I think that no matter how much life experience we have, like you mentioned, we only really change slightly. Maybe we become more conscious of the words we use, our stances on things, how we react to situations, but our characters don’t really change. But that’s a good thing. We have the ability to become better versions of ourselves,. If someone allows power or money, or fame even to go to their heads, I don’t think it’s the situation or the money/power, I think it’s the PERSON themselves who were always like that, but placed into a position like that it became exposed. Like violence. It’s always been around, but now we see it more because of social media, news, TV. Or how people say “social media destroyed our marriage.” Could also be reality TV. The bottom line is that there was always problems. A situation exposed it, but at the heart, it was always that way.
I, for one, haven’t been following you more than a two or three years I think, but I am glad you’re going to write about so much more. One is because I like to read these blogs, but also because I think it’s important for you, as well as those who read. I have been inspired to blog daily thanks to Dean Wesley Smith’s blog (and his wife, Kris) but I have the thoughts you have about it. Nobody cares, I don’t really enjoy exposing myself that much, and I at times really don’t think it matters if I do. I could go on, but maybe it’s just a personality trait of a writer too, haha. Either way, I support that decision and really hope that no matter what, you do continue to blog. At the very least, you help to inspire people however that may be. To hear a similar situation you’ve been through that they are going through now. To inspire writers who are thinking of starting out, and see how much joy it can bring a person, or even just to get it out of yourself since we all know how cathartic writing is.
Despite your conflicted feelings about financial markets, the modern economy and your bank account, you should consider giving that money a little attention. You may not be worried about accumulating a fortune or managing it, but that definitely makes you a better candidate to have money than many of the people who do.
Modern economies and the markets that go with them are part of a system that creates the stability that has made living in the 21st Century less ugly than any other. The world is unfair, but it always has been, and there will continue to be a struggle between those who want to promulgate the unfairness that is currently benefiting them and those who want to promote their own new form of unfairness that may be a step forward or a step back.
Engaging in market systems is an intellectual burden, but is also a worthwhile learning experience. Leaving your money in the bank is nowhere near the worst thing you could do, though. Investing involves greater risks, especially if you’re too aggressive or otherwise negligent. There is also a very strong push for yield right now due to central banks competing with investors for fixed income assets. Investors are discounting risk beyond a point that is rational, so this isn’t a great entry point to investing.
You should still look into investing. Owning something could engage you with market systems in a way that will give you more diverse thoughts to put into your writing. It might also might lead to you having more wealth down the road when you see something that needs fixing and you have the means to do so. You know you won’t be acting the fool like most people with wealth, so there is no reason for you to be bothered by having it.
“We spend our whole lives being born”—Derek Anderson
I pity those that mistake growth for “success changing you,” as their small, narrow minds are static and a tragic waste.
Thank you for your honesty. Most of us write fiction because it’s preferable to delving too deeply into the truth. This blog is why you’re also successful with fiction: you can convey emotions with words. I feel like you’re being very hard on yourself but I understand it at the same time, too.
I think some people will think you’re trying to explain yourself when you’re not. No one has to explain themselves to other people and I couldn’t even if I tried. I envy how much you know yourself but wonder if you can see an accurate reflection in other’s eyes. We work so that we can live and for people who live to work there seems to be no difference.
When your work also makes you successful that doesn’t mean that the mind which did the work must have changed. Well, I don’t think so. You do stay the same but things can become easier or harder depending on how you feel about it.
If you feel it’s only luck which governs success you’ll have a harder time allowing yourself to have it: success. Which is odd because the truly lucky never question their success or think it needs justifying. To be successful now the way you are when the world is your editor means that it’s not luck at all, but talent. The same way you made me feel something here is how your work made you successful. But, to feel that you have to accept your talent and that you didn’t fall into it and are the exact same person you were. You were a thoughtful introspective person before you wrote a book and that doesn’t change with the book.
The book touched a nerve with readers and then came the money. And while I agree that money doesn’t matter that much or make you happy or solve all your problems–it does have one value in a capitalistic society: it’s the measure of your work and not you. You aren’t the books so the books add no value to you. Other people value the books and by buying them they value you by proxy. Because the money is just the literal product of your work and not you as a person, it means nothing about you except that you can buy a bigger boat. It does mean something to others who see just money and not the fact that all money is merely a symbolism of what we do and not who we are.
People who value only money can’t value you whether you have it or not. But, they will use it in envious ways to justify their work which maybe isn’t so appealing. You’re right–the money didn’t change you rather you changed the money.
It’s important to you to remember when the lack of money didn’t define you. Well the having of money doesn’t define you either. You don’t see it as security or something to grow or a way to manipulate others so what does that leave when it comes to money?
It leaves only the money as a form of appreciation for your work. If you spent ten hours digging a hole–you’d have the hole. It’s yours and you deserve it not because you dug the hole but because you thought of digging the hole. The money is because you thought of the books and not because of the books. There is a difference. It’s the difference between knowing you deserve the fruit of your labors and thus deserve a huge wonderful boat or fill the hole back up, pat the dirt down and pretend to yourself that there was never a hole to begin with. No one can allow you what you can’t allow yourself. And that’s the way I think you’ve changed. You allowed yourself to have no money but you don’t allow yourself to have it. I call it having a governor on your own ability to appreciate yourself the way others do. Sorta the exact opposite of narcissism and why you do convey emotions with words. The words are the money and the money is the words. They’re both yours and to deny one is to deny the other.
I’m not a 7-year blog vet, but came aboard in 2012 just as “Wool 2” was just hitting the Amazon Kindle shelves. The nice thing at the old blog site was your archives went all the way back to day 1. On more than one occasion, I rummaged about those posts to read your ramblings.
So for those who were never lucky enough to read those strange, funny, stupid, wonderful posts – Hugh is the same inconsistent loon today that he was then!
Love you, Sir!
You’re a brave man, Hugh. It takes resolve and confidence to be yourself and not change or bend your personality for the sake of appeasing others.
Great post. I also really enjoyed your QA you did on Twitter last week at #booktrackchat. I intellectually know that you’re just a regular Joe, like “the rest of us,” but it’s hard to remember that when I look up to you as someone to aspire to (you’re like the indie version of Stephen King for me. Someone’s who’s a great writer, and has achieved great success without losing who they are), so it was nice to see that you have the same fears that me and my writing buddies have, and even better to hear how you push through them. But again, great post, keep fighting the good fight, one word and one wave at a time.
Fair enough. Have a great day mate.
This is why your blog is fun to read. Other blogs have it so the reality of the blogger’s life isn’t being portrayed, not by a long shot. My partner has a regular blog and I think he does a pretty good job of relating his true personality. Today I saw a preview of the movie, The Lobster. What a kick! You might appreciate the humor.
I think anyone who says that you’ve changed has it backwards. Success hasn’t changed you… you’ve changed the meaning of success.
You’ve shown people how to follow their dreams. Writers can be very isolated and cut off from each other, working in our own little worlds, but you brought people together and gave people courage to follow their path. You even went to Washington and stood up for Indie writers.
When I first got on the web to research Indie publishing, I found your blog. I’d come from a publishing background and was discouraged by what I’d seen. What you wrote empowered me. I have many of your posts book marked to re-read at critical moments when I need a boost. Now I’m about to release a book.
You’ve been a source of inspiration and a light in the dark, Hugh Howey, never doubt it.
I am in love with your honestly and how your true self comes out even in your writting. Although I dont agree with all your views I appreciate how you hold no bars back. Thanks for this post, for it really explains a lot about how you write and the voices of your characters. You are a wayfinder true and true, may your sails always have wind and your rudders point you in the right direction.
I appreciate your honesty in expressing yourself. You sound like a decent human being. I recently read “Wool.” What you wrote about yourself will no doubt increase my satisfaction in reading the rest of the “Silo” series. Thank you.
I really needed to read something like this right now. Thank you. And happy sailings.
Amazing! I was saddened at the end to read of your shame bit if that feeling of inadequate contribution drives the person you are, it is beautiful! Thank you for sharing your adventure.
That’s a beautiful blog post, Hugh!
Hey, you do not know me and I am looking for nothing. Just a fan that was on his way to polishing up an exciting blog post titled, ready for this? – ‘Kaggle – Grupo Bimbo Preparing The Data’. Then I ran into your ‘Who am I’ post and felt that I should write this instead. Please do not find offense in this; I may just be trying, and failing, to be funny. I am sure happy you do not write angry books. Sorry if you’re angry now. If so, can you turn this around? We are all self-motivated but you already know this.
I’m a year older than you and have ‘the other life’. Wife 2 amazing kids and even a dog… Anyways, we all walk our paths with high and lows. I like to run and I think it makes for nice parallel to life. ‘When you can, run’, I tell myself. Always show up for the run come rain or shine. Keep kicking ass in life when people praise or otherwise. I’ve been at receiving end of what people say and I’ve felt that it can hurt way after the dimwit has forgotten the damage done. Often times, they don’t even realize the effect. I like your refusal to be affected; way to go.
I’ve been reading your books since Wool, Part 1 and have kept up fairly well with your writing. I am kind of a software stats person so your publishing posts and insight I find fascinating. I remember you were in Orlando, Altamonte Springs I think, and twitted about meet that night. I regretted not going after long day at work. Anyways, when you can, life to the fullest (please write too). Know you are part of, perhaps, a silent majority of good people who put up a good fight day after day and move the world. You say insignificant at one point but I disagree. After you write a book, I think the book works for you, on your behalf, way after you move on. In this way, many of your writings inspire, encourage and entertain lots of people. You just have to show up… like me to my run tomorrow.
I wish you keep kicking ass Mr Howey,
Hey duder. As Hunter S. Thompson put it: “Buy the ticket. Take the ride.” He also said, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” I’m a reader of your fiction and your blog because why not put yourself out there? I’m a fan of authenticity – from the music of Los Lobos to Canter’s Deli in LA. You’re authentic. It’s gonna piss some people off. So it goes, right?
I think that people change all the time. (That’s not a bad thing) But I also think that when other’s say money has changed someone, it’s usually because they never knew that person. They never “really” knew them anyway. I can honestly say there are only a handful of people in my life that “really” know me. And that’s a good thing. You’re right to say fuck those guys. They don’t want to know you, they want to criticize you.
I think you are brave for saying your views on the most controversial issues in the world, not that I share the same views, but I think it’s all important that we lift our voices. Especially about what’s important. So cheers to you for living the way you want, saying what you feel… and fuck the nay sayers.
One of my main conditions of respect of another human is that they are intelligent enough to realize the expanding breath of their own ignorance every day they get older. Wisdom is partly realizing that we don’t know what we may never know, and we may never love what we want and deserve. The truth remains: we are victims of genetics and hard-wired presuppositions, and they are often not liberal in their gifts to our ability to see the spectrum of life.
I only met you once and very briefly (Worldcon in Chicago, some panel, and I only vaguely knew who you were) but you left me the impression of the most regular dude at the con. You remain an everyman, and if anything, it seems like your successes have given you the luxury of being that to the fullest.
So as a guy who doesn’t really know you, it looks from the outside that you’re as much you as you’ve ever been.
I hear everything you’re saying. I’m compelled to tell you that you certainly have contributed to society. WOOL was hands down the best surprise from an airport bookstore I have ever gotten. And it was your debut! That was and is immensely inspiring to me as a writer.
I’m part of society, which makes your effect on me count. So there! Thank you for what you’ve already done – even if you never do another thing. Now go do you!
I admire both your courage and your articulateness,
Are you moderating comments? I left one on the TED talk page that hasn’t shown up – that you might be interested in.
Hi Hugh – I totally appreciate your candor and honesty and I too feel like I’m the same person now nearing 48yrs old at the core as I was at age 15 and I can only imagine the pressure that success and social media has put on you. I don’t think you have changed from your success and I’m one of the crazy lurkers who have followed your blogs and appreciated all of your works over at least the last five years. I think it’s awesome and inspiring that you have shown so many how to live a life with less and it’s not an issue of having less but making decisions to be happy with your life period. I love your literary imagination and keep posting blogs about what you care about and fuck being politically correct and speak your mind about what you care and feel. The world is a better place for it. Can’t wait for the Silo TV series or movie. Cheers !
Thanks for another candid post Hugh. It’s been a pleasure to peruse your thoughts and get to know you better through this blog. Looking forward to the upcoming posts you hinted at. My views on those topics have been transforming substantially of late. Take care until then.
Hugh, keep changing along that trajectory. Because not changing at all would be terrible.
Reading this post had me in tears. This world needs more hypocrits like you. (And I’m with you on many, many of the things you mentioned.) I’ll definitely keep reading your blog. Looking forward to the posts you promised. They are always making me think. And they might keep you from getting dumber. ;)
Thank you for being YOU.
Failure is just an opportunity to begin again more intelligently, right? Besides, only a patriarchal society expects relationships to last until death. We move in and out of people’s lives for as long as we’re needed. Go easy on yourself.
By not having kids you’ve allowed your parents to spend more time with you.
By not writing new books you allow your readers to reread their favorites or find new, undiscovered artists.
By not being so active in the writing community, you open space for other voices.
*raises glass to the rest of it*
Hugh, I appreciate your honesty. It’s refreshing.
It’s this honesty that makes you such a pleasure to read. On this blog and in your stories.
You are human. You capture this in your writing. You share it with the world. You struggle everyday and rather than hiding behind a veneer of bullshit, you throw it all out there. You articulate things most of us stumble through.
It’s admirable, and I appreciate it so much. You inspire people to be authentic. You inspire people to roll with the punches without letting their passion deflate.
Thanks for all you do. You inspire people to be their best.
I’ve been reading your Wayfinding series, and through your work I’m able to have conversations via your books that I can’t have with anyone else.
I first became aware of you thru your books that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Later I began following you in the Cruisers Forum as you talked about your new boat and why you made the choices you did, I very much agreed with your opinion about why you wanted certain features and worked so hard to get them incorporated (By the way, there are quite a few of us that STILL want to know if you like the choices you made). It was many months later that I realized you were the same person.
I now follow your Blog primarily because many (most) of the things you say ring true to me. In our busy lives its great to know that there are others out there who feel the same way. I find that I am most drawn to people who are very open minded and NOT afraid to look at the many possible perspectives of most things. Sometime I feel very guilty when I can’t form a concrete opinion about something and I keep changing my mind how I actually feel.
The older I get the less certain I am about most issues, and I put a lot of effort into understanding the actual facts even as they are incredibly difficult to find.
I guess the real point here, is that you very clearly make many of us feel better about ourselves knowing that someone out there has similar feelings. These feelings are VERY RARELY seen or heard anywhere else. That is a very real contribution and I thank you for it.
I’ve been following you since 2010. Loved the first short you released and have gobbled everything up as it was published. Heck… There’s even a character in Shift named after me by winning a Facebook contest. You’ve always been very giving of your time to people you hardly know. Take your time…bum around the world. You only get to do this life thing once. I’ve been following you since almost day one… And i haven’t noticed any wild changes. If others think so… Who cares. Anyway… Peace.
I like you a lot from reading this and have always considered you very generous in your sharing of data, knowledge and methods to other artists. When you read the self serving narcissistic bullshit that comes out of ‘really successful writers’ who are deemed by the establishment to be ‘important’ you have to ask the question ‘do I really want to do this and end up a douche?’ That never happens when I see your interaction with your work or people or the writing community. I appreciate your sharing the struggle of just being a human being trying to have authentic relations with those around you and your honesty.. Because the human condition and the popular narrative are against us. I see people say hateful things to you on the FB and the blog and it’s a response to a deep need to find someone to blame for insecurity about their life or work. I always said when I worked with scientists in mass communications whenever they were successful or had a profound discovery “You’re just a bigger target.” Unfortunately, they were like you dismayed by the level of malevolence that success engenders and they were really good people like yourself who just liked to discover things. I appreciate that you take us on your journey.
Dear Mr. Howey,
I respectfully disagree.
Success has changed you. Wealth has changed you. The banana you ate—has changed you. I am not judging if the changes are good are bad (I do not know), but you have changed. We all have.
Perhaps you feel the same, but this is an illusion of perception. It is myth. Personality, as a product of environment, is fickle. I recently learned a lot about this from the Invisibilia podcast, The Personality Myth.
If you truly have not changed much, then you are blessed (or cursed) with a stable, near constant environment.
Because even if you eat the same every day, repeating the routine, you will change. You talk of sailing the world, new experiences—life changing experiences I would imagine. I would hope. And you read? A good story will change you.
But what if you live in a cave, alone, not reading, not observing the world, not thinking, in some sort of self induced cationic state? Perhaps, you will change less, but you will still change. Change is inevitable.
Humans change. The world changes. The stars are changing. Nothing stays the same. Not even our understanding of ‘stay the same’, stays the same. Even change itself is not a constant.
The cells in your body are replacing themselves as you read this. In a matter of months you will have an entirely new body. Ah, but my body is not me, you say, and true many cells in your mind may live on, but not the same: the atoms that make up your neurons are changing. Memories change (I wish this wasn’t true, but it is).
I suppose one could argue that by the end of life one’s personality has solidified, at least as their cadaver decays, they can no longer change who they are. But what then do we consider as the immortal personality? Oscar Wilde converted to Catholicism in his last days of illness. Even Charles Darwin suffered a deathbed conversion. So then a month before death: that is who they were. Or the year before? Or what? For now we are talking about our perception of a person, which can so easily change.
How much of not changing, I wonder, is projection, of our own expectations, and what we want others to see in us?
Great post! Who cares what people think anyway. I’ll be 44 this year, and I think I’ve finally reached that point where it’s pretty easy to say “fuck you” . . . especially to people who are ignorant and mean.
You have never failed in your life!!! You are a true success story because you live in gratitude every day. All of your supposed failures taught you how to succeed. Money is not success. Fame is not success. Happiness and gratitude are success. I was incensed when some bozo called you Mr. wealthy mcboat face (or something of that nature) in a past blog. To hell with the naysayers. You’re on the right track. And whether you know it or not, you have found your religion. Real spirituality. Formalized religion is crap and the heart of all wars for wealth. Yours is the true religion. You deserve all the success in the world. You have brought unmitigated joy to the rest of us. That is your contribution. And the way you live your life, both before and after publishing your novels, speaks volumes.
I remember you working at Ben & Jerry’s and riding me around in your convertible in the freezing cold with the heat on full blast so I wouldn’t cry! Still as sweet & crazy as ever! It sounds like you are still the same guy I knew all those years ago! Tell your Mom I said Hi! :)
Great article, Hugh. Always know real fans appreciate your opinions because of your great talent and success. You lead with inspiration. Doesn’t mean we have to agree with everything you say, but we chew on your food for thought because of the respect you’ve earned through your immense and thought provoking talent. Keep doing what you’re doing! (Although I would selfishly prefer to do without the less output part)
Loved this post. I wish more people were this honest. Frankly – I wish we all could be. Keep sailing, keep being anonymous, and keep the posts coming. :)
Hugh I never met you but would never think success affected you. I’ve read your posts and thoughts before writing books, and will continue far after you might have retired from writing novels (if the day ever comes). I have always enjoyed your thoughts; feel like you are way smarter than I will ever be. If you are ever close to where I live (upstate NY) I would never hesitate to invite you to stay in my home. Despite how hard you are on yourself you have become kind of a role model to me in some ways. You helped shape some of my atheist beliefs (over a message board none the less) and whether you know it or not you motivate me to be a better person. Thank you for being you, continue being you, never change.
Wassup Chud? We need to catch up sometime. Been too long.
I have not read even one book of yours but you have changed someone life. Thats what is important . Thanks.
I don´t know about any of this but I really really love your books and you seem to be a great person. Go on and please write many more books! And please publish them on paper because I don´t like ebooks.
Kind regards from Germany, Robert
I don’t see any failures, just pursuing your dreams and living life your own way.
Finding your books single-handedly reignited a passion for reading that I had long since abandoned. Some days I wish there was a new Hugh Howey book or short story out for me to read, but on those days I visit your blog for your latest thoughts and happenings or imagine you out there, sailing around on some adventure, doing things your way.
I really respect that about you.
And yeah, fuck rude people, ain’t no one got time for that!