He wears two hats — that of a writer and that of an entrepreneur. He used to wear the first hat a lot. That is, he used to write a lot. He used to do it every single day. He’d write short stories, or pieces of “micro” fiction, and store them in his notebook or laptop. Some of them he kept. He never showed those to anyone. Some, he sent to publishers. Quite a few were published in some magazine or other.
But the first hat led him to a lot of trouble. He’d lose his sense of order completely. He’d write for days and eat unhealthy meals during those days. He’d stay up for long hours just to finish his writing. After finishing a story or two, he’d sleep for long periods of time. There’s no consistency at all in his habits. Sometimes he’d sleep at 3 in the morning and wake up at half past noon, or sleep at half past noon and wake up at 9 or 10 in the evening. He’d also neglect grooming altogether — sometimes taking a shower twice or thrice a week only, despite the humid climate. He’d also totally ignore his social life. He’d stay home for weeks on end without seeing anyone, except his landlady and the grocer. He had very few friends, so that wasn’t really a problem. However, this kind of life had more periods of misery than joy. Feelings of happiness which followed news of being published were quickly succeeded by feelings of ineptness, aimlessness, and insecurity. He often found himself moody, irritable, and on the whole, just plainly emotional.
So eventually, he went looking for another hat to wear, and this was when he discovered that he also loved entrepreneurship. In particular, he loved the very idea of startups. He adored how tech geeks, startup founders, and millennial billionaires speak. Their manners were as attractive to him as the manners of writers, novelists, and intellectuals. So he began to teach himself about startups and entrepreneurship, and he strove to understand the language of these geeks and founders. He loved terms like product-market fit, pivoting, business model canvas, disruption, innovation, pain point, coding, scale up, venture capitalist, bootstrapping, value proposition design, iteration, and so on, and he used them in his sentences whenever he could. For example, just last week, he met an old friend of his, a writer who is infinitely more talented, successful, and accomplished than him or that he could ever hope to be, and this friend of his asked him, in a tone which hinted of sarcasm and sneering, “So, what are you up to these days? Still writing?” To which he promptly answered, in a tone that barely concealed his agitation and disdain, “Oh, I don’t write as often as I used to. We both know there’s very little money in writing. I’ve decided to pivot into a different undertaking, and that is to start my own startup company. I’m still looking for a founder who can code for me, but basically I plan to build an app that’ll teach any writer creative writing and allow that person to publish her works independently. That’s the idea behind the product, but I’m still developing my business model canvas. Soon, I’ll develop a prototype, talk to our customers to make sure we are delivering real value, and iterate the product.”
What his second hat did to him was restore order and sanity to his life. He got rid of his mustache and beard and had a clean hair cut. He started taking a bath every day, wore the official uniform of startup founders — plain shirt, jeans, and sneakers — and began speaking in a calm, intelligent, and well-modulated manner. Think Sam Altman or Elon Musk.
These days, he wears his entrepreneurship hat 98% of the time. He rarely reads or writes fiction, but he’s happy. He’s at peace.
But just this morning, he was in danger of totally losing all his peace and tranquility, for while pitching for a venture capitalist in a cafe, a woman in her mid-twenties who was the co-founder of several tech startups in Hong Kong and Singapore, and who’s in the country for business and vacation, he suddenly felt compelled to write her a story. Of course, he did not mention this while making his pitch. That would’ve been absurd. That would’ve completely jeopardized his proposal altogether. But while talking to her about his company’s product and value proposition, he couldn’t help but imagine that this VC would look perfect as a queen in some adventure story, or a princess in a tragedy, or the daughter of a Regency England baron in a literary comedy.
Her name is Via. Isn’t “Via” Latin for “way”? He’s not sure. He also doesn’t know whether she’s Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, or a little bit of each. She seemed a little bit of each. A Nordic girl with an English accent and a Latin name. Very interesting. “Once upon a time, there lived a Swedish queen named Via…” Or how about, “There was once a girl named Via, and she was a princess…” Or maybe, “He had spent many hours rehearsing his lines: “Good day, Miss Bergstrom, my name is William. How do you do, Miss Bergstrom? My name is Will. How are you, Miss Bergstrom? The name is Will. So pleased to finally meet you, Miss Bergstrom. I am William. Miss Bergstrom, long have I dreamed of someday meeting you. My name is Willy.” But when the day finally came when he was introduced to the great baron’s daughter, he could only mutter her name, “Via,” for as he stood there before her, he was out of breath.” Yes, that might work.