Manifesto Introduction: “Fish hits the fan”



I’m Alex Vale. Instead of a bio, this is my manifesto, in 9 posts.

For those of you reading this who aren’t familiar with my work, I write Cat Mann is PAX Legend of the Keyholders, a sci-fi fantasy serial novel on Patreon, and I’m also the creator of Misfit Kit, a strategy kit for living location independently for creative outliers aspiring to join the digital nomad community. Before these projects, I’ve launched numerous other business and creative projects under different monikers. I studied (but didn’t get a bachelors in) music, film, and business, and I have been freelancing since 2006 as a multimedia creative and strategy consultant for small to medium businesses.

That might look like a very tidy paragraph of description, but over the years I’ve lost a lot of sleep and second-guessed myself …more than 9000… times trying to write get it right. Trouble is, the darn thing keeps evolving.

I often wish I could just answer: I’m a dentist. Or… I’m a 2nd grade teacher at PS31. That’s not the case. I chose to build a career by discovering it at every turn.

There was definitely no clear path to becoming who I am today, and most of the time, when someone asks me what I do, I stammer and eventually produce some lopsided description of myself, that barely covers the basics. It’s a tough question.

I consider myself an artist and explorer at my core and above everything else. I struggled deeply with the fact that I also love business, and most people expect those two things to be mutually exclusive. It doesn’t help that I’m American. American culture (is that a thing?) tends to equate who you are to what you do. And, by what you do, people mean what you do for a living. And, by livingthey mean: How do you make the cash money?

In part, my work involves design and storytelling, so I do a much better job of explaining myself on paper or screen. But there’s the rub: That feeling that I owe an explanation to couch the likelihood that my career won’t make sense to others, as opposed to feeling safe sharing a true story about what I do as a person, as a whole. I certainly don’t favor leading with how I make money in answer to “What do you do?” It’s easy to undermine the value of experience when your culture cries “bank statements and debt records or it didn’t happen.” It’s tough to quantify the qualitative, and somehow it’s become less sexy to attempt, since the information age and big data swept us off our feet. Sorry, I ate the pie chart.

It’s been hard to maintain the reflexes to implement this next sentiment in the moment, but let me share this with you: Your life doesn’t need to make sense to other people. It only needs to make sense to you. I try and keep that in my back pocket, when the conversational ish hits the fan. (That autocorrected to “fish hits the fan” please enjoy the resultant illustration.)

Functionally, I liken my “creative life purpose” to a liver or kidney. I’m part of this magnificent system of life, but I’m not able to see the whole picture. As a creative, I just take everything that gets thrown at me and either try to make it useful, or get rid of it. I’m a living, breathing experience filter. And isn’t that what we all are? Especially the artists? We observe, then either reject what we’ve seen as “not for us” or re-frame it as “interesting.”

As I ventured into business (and the world at large), I developed a handful of trusty philosophies. I call them stances. They carry me through the vagueness, difficulty, and criticism that goes along with being inherently creative. Over the next few posts, I’ll distill them into posts. These stances highlight a variety of ruts and corresponding subtle mind tricks I’ve invented for tackling feelings of not fitting in, inadequacy (or imposter syndrome), and trying new things despite a lot of resistance from society’s compulsive labeling culture.

Let the manifesto begin!