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The Minimalists

Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus write about living a meaningful life with less stuff for 4 million readers. As featured on: ABC, CBS, NBC, BBC, TODAY, NPR, TIME, Forbes, The Atlantic, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and National Post. They live in Missoula, Montana.

Are you sure you want to do this?

Photo by Adam Dressler

I don’t know if I should do this.

The heart of the matter is that I asked myself the above question (Are you sure you want to do this?) because I spent most of my twenties writing and rewriting a novel, As a Decade Fades, and pieces of its story are so close to me—so personal—that I’m terrified to share them with the world; I’m terrified to share them with you. I’m afraid you’ll think I’m the main character, or you’ll think his actions are mine. And if you do see me in these pages, I’m frightened you’ll think I’m the same person I was when I started writing the book’s first words more than a decade ago in the throes of my solipsistic, spiraling twenties.

So instead of trying to persuade you to purchase this book, I’m tempted to convince you not to. I’m tempted to dissuade you from reading even a single chapter. Not because I’m unhappy with the final product, but because I’m afraid this book crosses a certain line, and keeps going, and your subconscious might drag your perception of me over that line as each scene advances.

In truth, I am not the same man I was when I wrote this book. Not even close. And I’m not Jody Grafton, the novel’s broken and bruised main character. (Jody is far cooler and far more disturbed than I’ll ever be.) I have, however, felt all the emotions in this book—felt them down to my bone marrow. But I bet you have, too: sadness, grief, overwhelm, depression, anxiety, apathy, hope, joy, contentment—these are emotions we’ve all shared.

I couldn’t’ve written this book had I not experienced these emotions. As a Decade Fades was written during the most trying period of my life, a period in which my mother died, my six-year marriage ended, my new relationships didn’t work out so well, my career no longer gave me satisfaction or purpose, and in many ways my life felt meaningless. Jody Grafton experiences many of these events in his life, which gave me an outlet to exorcise my own demons. But then again, in many ways, I am Jody Grafton. And so are you. We are human beings, mixed bags of thoughts and emotions and actions, righteous liars and honest cheats, sinners and saints, walking contradictions, both the darkness and the light. Ergo, this book is just as much about you as it is about me.

Are you sure you want to do this? I had to ask myself this question again today, because, truth be told, publishing this book might be a bad decision. It might be a mistake for me to put this much of myself—all my emotions—out in the open, naked and exposed, objects at which the public can point and sneer. Vladimir Nabokov said that a writer writes a novel to “get rid of that part of himself.” In writing this book, that is what I attempted: to rid myself of my old self—my former self, the parts of me that are no longer parts of Me.

Are you sure you want to do this? is also the first question I pose to readers who pick up the book for the first time. There it is, that question, muscular and unflinching on the blank page, staring you in the face as soon as you begin reading. It is not even the first line of the book; it takes place before the first line, a pseudo warning label of what’s ahead.

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