My name is Adam Thomas and this story begins when I started my own newspaper, aged six. It was called the Daily Adam and nobody bought it. My mum says I was ahead of my time. As is often the case with mothers, she was right.
As the eldest of six children, the son of tired parents holding down multiple jobs, a brief career as a babysitter was inevitable. It was the original working from home.
My driving license pushed back horizons. Maps opened up. I drove my blue, rust-flecked, rear-wheel drive 1981 Toyota Starlet all over the British home counties to supervise a wedding crèche service. I accompanied children with learning disabilities to theme parks and family-run zoos. At weekends, I sold CDs on the music desk at Woolworths and on school nights I stacked the shelves. I saved money for university by stuffing envelopes with flyers that promoted physiotherapy equipment on behalf of a nervous, former professional rugby player.
I could not contemplate, at this point, my way in to the world of work. I knew that there were future roles, that people had professions, but I had no real sense of how to get there.
At university, which postponed this deep thinking for four years, I bought cheap training shoes from TK Maxx and flipped them for profit on eBay. I drove my blue, rust-flecked, rear-wheel drive 1981 Toyota Starlet all over Tyneside delivering curries. I served discounted pints of Carling and bottles of WKD Blue to endless Friday night queues at J.D. Wetherspoons. I caught the 5:30 a.m. train through the countryside to teach woodwork, swimming and language skills to autistic and neurodiverse young adults while underperforming on my government-funded M.A..
I ran the bar at a timbered Victorian pub, changed the barrels, and politely asked the drunks to go home. In the quiet moments, I booked and promoted loud alternative music acts for the concert venue upstairs. A group of us founded a glossy magazine that was never published and a record label that sold no records. Then I got a break from a friend of friend: an arthouse cinema was hiring an intern to co-ordinate volunteers.
Things moved quickly. I assisted at international film festivals. Tried my hand as a runner and an extra. Moved to Berlin at some point. Live-streamed conferences. Demonstrated loop software to bored A&R executives at glitzy music industry conferences. Created voiceovers for screencasts. Scraped a living as an experimental musician, just. Produced and curated digital culture festivals with strange capitalisation and throwback websites.
A good friend once told me that no-one takes you seriously till you are thirty. When I hit that milestone, as if by magic, people started listening to me. It made no sense, but I went with it.
At an open source software non-profit headquartered in Prague, I started wrangling developer communities. As much as I could, I travelled for work, taking in the cities of New York, Johannesburg, Paris, Dakar, London and Maputo.
Berlin was soon left behind, and I joined an Irish social media verification start-up as director of business development called Storyful. I was promoted to chief product officer. We sold the company to News Corp for $25m, hired 100 people, and I bounced around the world evangelising it to newsrooms, from the New York Times to the Sydney Morning Herald.
After a three-month hiatus, I took a role as the executive director of a non-profit called the European Journalism Centre. I moved to the Netherlands and strove to transform the organisation into a beacon of best practice over five challenging but rewarding years. We partnered with Google, Facebook, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and numerous governments to deliver grants and support to journalists.
Then, earlier this year, I quit to focus on my writing
I think about this quote from Ira Glass a lot.
"The first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It has potential, but it’s not. Your killer taste is why your work disappoints you. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing. You gotta know it's normal. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions." – Ira Glass
This site is my attempt to close the gap.
Every week, I publish one essay or piece of creative nonfiction on this site (you can sign up to my newsletter here).
Here are some articles and essays that I have enjoyed in recent years. You might like them too.
- Why I Write by Joan Didion;
- The Collected ‘Maxims’ of W.G. Sebald by David Lambert and Robert McGill;
- Janet Malcolm, The Art of Nonfiction No.4, by Katie Rophie
- There Aren’t Enough Towels to Soak Up the Unhappiness by Tom Scocca;
- The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd;
- The Perfect Fit by David Sedaris;
- Trust the People by adrienne marie brown;
- Roger Federer as Religious Experience by David Foster Wallace;
- Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit.
Here's my Twitter.
For a brief time, I made spectacularly unsuccessful (and occasionally unlistenable) music under the name Preslav Literary School. Now I like making mixtapes on Spotify. Check out Creating Structures and Building Cities.
And thanks for reading.