Last month, I wrote about how I am giving up blogging and pursuing a new writing venture on Substack. The vision of my “newsletter” is to connect directly with readers. Substack author Andrew Sullivan wrote, “There’s something wonderful about writing just for readers. Because your people are there, you have to be accountable, but it’s a very pure relationship.” [emphasis mine]. A blog is accessible for anyone, anywhere, and lacks both the accountability and relational aspects that Sullivan describes. I am excited about this next phase for me as a writer for a whole host of reasons, and it is a huge paradigm shift. It feels like I’m launching a small business —Spurstack— that will require focus and dedication. In my mind, it’s nothing like blogging, which always felt like a guilty pleasure and time I should’ve spent elsewhere. The thing is I need accountability, focus and dedication, and the idea of tying these together in relationship with my people, no matter how few, is ideal.
Spurstack will have four distinct sections. Each section is a different topic and will be delivered on a different day. As a subscriber, you can receive all four weekly emails, or any combination of the four. Lord willing, on Sunday evening, January 2, 2022, the first Spur Sunday will go out. It will be devotional in nature and aim to get your week (and mine) off to a great start. For me, Sunday nights are special because you are savoring the rest and relaxation and time spent with family, but you are also gearing up for the week ahead. I think it’s the perfect time to be reminded how we can all spur each other on to greater love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24).
Relational Monday will focus on marriage and family. Who among us has mastered relationships? Certainly not me, but I aim to be ever-learning how I can do better. This is the section where I will pilot doing a podcast in lieu of the email. I am both nervous (because I hate the sound of my own voice) and excited about doing something totally new. The Substack platform allows each post to be either a newsletter or a podcast, so it will vary week to week. Fittingly, there was a recent Babylon Bee headline about the last remaining American without a podcast, so I am certainly late to the game!
Worldview Wednesday will tackle a current issue or event in light of a biblical worldview. I am pumped about this because it justifies taking a deeper dive into some ideas that I find discouraging in our culture right now.
I started my blog Spur in 2008. I’ve taken very little time away in thirteen years, posting at least once a week. I hope it has spurred others on to love and good deeds, but the biggest blessing for me is that I love to write. My most enduring series (there were quite a few over the years) has been Jackson Five Friday. I have looked forward to using personal snippets for these weekly devotionals, and it is still fun to hit that publish button. Willa Cather said, “The only reason I write is because it interests me more than any other activity I’ve ever found.” I feel similarly. It’s my favorite. Runners’ high may be a thing, but writers’ high has to be more intoxicating.
The problem is that it feels like I should be doing something else. I have a law degree. I’ve paid my bar dues all these years. Next year, I’ll have two sons in college. In January I’ll be fifty. Supporting my four men, who are varying degrees of needy, has been my great pleasure. They would not be who they are without me. Perhaps that sounds conceited, but I don’t mean it to be. Anyone who is extremely successful and also happy and well-rounded probably has someone who is a sounding board and steady encourager. A lot of my time is devoted to investing in them. I would never regret a second of it. The idea of having a career outside my home has never felt like a pull. Perhaps it’s because I worked a block from the White House with extremely smart, driven people. But my mantra after a year or so of law school, sung to “We want a pitcher, not a belly itcher” was “I want a baby, not a J.D.” My sweet man was not convinced by my catchy tune. I finished the J.D. I passed the bar exam, by God’s grace. I made a ton of money for a twenty-something. Then I happily quit when my first son was born. I don’t feel the pull of a career in part because I had a one-year stint as an attorney. It is always a gift to know what you do not want to do.
Oddly, I also have never gotten over my distaste for the word, “blog.” I find it embarrassing. I feel almost sick to my stomach admitting to a new acquaintance that I blog. It sounds so dang trite, even after doing it for more than a decade. The connotation of the word makes me feel defensive and insecure. The idea of widely publicizing it, or trying to monetize it by getting sponsorships has never been a consideration. It couldn’t be because I don’t have enough readers — I’m never going to appeal to a broad audience, and I hate ads anyway. I reluctantly link to new posts on social media every week, but that’s not something I enjoy either. I have once in a great while submitted a piece to various outlets and I’ve had a few things published over the years, but mostly I get something like: “not what we are looking for.” It is deflating, but also just feels like a waste of time. You almost get the sense you could submit a true masterpiece (not that I have) and get a “no” in response. Part of it is a numbers game, and part of it is who you know. I know no one. I won’t deny that I’d be ecstatic to have an editor who would help me hone my skills and cheer me on. My current editor is wonderful but he’s also a hospital administrator, and I’d rather not mix business and pleasure.
So if I’m done blogging and I don’t have any intention of pursuing publication by others, where does that leave me? Fortunately, the creator economy is exploding. I’m going to launch a Substack newsletter in January. Substack is a newsletter platform, based on subscriptions. My newsletter will land in your inbox, should you choose to subscribe. I’m committing to writing a lot more in 2022 (more specifics on that later — it will have different themed sections, one of which will be fiction, and sometimes the post will be a podcast instead of a written newsletter). It’s possible I’ll get to the end of 2022 and happily quit like I did from lawyering. Maybe I won’t feel like I have enough subscribers. Maybe I’ll run out of things to write about. Pshaw! That’s never a problem! But regardless, as my dad often and wisely quipped, “Time will tell.” Until then, nothing ventured, nothing gained. I’m going to venture at it for a year and reassess.
I hope my readers will also understand that charging a nominal fee for my newsletter is important on a couple of levels. For one, if I was someone who made quilts or jewelry, it would be odd to give my work away for free. I watch my friends who are photographers or painters and I want to cheer on their artistic pursuits. I am not gifted in any of those ways at all, but in a sense I am guilty of devaluing my own writing by giving it away. Plus, there’s the opportunity cost. These artists could be doing something else. It is difficult for me to equate artistic skills with my own writing. But I want to. If I have a mindset that I am creating something of value, then I can justify devoting more time to it. When I give it away, the nagging feeling that I should be doing something else is joy-robbing. It’s like I’m shooting myself in the foot, because I love doing it, but I’ve hemmed myself into a routine where it feels like writing is a guilty pleasure instead of a worthwhile endeavor.
We will ring in 2022 in less than 50 days? Do you have something you really want to check the box on before New Years? Do you have some audacious goal set for 2022? Because I want to channel this little girl from the 1970’s. She is jumping into the deep end. She looks like she is unconcerned about what others might think. Her joy is not tainted by fear of the unknown or life’s inherent lack of safety.
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:23-25 NIV