My New Band Is: Administrative Note
Some updates, and restructuring. There will be no staff reductions, though.
An Administrative Note from the Editorial Department of One:
This is less a regular newsletter than a series of updates, thoughts, and questions. But hey, it’s shorter than usual!
First: I apologize for the brief MNBI hiatus; I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately that doesn’t live on this Substack, including a couple of regular columns elsewhere, and had to step back and figure out a writing schedule to manage it, and also to create a bit of a backlog for when I’m out of town or otherwise tied up. I realized after the last column that pantsing it every week was a recipe for burnout. So I have a kind of schedule and some stuff in the hopper, and feel pretty good about it.
I’m also trying to remember that this is an experimental space for me, and that to invoke a useful if hackneyed sentiment: perfect is the enemy of good. I actually wrote a 3,000 word newsletter a couple of weeks ago and trashed it because I thought it didn’t totally work and I’d never file it to an editor. Then a few days later I thought, wait a second, who the fuck is my editor here? It’s my fucking newsletter. It’s allowed to suck sometimes!
Rusty Foster, who runs one of my absolute favorite Substacks, Today In Tabs, hilariously adapted Ron Miller’s “affirmations for the practice of music” to writing a newsletter here, and I am trying to personally internalize IT IS ONLY NEWSLETTER.
But it’s not easy because I’m a heavy self-editor, and once I get traction with something I’m writing, I sometimes get a bit of stage fright and overthink it. I’ve gotten better at pushing through that kind of thing, but it used to really affect how much and how often I wrote. The first time I experienced this was when I was writing Gawker at 24. Originally, I was writing twelve posts a day, seven days a week, which is madness and not sustainable, but doing it for a short period definitely kills writer’s block. Until a lot of people start reading, and then I start censoring more, pulling back. On slow days where I was struggling to get anything I thought was decent out, Nick (Denton) would message me something along the lines of, stop trying to be so goddamned clever all the time. Not everything has to be funny / smart / etc.
So I’m affixing a post-it note on this Substack to myself that says STOP TRYING TO BE SO GODDAMNED CLEVER ALL THE TIME. IT IS ONLY NEWSLETTER. If I can’t try things and bomb sometimes, that defeats the purpose of this, creatively.
Some New Things Elsewhere
I’m also doing some other writerly things in other venues, to work out where things fit and scratch some different itches that are not related to politics and media and tech, which is where most of my analytical energy goes these days. I recently started writing an advice column about money for Slate, called Pay DIrt. (Here’s the first column. Here’s the second one.) I’m not a personal finance expert, though I’ve been a finance writer before and a long time ago, was a buy side equity analyst. So I can’t tell you how to invest your money, but I can give you an opinion about what to do with your dad, who just spent all of his retirement money on Dogecoin.
I’m also starting a (much shorter) column on personal development that I’ll put on Medium that’s more akin to a serialized diary. I’m both a self-help skeptic and a person who’s addicted to new productivity systems and ways of tracking and develop new habits. This is mostly a function of necessity. I’ve never been diagnosed with ADHD or screened for it, but of the “inattentive” traits listed here, I have…*counts*... all of them. But I’ve always been largely functional on the surface because the flipside of inattention is that you can also over-focus for long periods of time when you get really interested in something. Which is why I can also sometimes sit down and write a 4,000 word essay in a few hours, but will put off calling the cable company for six months.
When I was a kid this was never a problem school-wise because I read a lot and had a really good, quasi-photographic memory. So I did well in school, where 98% of what I had to learn was just rote memorization. I could crack a textbook an hour before a test and then rewrite whole paragraphs from memory. So I didn’t have to be particularly good at organizing myself, and well, I didn’t pay attention in class very much either, because I didn’t have to. I once got sent to the principal’s office for literally falling asleep in English class too many times. (Sorry, Mrs. Pinkston. It wasn’t about you; I was just tired.)
Sadly, you can’t coast on rote memorization and ability to zip through a standardized test in adult life, so since then, I’ve had to find ways of working that play to my strengths and it’s always a work in progress because I hate routine, but I need it. (I also can’t remember shit anymore because I’m 44 and not 24, and find myself googling words most fifth graders can spell, so my memorization skills apparently had an expiration date.)
And as you may already know, I have a five year old, and children impose routine whether you like it or not. I have never constitutionally been a morning person, but have now become accustomed to having a child climb on my face as the sun rises, demanding that I nourish and entertain him. Sometimes he yells “cock-a-doodle-doo” into my ear for emphasis. (What he lacks in subtlety, he makes up for in alarm clock replacement.) Ergo, I am now a morning person.
So the new column will be more like an ongoing diary entry than what I do here, which is some combination of longer form analysis and personal essay. I’m not trying to build an ongoing subscriber base there like I am here, but I know that kind of thing does exceptionally well on medium, so it’s a different kind of experiment. And one thing I’ve found is that I progress more on the productivity front when I document it.
Plus there are a million personal productivity columns out there by single dudes who work in tech and don’t have to manage a) children, a.k.a., ambulatory chaos bombs, b) scheduling compromises to accommodate spouses, family, etc. c) an expectation that if something administrative / rote / tedious needs to get done, you will do it because you’re a lady and therefore, must be “detail oriented”--the organizer and not the strategizer. So my take is probably a bit different on that front.
I’ll link to it here at the bottom of the newsletter, so if you’re interested in that sort of thing, you don’t have to go searching for it. And if not, you can just ignore it. (I’ll also link to the Slate columns so everything is in one place for you.)
Lastly: Subscriber Benefits
I have a pretty modest subscriber base, but I’m very grateful for it because I haven’t firewalled anything so far, and take it as a sign that people actually want to support the writing to support the writer. Which I appreciate more than you know. (My kid thanks you too, since some of this trickles down into his Q3 2021 seasonal Super Soaker budget.)
But I do want to figure out something for subscribers that’s exclusive and I don’t know what that is yet, so am interested in suggestions. I’ve enabled email replies, so you can email me directly by just replying to this newsletter.
Some things I’m thinking about:
Audio versions of the newsletter. I subscribe to Will Wilkinson’s excellent newsletter, and he’s been doing this lately for paid subscribers. It seems like a particularly valuable additional feature for those of us who tend to write long here. If you don’t have time to read a long column, you might have time to listen to it while doing something else.
Short fiction. I have a small backlog of it, and it’s probably bad, but that’s definitely something that no one’s ever wrenched out of me for money before. I should probably stop sitting on it and see if it’s any good. Or how bad it is! Either way!
A recurring advice column related to the topics I typically write about here. I’m kind of fascinated by how much people like them, and Slate started the money column I co-author because their advice columns have been driving a lot of subscriptions. The Slate column is also really fun to write, so I’d probably enjoy doing another one.
Suggestions and feedback are welcome.
In the meantime, [pace Rusty] it is only newsletter,