On the Subject of Substack and Notes
Some in-house thoughts on what it all means. Can we talk?
I think this may be the first time I’m writing about Substack here on my blog, but it isn’t the first time I’ve touted it. I love being here for so many reasons, not least the fact that most of you are here because I’ve invited you and you’ve accepted my invitation. You’ve allowed me into your inboxes and that’s such a big deal.
That alone has changed my writing in ways I couldn’t have imagined. My writing isn’t going out into the vast unknown. It’s going to you and if you’re coming back to see what’s new, I’m overjoyed and energized.
I like it!
But there are changes happening here at Substack and I’m not always thrilled with where it’s going. I don’t want it to be a club, I want it to be a community where everyone feels welcome and no one with doubts has to be triggered by someone else bragging about their monetary successes. For example.
I want Substack to be the place where writing excellence is rewarded, but not in such a way that it’s all about money and subscriber numbers. I’m old-school, having come to professional writing with other writers who wouldn’t have dreamed of sharing their profits, of using them as a sign of success. It just wasn’t done. Our pride was in our work. Always in our work.
That’s what I try to stress here at Writer Everlasting, as well. I’m happy for you if you’ve achieved that balance where your writing is profitable, but I admire you for the work you do. The work you do is what made you that successful and, as your peer, I really want to hear more about that. That’s how we learn from each other. All the rest is well, kind of just noise.
Which brings me back to Substack. If you’re writing here you know about Notes, Substacks newest venture and a bit of a Twitter clone, though in format only. So far, Notes is only available to Substack writers and subscribers, and I especially like that about it. It’s our new inhouse method of communicating.
The owners see Notes as a way for us writers to build our readership and subsequently build our coffers by drawing more Substackers in as they discover us. But will that happen? I’m not sure. I’ve added some subscribers since joining, and I’ve found more than a few I now subscribe to, but I don’t see that as the primary goal. And maybe it shouldn’t be. There are only so many Substackers who will find us on Notes, and only so many subscriptions any of us can handle. I think I’ll be going to Notes for the everyday interactions, not the long term possibilities. At least I hope so.
It’s no secret that I love the idea of a writing community, where we can celebrate our successes and air our disappointments and our fears, where we can learn new ways of doing things, where we can discover each other and make friends, even if we’re only ever online.
My hope is that Notes will be an extension of that, but after a couple of days over there I’m not sure there will ever be that kind of purity. It’s turning into a milder version of Twitter, which is okay, unless, like me, you’ve been hoping for what I’ve described above. I should have known that would never happen. Why would it? The people coming to Notes are coming from all over the place. Most of them are writers, to be sure, but our experiences and our needs are going to be vastly different.
Still, I’m giving Notes a B for effort. I’m finding new and exciting writers there and much of the conversation is energizing and enlightening. But, as I’ve come to expect from any social media, the opportunists and chaos-creators are finding their way in and they’re as welcome as a toothache. The click-baiters are there. The braggarts are there. The instigators are there.
There is a feature I find intriguing: You can highlight parts of someone’s essay and send it directly to Notes. It’ll appear in italics with the author’s name and link below and you can add a note about why it spoke to you. That’s a nice boost.
But you can also ‘restack’ comments, which to me may not be so nice. Singling out a comment takes it out of context and could be confusing, but there’s something else: what if I don’t want my comment shared all over Notes? It doesn’t look like I have a choice. It looks like anyone can restack any comment.
But I’ve gone on long enough. Can we talk about this? Have you joined Notes yet? Pros? Cons? Maybe it’s too new but I’ll bet you have your own ideas about how it’s going and how you’re going to use it. Can’t wait to hear.
Update: Restacking comments is OUT. It is no more. The Substack crew does a great job of listening to us, and it looks like there were things about it they’d sort of missed. They’ve fixed it now. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
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