I write a pretty niche Substack -- a weekly guide to children’s books, raising readers, and how to build a culture of reading in your home -- and my experience over the past 2.5+ years is that some subscribers will read every single thing I write, some read most, some read some, some read very little, a few read none. People subscribe and unsubscribe every day. Readers come, readers go. I assume everyone reads what they want, when they can, and even people who sign up for a newsletter about children's books sometimes don't want to read about children's books (and sometimes I don't even want to write about them!)

I see all of this as part of the process now. There are more words in the world waiting for eyeballs to fall upon them than there have ever been before, at any moment in history. And yet, reading isn't going away, or anywhere else, anytime soon.

I write because I want to, not because I have to (and I certainly don't depend upon Substack to put food on my table or a roof over my head). I enjoy it, and I'll keep doing it as long as I enjoy it, and I'll quit when I no longer do. I find the less I hope to "break through," the less attached I am to that outcome, the more I can keep enjoying it.

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I wonder if it has ever been possible for more than a handful of people to make a decent living just by writing (without also having to teach or drive a cab or plow a field)? I just finished Peter Ackroyd's short biography of Edgar Allen Poe and was reminded (again) that in Poe's time American publishers preferred to publish well-known English writers' work for free (no copyright protection in the 1830s) rather than take a chance on unknown American writers. It's never been easy. I really resonate with Sarah's response. I have a very niche Substack and I am grateful for it.

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I have a little burnout, but now that I'm focused primarily on the Substack app (away from emails), I've deleted FB from my phone, and Twitter is a hot mess, I'm finding that my reading is more purposeful and I'm loving it.

As for writing? I write because I have to for my own sanity and I want to capture every moment that I can with writing. Do I want a bigger audience? Yes, but that's because I want people to be touched by what I say. Would I like my Substack to make money? Sure, to justify the hours I spend writing for free. Do I want my self-published book to be "successful." Yes, but if it pays a few bills, I'll be happy and I'll have important memories captured in hard copy and not just the web.

You ask a lot of really good questions in this post. It made me think :-)

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I agree with the other ladies, I write because I want to and plan to keep on - no matter. My niche, aging well, is broad enough to move in several directions from lessons learned to what currently affects older individuals - from memories to the nitty gritty of living alone. I have been posting on Substack for about two years and am thrilled to have this opportunity.

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God yes!!! Eclecticism is the bees knees! I'm glad you write across a vast range of subjects!

and yes, so much to read these days that one could drown in the tsunami of words out there.

I'm so new to this Substack phenomenon that I just write the way I wrote my blog and because my blog was free, Knots in the String will probably remain free too. Is that a good thing? It is for me because I don;t feel any responsibility to give 'value for money'. People either subscribe or they don't.

Substack has been a marvellous writing discipline just when I need a reboot as I had stalled as a novelist.

I don't care about the numbers. I just want to please any readers who stumble my way. I don't rely on the income and it was only early on in the glory days of indie writing (2010-2104) that I was truly making money from my novels. That changed in 2015-16 when the indie marketplace was swamped with an increasing load of abysmal, unedited and amateurish publications.

The lesson I learned then was not to hang on sales but to put energy into enjoying the writing of a good book and putting out the most professional novel I could.

One really edifying thing is that the pundits all swore reading would die back in the day. To see everyone reading, whether it be digital or paper, is the best thing in the world.

Words never die...

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Hi Ramona,

you put it so well, most of all, AT THE RIGHT TIME! I believe so that we are going through a "burn-out" world now - everything and everyone is trying to grab our attention, our energy and everything -- that includes Reader Burnout. (Thank you for putting this feeling I been having into words!)

I paused with writing my newsletter, for almost a year, as I felt I may be adding more burnout to readers and the last thing I want to do, is that.

My integrity screams and I feel misaligned whenever I want to write and hit "publish".

And yes, I am, too, all over the place -- lately, I am starting to embrace this "all over the place" of me as my unique trait, as somehow I manage to find my personal harmony by "being all over the place".

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I read physical books. I use highlighters when I do. First thing in morning. Books are still the best portal into stillness and creativity for me. Social media is just a distraction. I write on Substack twice a week. I read other stacks often, usually at night. I think it’s all about letting go of so-called FOMO when it comes to the onslaught of online information.

Michael Mohr

‘Sincere American Writing’


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So with you! I started writing here *because* I want to be all over the place, and by writing my own Substack newsletter I can do that. I still need a day job, of course. And I don't have many readers yet. But I love doing it. I get so excited every time I publish something here, and then I fret that no one will read it, and who am I to write anything, and why would anyone care what I have to say ...

While blogging has made things difficult on one level, it has also given people like me a place to post our writing. When I started doing it over a decade ago, it helped position me to make a career change into clean energy — even though I wasn't making money from the blog posts themselves.

Tricky question, and I wish I had the answer!

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Been meaning to comment on this, but daily task overload got the best of me. Reader burnout is right there in the middle of it. In truth, I think we could take out the word "reader." While it might take us off the point of your post, I think it's worth reflecting on how heavy *everything* has felt for the last little while. Friends who, based on appearances, have managed it well are those who have taken themselves off social media, off mainstream news, and out into nature. They're the ones who, from my view, are staying connected to the bigger picture of what really matters.

That said, I admit to falling into the trap - with too much frequency - of wishing for the breakthrough. Sure, we write because it helps us process the world around us, but I think most of us also hope to be of value to others. If we didn't, we'd keep all our thoughts in a private journal. Where's the sweet spot between creative expression for the sake of expression alone versus for the chance to bring light, or wisdom, or to find community with others?

Maybe it's as simple as believing that if even one person has a moment of uplift or clarity borne out of our words, we've done what we came here to do.

I will end with this: I appreciate the way you think, Ramona, and what you put out there for us to read and consider. It makes a difference for me!

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Mar 7, 2023Liked by Ramona Grigg

I love that you write about this; this dilution of the 'Art'. (Certainly, the haystack has grown exponentially.) But, what I do like is that there's an option to putting the rejected manuscript in the bottom drawer. There's at least a wonderful alternative available now. And sometimes, that's all a writer needs.

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