When We're Being Honest...
Let's face it, we aren't always totally honest.
I detest dishonesty. Detest it in any form. I hate dishonest advertising, dishonest politicians, dishonest religionists, dishonest people in general.
I especially hate dishonest writing. (I gave some serious thought to using that word ‘hate’, as pugilistic as it sounds, but if I’m being honest, I do, in fact, feel real hatred toward those things.)
I’m always surprised when people point out my own honesty when I write—as if there would be any other way to do it. Yet if I hesitate to tell the truth isn’t that being dishonest? I do hesitate to tell the truth sometimes, either to spare myself or to spare someone else. Feelings sometimes get in the way and whatever I produce might skirt around the truth. I hate when I do that.
I hesitate sometimes because I know there will be some in my audience who won’t agree with me. I have this thing where I always want to please. It’s maddening when I want to vent and get angry and let it all hang out. (As I did here to very little notice, in case you need examples.)
When I wrote my political blog, Ramona’s Voices, I wrote for a specific audience of like-minded people, so there were no feelings to be hurt. I preached to the choir. I wrote as if of course they would agree. I was in my element and I think I did some of my best writing there, because it was totally, unabashedly me. I wrote it over the course of 12 years and when and if I changed my mind, I talked about that, too. I had a lot to say over those 12 years and then I lost the comment section, never to be seen again, so I moved first to Medium and then to Substack.
I’ve realized lately that here at Substack I often pretend. I’ve set myself up as a kindly but imperfect person wanting to share wisdom where I find it. I want you all to like me and I’ll do almost anything to make sure you do. I feel as if I’m pandering sometimes, and I hate that, too.
I see things that hit me the wrong way on Substack Notes and I pretend it’s okay and I move on, because I want Substack Notes to be that place of refuge and guidance and friendship. No matter how badly I want to put on my curmudgeonly opinionist cloak, I throw it off and move on.
And it grinds me.
I admire the majority of people who post there and look forward to having conversations with them—or just standing back and enjoying what they’ve come up with. It’s an amazing place for finding inspiration. I do love Notes. I do.
So how do I say the rest of this honestly without possibly stepping on toes? There’s my problem.
I’ll say this first: It’s no secret I hate even the very whiff of marketing. That’s on me. Nobody else. I know it has to be done and I’m the absolute worst at it, as you can tell by my low subscription numbers and even lower paid subscriptions.
I have a decent presence here but I’m not in the top anything. Sometimes I wonder why and sometimes I resent it. But I’m not going to change what I do at either of my newsletters in order to raise those numbers. I’m happy doing the work I do here, though still a bit sad that I haven’t ‘made it’.
I’m wondering if Notes isn’t becoming a marketplace now—the thing I hoped wouldn’t happen—and I hate that I find myself trying to figure out ways to jump on the bandwagon. I’m jealous when those long lists of recommended writers come out and I’m not on them. I want people to notice me, too. I sometimes desperately want people to notice what I’ve written—especially if I’ve put my whole heart into it and it just languishes there, never to be read.
How many times can I restack my own work before it becomes pathetic?
There is a person on Notes who posts long lists of people to watch. I made it there this week and I was thrilled, until I noticed that in order to access any of our published pieces on their site, I would have to become a paid subscriber.
Well, that’s a pretty clever marketing tool! Everyone who makes the list will want to see their own piece there and of course they’ll be inspired to pay the price.
And then I thought…I’m on a list I thought I wanted to be on only because that person wants me to become a paid subscriber. And I deflated.
So that’s where I am now. That’s just me. I’ve been stewing over this, and I’m not trying to single anyone out, but if this is where Notes is going, if this is where Substack is going—this constant “I’ll rub your back if you’ll rub mine”, I’ll want to vomit instead of cheer.
Even if by some miracle I got to the top, I’d still want to vomit over it. Because it’s dishonest. It’s not about the writing, it’s about the marketing. Substack encourages this because they’re making money when we’re making money. Almost everything they put out now is about promoting bigger writers who can draw more paid subscribers.
I’m doing more skimming over those marketing pieces than I am stopping to read something I might find interesting, and I hate that. I have no problem with posting new pieces I have written. I think we should all do that. But when I see someone’s sales records or subscription graphs I wonder how long before Substack becomes another Medium?
There’s some outcry about Notes being only for writers and not for readers. I’m okay with that. We writers are desperate for a place we can call our own, where our thoughts and dreams can be on display, where we can congratulate and commiserate and become good, nurturing comrades.
I want Notes to be that place. I can’t be alone in that. So let’s have this conversation. And let’s do it honestly. We’re here among friends. We can do this.
Writer Everlasting is here because you’re here. We’re in this together. If you haven’t already, how about becoming a free or paid subscriber?