Conjuring a Substack is Strange Magic
It's time to consider the post-social media mindset and why that's important to you as a creative person.
“At the beginning of time, words and magic were one and the same.” —Sigmund Freud
FIRST THE GOOD NEWS.
IF YOU ARE A MAKER OF THINGS—and that would be everyone on the planet—then Substack has your back. I once knew a guy that dedicated his entire life to collecting trivia related to television game shows, both vintage and contemporary. He turned that pastime into a lucrative venture. I bet he’s on SS now.
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Initially, SS started out as a platform for writers. But now with its impressive set of tools for the inspired (for podcasting, videoing, music-making, sharing PDFs of your nascent novel, or your recent paintings, photographs, recipes, or your latest quilting or bonsai project), the sky is the limit.
This is wonderful because now, finally, you can create and (should you monetize your SS) be compensated for your work.
You are also freed from the slavish dependence on Facebook and Instagram and the grueling grind to keep up numbers, followers, friends, likes, and ♥️s. Substack’s organic way of circulating recommendations from within the self-publishing pool is wonderful. Writers perform that function, not some crazy-ass code.
Twitter doesn’t count so much because it’s mostly comprised of media people screaming at each other—amidst zillions of gigabytes of hardcore porn.
Fascinatingly this is a topic—the porn—that you never hear about in articles about Elon Musk and bots and fake accounts and freedom of speech and blah blah.
THE MORE COMPLEX NEWS.
When I promote Substack to friends and colleagues and fellow artists I have to explain several salient points:
• First, do not be intimated by the fact that you have a small coterie of friends, followers, fans, or whatever to start with. This is a mindfuck that the internet has indoctrinated everyone into. Namely, that popularity is the new digital currency and marker of value and worth. And if you don’t have those high numbers it isn’t worthwhile to commence with whatever it is you want to commence with.
Imagine if Jane Austin felt that she needed 4,578 ‘friends’ on Facebook before beginning to write Sense and Sensibility. Or that Larry Flynt needed millions of porn aficionados on Twitter before launching Hustler.
• Second, Substack is the future of the internet. Gone are the days of creating work and giving it away for free in hopes someone would thank you with a mention or link to your Tumblr or Flickr page.
In the old days, you had to SEO like a maniac to appease the gods of Google to up your traffic. And then clog your website or blog with tacky banners, and other cries for help.
• There was always talk of micropayments becoming a thing to support those who wished to make a living online, but it was always poo-pooed by big tech. Why? Because they had a stranglehold on the biz model that made everyone into serfs. Why change up a good thing?
But then Substack came along and said fuck that. And they’ve made the transformation from a curious, ‘just looking’ reader of your SS to a paid subscriber a swift and almost fun transaction. It’s brill.
• Over the past year I have canceled my subscriptions to the New York Times, the Atlantic, and New York magazine. Why? Within our toxically polarized cultural mindset, each publication has doubled down on its alignment with woke-ness. This, I’d imagine, insured the longevity of its business model.1
I’m not going to get into ‘describing’ my impressions of woke-ness but as a longtime admirer of George Orwell, I’m all about freedom of expression, freedom of thought (all kinds, even the horrid shit), and especially the freedom to ping pong, willy-nilly between contradictory factions. I’m politically agnostic and I think for myself. SS fits this groove as well—a keen agnosticism that promotes a full-spectrum platform.
• I now have a coterie of folks that I read regularly on Substack, journalists and authors, and makers of things that I’m inspired by. All the formidable ones are here, from both sides of the sociopolitical spectrum. As well as up-and-comers. And they are making decent money for their efforts.
• Important fallout: If a true middle is ever to emerge and re-establish between warring ideologies it will happen here on SS. It can’t help but happen here because Substack is free from all of the dubious strategies that monetized social media and search engines.
In other words, the algorithms that made people insane by exponentially feeding them shit within the echo chamber of their own minds (and whatever peer group that also thrived on that toxicity) isn’t in effect.
THE VARIABLE NEWS
A primary reason why people don’t do things that they want to do is that in the doing of the thing they’re afraid they won’t be good at it.
Substack will allow you to play around with possibility and make important discoveries. So you need to be prepared for self-revelations of all kinds.
In other words, you’ll find out for a fact if you are good at something. Or not. If you’re mediocre you will be forced to adjust your efforts or interests and up your game—or change it out entirely. Everyone is good at something and as social creatures we like talking and writing (and reading) about that gift.
It’s true you could say that about any effort in life, the difference is that after COVID more life and living—that’s related to making a living— is taking place online, especially on mobile devices.
This might be the time for you to figure out ways to partake in this significant economic shift within the culture.
We’re all at a critical juncture as relates to the internet. A major turning is happening as Pluto (death) prepares to enter Aquarius (social media).
As social platforms collapse and websites continue to devolve into carnival-like ad-riddled no-go zones, environments like Substack will evolve into what we can consider, from this vantage point, ‘the future of the internet’s ecosystem.’
Face it, the internet isn’t going anywhere, but how it operates, how it is structured and utilized is transforming.
Exactly what does this mean for you?
I’ll be following the comment thread closely this week, so whatever questions, suggestions, ideas, or requests for feedback you have, feel free to ask and post. Do not email me directly, I get too many people contacting me via email in hopes that I will respond personally—and I do not have the time. Posting in the comments might elicit responses and other POVs from the WOODRUFF hive mind.
Opening collage by FW © 2022
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I understand, especially with a platform like Substack flourishing and cherry-picking legacy media's best writers and journalists—creatives who long for the freedom and higher compensation that Substack affords them. Who can blame them for jumping ship?