My Foray Into Blogging Polyamory: Substack

Writers write. We write compulsively on whatever is available. Stone tablets, parchment, bathroom walls, prison walls, diaries, notebooks, napkins, post-its—you get the picture. The advent of the internet brought something new to write on in the form of online diaries, which were also called weblogs. In 1999 this guy named Peter Merholz jokingly divided the word “weblog” into “we blog” and soon after, “blog” became the term we used and “blogging” became the verb that described writing a blog. In the early aughts popular blogging platforms included Live Journal and Blogger. The first incarnation of this blog lived at, which I think was Blogger.

Moving into the second decade of the 21st century, blogging platforms fell out of fashion, probably because people were occupied with composing Facebook statuses and tweets on Twitter. In 2012 a site called Medium came along as a place for writers to write. It experimented with monetization in the form of a monthly access fee which theoretically trickled down to writers based on their readership. As a result the writing got more and more click-bait-y and the experience (as reader and writer) wasn’t satisfying.

Enter Substack. It’s a platform that allows writers to create their own newsletters, and hosts a website where the letters are archived. Journalists and people with specific knowledge and skills can publish topical “columns” that people can subscribe to. For other writers it’s basically a blog, except its primary distribution is a “newsletter.” So it’s a newsletter with a blog attached instead of a blog with a newsletter attached, like, say, THIS ONE.

Having this one, I don’t really need a Substack newsletter. It’s redundant.

Except I want one. I want a Substack newsletter with blog attached. It’s a little embarrassing, but I do.

I’ve been asking myself why? Is it because Substack is newer and shinier? Am I enamored by the brand— like the Guess jeans I wanted back in the 7th grade? Is it because the cool kids have them, like George Saunders and Heather Cox Richardson?

And a voice in my head (which, though it is my own, it can sound disturbingly like my mom), asks, What’s going to make this “newsletter with a blog” so different from your “blog with a newsletter” that you already have? I’ve put off launching a Substack for more than a year while trying to answer this question in a way that will satisfy the voice. This is what I’ve come up with:

Ways my Substack Newsletter / Blog Is Going To Be Different From This Blog / Newsletter

  1. NAME

This blog, which lives on my site, is just called “Blog.” It doesn’t have a name— writing this, I realize I’m the the worst blog-parent ever, who’s had a kid for over a decade that I’ve never bothered to name.

The newsletter, in contrast, has name. It’s called Brought to You by the Letter W.

  1. THEME

This blog doesn’t have a unifying theme. Is it about writing? Is it about cancer? Is it about imposter syndrome, fashion faux pas, social anxiety or weird insects in our house? Answer: Yes. In writing as in career and life I’ve got problems committing to a niche.

But Brought to You by the Letter W does have a unifying theme. Every topic I write about there will relate —even if that relationship is extremely tangential— to a word beginning with the letter “W.” Like Writing, Wellness, and the mystical Woo, and Work, Whimsy, Wisdom, Water, Witticisms as well as questions that start with with words What or Why.

(Is this a bullshit theme created to let me continue to write about anything I want? Absolutely. But weirdly, it already feels constricting, like a waistband that’s a little too tight.)


This poor nameless, themeless blog has no set publication schedule. As you know, you might receive nothing for months only to have a two day period your inbox gets pelted by a deluge of posts that leads you to wonder if I’m having a manic episode.

Brought to You by the Letter W will be predictable, publishing Weekly, on Wednesdays.


This, I think is one of the main reasons the Substack feels a little shinier. WordPress (the home of this blog) doesn’t yet offer audio narration, but:

Substack lets me to record each post so that folks can listen instead of reading. I’m a reader at heart, but with so much content out there, there’s a lot to be said for plowing through some of it while doing dishes or getting my steps in.

  1. ETHOS

For a number of years, this blog has been a “sneaky blog” — like a beach that’s technically open to the public, but only if you already knows it exists and are willing to walk through what feels like someone’s private yard to get there. It’s given me a sense of safety. Even if I veer into personal topics, it doesn’t feel too vulnerable. It’s not like a real social media platform.

Substack is more like a real social media platform. It talks a lot about building audience and community. It plants big “subscribe” buttons in one’s posts. When I choose Substack, I am basically saying, I hope some readers find me. I hope they like me. I hope I like them back. All of which feels weird and vulnerable— like joining a dating app.

Are any of these reasons good enough for the voice in my head? Maybe not, but as the voice says, Well, I can see you’re just going to do it anyway. (Sigh).

Which is true. I am doing it anyway. In fact, I’ve already started my Substack.

And so I think “we should talk.” The dating app metaphor is apt, because it kind of feels like I’m cheating on this blog. But I’ll reframe that to say: I’m opening up the relationship. I’m planning to have, for the moment, two blogs.

What does it all this mean for this blog?

Will I keep writing this blog? Apparently so. I spend a way too much time on this blog processing my feelings about blogging… which is not a topic that starts with the letter “W.”

Which one will be the primary relationship? I don’t know. This one still feels more intimate, the circle of readers is smaller and non-judgy. I feel a little stiff an self-conscious over on the Substack, which has (slightly) more readers already. But, with the consistency of every Wednesday, I’ll get more comfortable with it over time.

Will I crosspost between the this blog and the newsletter so that subscribers to both get redundant content? Maybeeee sometimes? What seems more likely is that I’ll be doing some stealing and reworking material back and forth. For instance, I started working on this post, and then used some of the draft in last week’s newsletter. But today’s newsletter doesn’t have any cross-over material. Down the line, I can imagine occasionally re-publishing an old post from this blog to the newsletter if I get very busy and don’t have time to write something new. I’m already finding out how quickly Wednesdays roll around each week.

Overall, I think is that the newsletter will have some incarnations and experiments. But this blog has enough history that it will probably stay what it is, which is to say, a bit sporadic and haphazard, but definitely itself.

It will remain my first-blog-love.

The Fun Kind of Dread?

A reoccurring patten in my thinking: As I’m embarking on some fun activity that incongruously but predictably evokes feelings of dread, I remember reading (long ago, when I single) about how sometimes women date men they think they are attracted to, when really they are fearful of them, because they misattribute the similar physical symptoms (butterflies in the stomach etc). I just Googled it — it’s probably “misattribution of arousal“.

After I remember that, I wonder, Does it go the other way?

This thought pattern occurs pretty much every time I walk out the door to drive to a pitch meeting or a fancy party with a familiar pressure inside my sternum, like a hand around my heart, squeezing into a fist (I’ve heard this description used for heart attacks, but this doesn’t feel like a heart attack… or does it?) I wonder Am I actually fearful, anxious and dreading, or am I actually excited, but confused because excitement feels a lot like fear and anxiety?

There must be some nuance of feeling that I’m not quite sensing, between the feeling of dread when staring down two gallons of colonoscopy prep, or going to the hospital for something unpleasant and the the feeling that accompanies something I want to do — or at least that I wanted to do at some point in the past when I made the plan. During the thing, I will enjoy parts of it, and after the thing, I will avow that I am glad I did the thing (setting aside the post-event feeling combo of “I had fun” with “afterburn of shame” for another post.)

All this is basically elaborating on the same theme as when I wrote about feeling compelled to do things that terrify me a couple months ago. (No surprise. As I mentioned, it’s a pattern.) Since then, I have moved through the list items I laid out in that post: I shot a short film, started a Substack newsletter, and enrolled in the class about pitching freelance articles to publications. Because I tried to do the class, impossibly, in conjunction with the other two things (plus work and life) today I need to do a lot of catching up. My assignments include writing things and sending actual pitches for articles to actual editors of publications, which, when I planned today, these didn’t seem like a big deal, but now that it is today, I’m having this familiar conversation with myself because I’m feeling those familiar feelings. Dread. Or excitement! One or the other!

Either way, it’s on my calendar, so now I’ve got to do it.

It’s a weird way to go through life though, isn’t it?

(PS: Two things writing this post makes me want to think / write about at a later date: 1) Calendaring Creativity (pros and cons, creativity vs creating. 2) How much I despise the word “excited.” Because the world, or because me? Discuss!)

I’m HAPPY to Direct a Short Film!

About a month ago, I mentioned directing a short film. Sometimes plans, as they roll downhill, unravel or disintegrate. Other times they pick up speed and size until you’re running to stay ahead of them and not get flattened.

In this case, I’m happy to report it’s the latter. Happy, of course, being one of medley of emotions that also includes recurrent heart-racing panic and existential dread. For those of us with a certain temperament, this is the price for getting things that we want. As the snowball of happening—and its accompanying panic—gets bigger and bigger, it helps to keep reminding myself “This is something I want.” And it is. For years, I’ve said I’m going to direct something.

Here’s a little background and an up-to-the-moment update on how it’s going.

Back in 2020, Paul and I sent three pitches for a TV show called Creepshow, an anthology series with short episodes that are like Twilight Zone with a horror bent. One was chosen, leaving us with two fairly well outlined ideas. I decided to write out one of these and it became THREE DAYS. I was hoping to use it as a second sample for more opportunities in the horror anthology space — but when those opportunities never manifested and Paul didn’t seem interested in directing it, I started thinking more seriously about taking the plunge I’ve been talking about for so long.

I began to visualize the film taking place in a mostly furnished apartment I have access to. As the industry strikes crept into autumn, a friend with a small film equipment rental mentioned that she would donate equipment. And then in September, an out-of-town friend crashing at our place mentioned coming to LA at the end of October to produce a friend’s music video. Half-joking, I said, “want to produce my short film while you’re at it?” She said, “Sure, I’ll do it.” Her trip in LA became our de-facto shoot dates.

For almost any event, once you have dates and a location, it’s “just” a matter of filling in everything else… In five weeks, I’ve gotten more “Sure, I’ll do its” that I could have imagined… from cast members and also a DP we met at a film festival (who insisted on providing an even nicer camera and lighting package than I’d been going to get from my friend). It’s been amazing.

But as we gather more people, I feel more obligated to make my no-frills, “hey, kids, let’s put on a show!” learning experience into a good product for all the people who are being so generous. I want to ensure we make something they can be proud of, put on their sample reels and use to get other work. And I want make it a good experience… I’m terrified of being that friend who you agree to help move, only to show up and realize they aren’t done packing, there’s not enough people to share the work, and not enough boxes! I really want to have my boxes packed and in order.

We shoot in six days. As we get closer, every potential hole looks bigger. The actors are wearing their own clothes and makeup — should I have looked harder for professionals? I’m ordering bedspreads late at night like an addicted home-shopper, and each one that arrives is not quite right. Should I have sprung for a production designer? Production design is production value — what if our minimally furnished location looks shoddy? Our producer knows sound and will set the levels, but she won’t be dedicated to sound. Sound issues are the worst! There’s no assistant director, no script supervisor, no one is dedicated to continuity… am I courting disaster? Have I left myself so many producing worries that I don’t have time to cram all the “directing” prep and learning into my brain? What have I been doing for the last decade? Why have I not spent them watching videos about camera blocking and lenses and taking acting classes? Is this all a big, terrible, expensive mistake????

In my heart, however, I believe it is not. I remind myself that I have so many talented people on board helping me, and so many things that have fallen into place Catastrophizing is a waste of one’s imagination.

This is something I’m happy about. I am grateful. It’s going to be fine

Here are some images from my amazing volunteer stand-ins who patiently let me work through my storyboards yesterday!

There’s Still Light Around the Dark

Saturday, October 14, we had a solar eclipse.

I’d been vaguely aware this eclipse was going to happen on Saturday, but had forgotten about it when I decided to take a quick walk around the neighborhood.

As I walked past an open garage, a older White man said “have you seen the eclipse?” I said I had not. He pointed out how the dappled sun coming through the leaves, was a series of crescent shapes. He said he used to be a science teacher, and his students had made pieces of paper with pin holes to see the shadow of the eclipse, but that a canopy of leaves in the trees could do the same thing. Then he showed me some glasses he’d made, putting a welder’s plate into a pair of snorkel goggles. “With these you can safely look at the sun.” I did. Through the glasses the sun looked like a neon green crescent moon. It was really cool.

As we were talking, a someone appeared from the RV parked across the street and came over — a Black man, wearing black jeans, black T-shirt and black motorcycle boots. The ex-science teacher gave him the glasses to look. Then a Jewish family walking to Shabbat services, paused to see what we were looking at and each took turns looking through the glasses as we reviewed our knowledge of solar returns vs lunar eclipses.

For the reader who finds this post in a few years, this eclipse happened exactly one week after Hamas staged an attack on Israel, taking hostages, and Israel declared war on Hamas and ordered the evacuation of a million Palestinians.

So it felt especially poignant to be standing on the street in a safe neighborhood exchanging pleasantries with a group of strangers who would normally not speak, but were, for a moment, united by a simple event in nature that was bigger than us all.

Why Do I Keep Doing Things That Terrify Me?

I’m directing a short film.
I’m starting a weekly Substack newsletter.
There’s a 90% chance that by the end of the day I will sign up for a class that will force me to pitch paid publications.

All of these things have been on my to-do list for awhile, but I have not done them.
But right now I’m feeling a desire to pull the trigger on these things. This desire has unknown origins, but it is not unfamiliar. It is a desire that pokes its head up very intermittently and causes present-me to set events and projects in motion that future-me will then have to navigate and carry out long after the desire to do so has beyond diminished and she is reduced to a frenzied ball of “Oh-God-just-let-me-get-through-this-and-I-will-never-put-us-in-this-position again.”

During the pandemic I wrote an article for Emry’s Journal that described this process in some detail. It all holds true.

More on this topic in coming days.