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.

300 Days of Content (or, How I Let Go of My Resistance and Joined the Content Revolution)

One day in late December, I woke up and the thought popped into my head: Im going to make a little video every day for a yearstarting TODAY. I think in the back of my mind, I’d been ruminating on doing something like this, but the immediacy of the TODAY was sudden and new.

In the next five seconds, I thought Well, if I’m going to do a year, shouldn’t I wait until January 1st? But even as I thought that, I knew if I waited, at all, I would start planning it out, realize the whole thing was dumb and not do it. Better to not make it a whole year of content. What would be a better number? 300 popped into my head.

I told Paul, who was waking up next to me, my plan, along with its on-the-fly, less-than-creative name, 300 Days of Content. After grumbling that my plan was going to impact his plan to start running again (he had apparently been struck at the same moment by the impetus to start a project) he deemed it a good idea. He generally believes I could benefit from being less premeditated and precious in my creative life, and also knows I’ve been paying for an Adobe Premiere subscription for going on three years, and barely using it.

Thus 300 Days of Content project was born.

Which is ironic, because, for years, I’ve been resisting content — at least the term as we use it today.

The first time I remember clocking the word content used in the “new” way was probably about 2006. I was in Florida, immersed in my Creative Writing MFA program. Someone on my new Facebook account was talking about generating content. I felt irritated by the way she was talking, making it sound like if someone wrote a Facebook post, it was content and if someone wrote the new War and Peace, it was also be content. Here I was, investing my sweat, tears, time and money into becoming an artist, and now this yokel was reducing all my work — all of everyone’s work — down to one thing? Didn’t she know she was mis-using the word?

But it turned out that I was in the wrong. Yes, once upon a time, before the early 2000s, the word content used to refer to what a work of art or literature contained. The content of a story was the plot and the characters etc.

But with the advent of the internet, content became “any form of digital media that is created and distributed online.” In the beginning, this was mostly text-based, because that’s what online technology allowed, but as the technology evolved, so did the definition, which now include images, audio, video etc.

Nearing two decades later, we call television shows and films content. Reality shows are content. Enormous essays in magazines are long form content. Podcasts are audio content. TikTok videos are content. This blog is content. The contents of the content—its goodness, badness, worthy-of-existence-ness — is a secondary consideration to be discussed in think pieces that are also content.

2006-Barrington would have railed against this with energy and conviction.

But 2023-Barrington is tired and no longer knows anything.

Maybe insisting on evaluating and categorizing the contents of the content is old-fashioned and elitist. Maybe I’m just yucking on everybody’s yum. Though not really “everybody,” because who’s listening to me anyway? So then I’m just yukking on my own yum.

All because I don’t like a word.

The truth is, I’ve always loved making stuff. Drawing, tie-dying T-shirts, making up skits, improvising dances, writing this blog — all compulsive acts of creation, resulting in stuff. Stuff can be dumb and it doesn’t matter (at least at first). It doesn’t have to be subject to self-assigned stakes or agendas.

And isn’t content just another word for stuff?

So I’m making some stuff, and calling it 300 Days of Content.

(It’s a learning expedition, and I think I’ll eventually explore housing all 300 videos on a YouTube channel or on this website, but the fastest and easiest tool to get started was TikTok, (which then shares to Instagram) so for the moment that’s where my stuff is.)

Write about THIS (All the Woo-Woo, #2)

In a previous post, I talked about my energy-healer friends C_ and D_ supporting me after my cancer diagnosis, and how Woo-woo visitors from the beyond joined our sessions. You can catch up here.

On my third session with C__ and D__’s another relative comes to visit. They think his name is Robert. “He’s dressed,” my friend C says – “like a Quaker, but he’s not a Quaker.” “He’s dressed like Benjamin Franklin,” D_ clarifies. (Apparently she can see him too?) “He’s like a Puritan, but he’s not a Puritan — he’s not someone who’s afraid of a drink.”

I’m getting the picture—my ancestors were Scotspeople, hard working pragmatists who likely did enjoy a drink. Judging from their descendants (the ones whom I’ve met or been told about) they weren’t much for coddling and were advocates of “getting on with things.

Which is in keeping with what Robert tells them to tell me. You’ll come through this. You come from “strong stock”  and there are “still important things you have to do.” *

Pretty much the same kind of tough love as I got from Beatrice, but with a little something added. I am, of course, interested in what “important things” Robert sees on my life’s to-do list. It’s fun to imagine doing something important, especially if it’s something that other people might think is important, too, or that might involves rewards like accolades! or money!! Though I’m guessing it might be writing a student referral letter that gets them into school, changing their life, or some step in my own development, like achieving more inner peace or paying off my college loans. If it’s like other predictions in my life, the trajectory will be that for a while I’ll remember and wonder in the back of my mind if every little thing is the important thing… and then I’ll forget all about it. And then much later I’ll remember again and, looking back, assign importance to to something I did in the interim when I wasn’t thinking about it at all.

But Robert isn’t the only one with a message for me this evening. My friend C__ says there are “others” who have come to visit as well. (As of now, for want of something appropriate to call these energetic beings from the beyond, I’m just going to call them, collectively, “the Woo-woo.”) C_ says the Woo-woo have some advise for me, and that advice is:

Write about THIS.

“THIS is in all caps” she says, relaying their vehemence. “Write about THIS.” 

“What does that mean?” I ask.

“I guess it means THIS, right here. What you’re going through now.”

(Brief digression: If C__ were the type to consciously or unconsciously embellish, this might be the moment. Nothing commits writers to life like a some project they feel they are “destined to write.” However, this is not some deathbed situation where I require new purpose to give me will to live, and C_ knows this. Also… I don’t think she’s not the type to make up the Woo-woo. So, if she says the Woo-woo is saying I should write about THIS, then she’s hearing the Woo-woo say I should write about THIS.

Okay. So what part of THIS are they referring to?

  • My health journey, either this particular cancer or, the mutation behind the cancer—the Lynch Syndrome? 
  • My journey into more WOO-WOO terrain, (such as the Woo-woo telling me to write about THIS”). 
  • Or just LIFE in general? A cancer / woo-woo combo?

Is my assignment from the Woo-woo is to keep some kind of Lynch-Syndrome-Life diary? That would be… serendipitous? Since it’s something I do already do here in this blog (albeit on a sporadic basis, and always with some sense of guilt for not spend the same time looking for a real job or writing things that I could show my agents or at least submit to literary journals). 

Although, when I mention I’ve already been writing about THIS, C_tells me, she thinks I’m supposed to make it easier to access. “Like a YouTube or a podcast.” I feel like this must involve at least some interpretation on C_’s part. A bunch of Woo-woo’s in Ben Franklin era clothes can’t be saying “make a YouTube channel” right? 

I don’t ask this aloud, but C_ answers anyway, “Not Youtube specifically, but something where people will see it or hear it.”

Here, I’ll mention that if you are reading this post, you should feel special, because out of the 7+ billion people in the world, fewer than 20 are likely to read this post,** and you are one of them! For me, one of the more freeing aspects of this blog is that almost nobody reads it. The almost is key. As a writer, I work and revise and publish on the premise that someone will probably read a post I write. I love my handful of subscribers (hi guys!) and the idea that a stranger might randomly happen upon any post at some point in the future. But there’s also security in being mostly lost in the online crowd, free from criticism, cancellation or multiple opinions for how I should revise my writing or my brand or whatever. 

It’s safe.

Which is NOT how I feel about talking to a camera on YouTube. I don’t love looking at myself on camera, feeling foolish and vulnerable and conscious of the growing waddle under my chin. Editing video is always tedious and frustrating. And I have mixed feelings about uploading them. What audience are they aimed for? Other people who have Lynch Syndrome, I guess? YouTube videos, like blog posts, can exist without getting any views. Is that what I want? Or does an unwatched video feel somehow sadder than an unread post?

I am resistant to the idea. Thinking about it makes my chest tight.

But in these last months, I’ve turned a corner in my appreciation for video and audio. While I’ve combed through a lot of medical journal articles, which were for informative but anxiety provoking, it was a relief when I could find explanations in video or a podcast form, delivered by a person. Personal delivery made information easier to digest, assuaged some of my anxieties, and reminded me I am not alone in my experiences. I was very grateful.

Would the Woo-woo tell me to Write about THIS simply because writing will be therapeutic for me? (Maybe… it could be, right?) Or are they pushing me to stretch and put myself out there for other people—to inform them or help them feel less scared and alone?

And, just to circle back around… could this effort —whether big or small, or the seeds of something else — be important?

I’m going to have to make a YouTube video, aren’t I? 


*Robert doesn’t make any great efforts to prove his existence or his exact familial connection to me, but when I ask my mom later, it turns out there are plenty of Roberts on branches of our family tree across multiple generations.

**Extrapolating from historical statistics of average posts on this blog.

Cravings and Mindfulness

Lately I seem to have a to-do list that grows faster than I can trim it, and it’s got me feeling ungrounded. In between checking items off, I just ran into the kitchen, sliced off a swath of butterscotch brownie and shoved it into my mouth as a little “reward.”

But was it a reward that I needed? Did I even take the moment to really enjoy it? In a way, I did — although it was after it was already in my mouth, mid-chew, before swallow — but at least at that point I did remember to slow down for a moment and appreciate the sweetness and slight graininess of the sugar.

Updating this blog is one of those things that has been on my to-do list for awhile, but it hasn’t happened yet, so I thought I’d share this blog post about our craving brains that I wrote for a client’s business blog this week!

Big Cars, Billy Joel and Coming to Terms with “Pressure” – My Shuffle Synchronicities Guest Post

My friend Dave has this interesting Substack newsletter you can subscribe to (for free!) called Shuffle Synchronicities where every morning he shuffles his Spotify playlist and then talks about whatever song comes up, also staying alert for possible synchronicities — or connections with his own life.

He invited me do a guest post, and here’s how it starts:

In an era before airbags, seatbelt laws and child-car-seats-built-like-padded-exo-skeletons, my father possessed an impressively modern, before-his-time anxiety about shit that could happen to his children on the roadways. When my sister and I went on combined-class field trips in grade school, he made our teachers put us on separate buses, so if one of his kids died, there’d still be one left. When he saw teenagers showing off in their small, sporty cars, he’d say, When you kids start driving, I want you in the biggest, heaviest car on the road so if you get into an accident with that idiot, you’ll survive.

You can read the rest in my Shuffle Synchronicity Guest Post!