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.

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.

Hiatus – After the Fact

I have started this post a few times now — at the beginning of May, the beginning of June, the beginning of July –only to be interrupted by other obligations. Now it is the beginning of August…

The post I began in early July was adapted and updated from the draft I began in June:

With the July beginning, summer is truly under way… school is out for my friends who teach, the Writers’ Strike continues for my friends who are in the guild, my social media feeds are full of travel reports, and my office-worker friends are enjoying summer Fridays.

Conversely, I am heading into what will be a busy and intense couple months of production that will not end until September, when schools will be resuming, and hopefully the strike will be ending.

I’ve just had a break from Mattel producing through May and most of June — during which I’ve tried to do some writing, some adulting, and some projects — to differing degrees of success.

The early May post talked about the then-upcoming 10-day-Vipassana course I was about to embark on. But talked about it in such a detailed, in-the-moment way that I didn’t get to the meat of it before I stopped writing, so I’ve moved the text into notes for a long essay I may or may never write.

Where does that leave us?

In the heat-dome heat of August — with memories of mid-April -mid-June fast fading. The daily details are already dots in the rearview, but for my own continuity, I’ll try to record the bigger items here — before they too have faded completely.

In late April, I worked on my first non-Mattel events producing gig since I veered from that path to begin writing. It was four days working with a video crew at the LA Convention Center, and I was reminded of both the pleasures and pitfalls of intense, long days making something in a short period of time. Small crises come and go hour by hour — the morning’s concerns are eclipsed by those at noon, and all of it’s a blur by the end of the day. You meet strangers on day one, and imagine being fast ongoing friends with them by day three, but everyone goes their separate ways in the end.

In May I went to my first 10-day-meditation course in 29 Palms — which is a place very close to Joshua Tree in the desert. It is a “silent retreat” meaning one doesn’t talk to your fellow student from Day 1 until the last part of day 10, and one is meant to meditate roughly 9 1/2 hours per day. There’s no books or notebooks or phones or computers — one is left with the company of one’s own thoughts and the daily mental tasks put before one. It was both challenging and rewarding, and I’d recommend it to almost anyone who thinks it might be interesting for them. One comes back from the experience wanting everyone she knows to have the experience too, but I’ve tried not to proselytize too much. (I am attempting to bully Paul into going “before the end of the year”. He’s chosen November, in hopes that something else will intervene—which it very well might.)

By the time I returned home, I had five weeks before production work began again, which seemed like plenty of time to do some adulting, see a list of friends, finish and submit a short story, finish and turn in a writing assignment.

In the end, I did part of all these things — I made it to half a dozen doctors’ appointments, but haven’t accomplished a last few scans and tests that came from those. The short story took a much larger chunk of time than allocated — it is only this last weekend that I felt I had a draft ready to send out. The writing assignment has a draft but it’s still not ready to send out and it hangs over every weekend it’s hanging over me at this moment). I connected with some friends but not others.

But… I

  • hosted a new friend from Brazil for three days,
  • helped one housemate move out and another move in
  • did some solidarity picketing with the striking writers
  • did some yoga
  • meditated more
  • gave away many items on “buy nothing”
  • created some video “content”
  • built a shelf for my office closet
  • saw some friends
  • saw some movies
  • enjoyed some beautiful weather.

At the end of June, hiatus ended before I was ready, and now I’m hip-deep in it at Mattel, and letting that be an excuse to put my life into minimum-maintenance mode. Opening only the mail that it looks dangerous not to, keeping up weekly with family but pushing most social invitations, healthy diet plans and writing goals into September.

Maybe then I’ll get to the end of my list!

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.)

Macroverse Panel Today

I think I’ve cryptically referred to the “digital app” company I’ve been doing a project for… To be less vague about it, I’m working with a company called Macroverse. Today, as part of a virtual Web3 Comicon event, I’ll be on a panel where Macroverse reveals it’s upcoming releases, including the series that I am writing on, called Sal Bones. You can access it as a livestream on YouTube, here, at 4:30 PM (PST) today (Sunday, October 9, 2022) or see the recorded version later.

I’m not sure how many projects are being introduced, if I’ll actually be called to say something or if I’ll mostly nod and smile. I’ve been watching several of the other events over the past couple days, and feel like I’m getting a slightly better sense of what “Web3” means, and how storytelling might evolve if it comes to pass.