In celebration of writing: Substack best seller— Thank you
While searching something Substack related in my emails, I came across one I’d received in January and completely missed. ‘Congratulations! You’re a Substack best seller!’ Trust me to totally skim by that one.
Now, if you know me, you know I don’t typically get excited about this sort of thing. A few years ago when I received an independent book award for my first book (which I’ve now stopped printing), it took months to come up in conversation with my husband. “Why didn’t you tell me this?!” my enthusiastic American husband responded. My husband is as humble as they come and similarly, never used to make a big deal of the business awards he’d win, but he is also my biggest fan and thought it was worth celebrating.
Best sellers lists have never appealed to me. I’ve never launched my books with a formula to make ‘Amazon best seller!’, as is protocol for many. We all know how fabricated a lot of those lists can be. We all know how fabricated a lot of the self help world is. My Instagram following has grown slowly and organically over 11 years. My 95,000 ish followers haven’t come from a viral post, or any particular strategy. I’ve had regular three month hiatus from the platform, too. My growth has come from 4200 posts over a decade. Long. Slow. Devoted to the art… not the hoo-haa.
I just love to write.
I admit, there have been times over the decade where I’ve been tempted (and at times meekly attempted) to play the game— influenced by others ambition and perhaps a little insecure about why.on.earth I just didn’t have that same drive to ‘get big’.
I love art.
I love to make art.
I love receiving others art.
I love humans and I love what humans make.
I love seeing how differently God looks through us all.
I love that feeling, when a piece I write, pierces people write through the heart.
I love being able to articulate something in one miraculous moment, that I’ve been working on in my inner world, for years.
God gave me a gift with words so that I would use it to touch others.
Trying to look like I am more famous or popular than I am, is a waste of my time.
Trying to become famous or popular according to values that aren’t my own— tempting maybe, but life sucking.
We’ve got art to make. Consistent, beautiful, humble, life giving, art.
I’m convinced that art is God’s favourite method of communication. How else does art make sense? How do we humans create such breathtaking beauty in song, words, imagery…. All of it?
Over the years, I’ve self published three books, soon to be four (a kids book I’ve been creating with a wonderful artist in Slovenia— just waiting on print samples) I’ve toyed with the idea of going for a publisher. The idea of having someone do all the tedious publishing work so I can just…. write. That sounds like creative eden for me. When I am the publisher, I am tooooooo picky about the details. My kids book, Earth To Kids took a year to produce in London. My God. It cost $150AUD a book to produce the limited edition version. I cut zero corners and found every cherry on top I could find… hand foils, a bookmark created by beautiful refugee children (in exchange for art supplies for an entire year!), a colouring book to match the art in the book, the most talented watercolour artist in Europe…
People told me I was mad. It’s just a kids book, they’d say.
Sure, but a mumma will hold this book, I’d say.
A mumma that is moved by quality.
A mumma who is tired and who will appreciate something of quality in her hands.
A mumma who loves heirlooms and collectors items.
A mumma who loves art and craftsmanship as much as I do and the idea of ‘limited edition’ as much as I do.
I published a regular version too. But, it was still printed in the UK. In full colour. If you know you know.
Would I do it like that again? Likely not. It was an expensive exercise and one that was truly a labour of love, energy and my savings account. But… art. But… books. But… quality.
I was writing a book for most of last year. A lot of it is done, actually. But towards the end of the year when God came in and reorganised my heart, mind, perspective, desires, work— I needed to push pause indefinitely there. I needed to know that the message was aligned with what I believe now. Sometimes, as writers, we just move too quickly for books. We’ve got to wait until we’re at a place within where the message has matured— it’s not written in a moment of exaltation or in a transitionary period where we’re changing faster than me on my way to get the last pain au chocolat’ at our local bakery in Italy.
I am books’ biggest fan. Truly. When it’s my time to go and I’m laying in my casket (with one of my Zimmerman dresses on— husband take note), I’ll likely have a book between my crossed arms on my chest— photos of my kids and hopefully grandkids too, underneath the book and closest to my heart. I’d just need one hand free to be holding a matcha.
I recently stopped printing Earth Is Hiring— a much loved book. I don’t stand by the entirety of the message anymore, and so for me, it’s most in integrity to stop printing it. Sure, I know all people are in different places in their lives and the book could still benefit people who aren’t where I’m at— yes. But, I wrote the book. I’m the author. My name stands alongside those 100,000+ words. I stopped printing ‘Stop Missing The Point’ Book too. No big reasons— there are a lot of messages in there, particularly about the ever exhausting woke mob, that are more relevant today than in 2020 when I published it. But, I just want to start fresh.
I love to keep it fresh. This is why I love Substack. This is why I love the ritual of writing what is fresh, and sending it out when it’s alive.
I love Substack because I can write and share in real time. I love that my readers can look back and see the real life journey taking place. My paid readers have had a front row seat to the inner dialogue in my mind and then witness me come out of it clear, focussed, at peace (hooray!) only to then witness the next interpretative dance (in words) and on we go. It’s life. It’s dynamic.
This afternoon I looked at my insta stories and noticed that less than 1% of my followers were seeing my stories.
It’s likely because I used the word God so often in a post yesterday.
This algorithm, censoring business won’t ever stop me from writing, but it has encouraged me to focus much less on Instagram and far more on Substack— where I can write fully, honestly, using the exact words I want to use (No, I will not replace God with ‘The Universe’ because they are not the same) and also… it goes directly to my people, who consciously chose to receive my words. Zip. Delivered.
When I open an email from each of the publications I subscribe to, I do so excitedly. There is something about their writing style, worldview, and unique insights that feel like a treat to me. I get to not only have them write directly to me each week, without needing to venture the jungle that is Instagram, but also, I get to pay them.
Writing is an art and I value it immensely.
Also, writing is not always the same as authoring.
Not all authors are writers and not all writers are authors.
Some of the best selling authors aren’t writers. Some of the best writers are not best selling authors.
Books can be ghostwritten. Books often are. Books are an industry.
How many best selling authors do you know, who wouldn’t ever call themselves a writer?
How many beautiful writers do you know who don’t call themselves an author?
Writing is an art. It is a profession. It is a craft.
This is why I celebrate Substack today.
Writing isn’t just about articulating words well.
To be a good writer, you must be a good thinker. Not good as in ‘noble’, just good as in you pay attention.
To be a good writer, you must see things… really see them.
Good writers observe the world consistently. They think about it consistently and from a very particular space— how can I tell about this? A writer thinks in poems.
A writer’s mind is constantly thinking about how to make sense of something for the world, to share something about the human experience that is so hard to put into words… until it is.
Pay attention to life and tell about it.
I observe everything. My husband laughs about my meerkat face always watching, seeing, eavesdropping at the local cafe– but it’s how I make sense of us and of life. I watch.
If I didn’t write, I’d go insane.
I can’t keep it all in.
I need to tell about it.
I need to uncoil it from my mind and into words. You know that standard magic trick where the scarf is pulled from the sleeve and it keeps coming and coming and coming?
Reach into a writer’s mind, pull on that scarf, and it won’t ever end.
I’m not saying I won’t write another book, or several more. I know I will.
I just want to celebrate writing for a moment separately to books.
So often those who get the big book deals aren’t writers, they’re marketers.
So often, writers don’t want to spend all of their energy on getting 200,000 followers before someone will look at their book.
So often, writer and author gets lumped into the same category.
Sometimes they’re the same thing, often they’re not.
I love Substack because it celebrates writing and writers.
I love Substack because I no longer need to be told off by that damn ‘your caption is too long’ message.
I love Substack because no matter what happens to Instagram, and whether or not they hide what they want to hide, we get to stay in touch here— a much more dynamic spot than regular newsletters or blogs.
I love Substack because it is good for our nervous systems. No algorithm that gives you whiplash. No accidentally consuming 343 pieces of content you had no intention of consuming before 10am. No proving yourself worthy of visibility.
Come with your life, your perspective, the uniqueness of your heart and your words…. and write them.
If you’ve been thinking of starting your own Substack publication, take this as your loving nudge.
Thank you for being here.
I decided last night I would finally start writing on Substack. I’m currently standing in my bathroom, towel still around my wet hair, and felt full on electricity travel through my whole body in the most delicious way as I read this post and got to your & God’s gentle nudge to do the thing. Thanks Peta. I’m a new paid subscriber but I frickin love being here so much already.