Why Substack?

Or, the Joy of Making Stuff

Two weeks ago, I made a cutting board. It was very basic, made of pine and stained with a homemade solution of vinegar and steel wool. My A-Camp staff friends brought the power tools and helped me through it. But even before I’d put the finish on, I was unbelievably proud.

“Did you see my cutting board?” I’d ask my friends, excitedly, holding it up so they could see. “I’m not actually going to cut things on it, I’m going to use it more like a pallet, like for serving cheese at parties — I can’t actually eat cheese anymore, I think I’m allergic, but my friends can! It’s going to be so great! Look at it!”

I was babbling like a Kindergartener. Which makes sense, because when I was in Kindergarten I actually did want to be a carpenter: I always played with the tool set when we played House. I had very little talent for arts-and-crafts and did not get the artist’s eye (that all went to my sister Anna, who you will be hearing a lot about), but I always loved making things. I loved the idea of being able to hold something up and say “I made this!”

Though what I always wanted to be, even more than a carpenter, was a writer. After college I’d written and tweeted under pseudonyms, but in 2011, I was finally at a place where I felt comfortable enough to put my writing out into the world, publicly. So I started a blog, and it felt great at first: I wrote what I wanted and seemed to be getting a decent following. Then I started to hate it.

“Why don’t you update your blog anymore?” People would ask, and I struggled to explain that the blog was never intended to be an ends in itself. I’d wanted to prove to other people, and probably to myself, that I could write, and I’d been hoping that it would give me the opportunity to get writing jobs. Perhaps that was naive, but it did, eventually, seem to work: I got work writing for websites, and eventually got the chance to write a book. That felt different from blogging: there was a finished product to look forward to, and a structure to the process. I already knew I had an appreciative audience, and I already knew I would be paid for the many, many hours I put into it. I felt useful. I felt like I had something I could point to and say, “That’s mine. I did that.”

I was absorbed in writing my book at that time, but wondering what I would do when I finished it. The idea of having to return to blogging, to never knowing who would be reading my writing and to never getting paid for it, filled me with dread. I knew I wanted to write on a regular basis, but I wasn’t sure where, or how.

So when Substack asked if I’d be interested in using them as a platform, I was overjoyed, and relieved. Some of my friends had already started using it, and confirmed my hopes that it was like all the good parts of blogging, without the hassle of having to update WordPress or run ads. I’d be able to share more with people who wanted to pay for a subscription to read more. I’d have something that was mine, but that I could share with others.

I’m glad to have a place to write regularly, and if you’re reading this, I’m glad you’re interested in reading my writing regularly. I hope you’ll want to read more.

Also, if you know a place in LA that teaches woodworking classes, let me know.