As someone who’s always played the role of “behind the writer,” Substack has given me a gift that is difficult not to gobble up. Readers interacting meaningfully with my writing feeds a need from a very young part inside me: people want to talk about something I am interested in?! I could swim in that goodness all day.

But I am also aware of the importance of pacing. Even now, as I’m typing this, my daughter, who is almost 15 months old, is engaging in a habit that seems to keep cropping up: if I put too much food in front of her, within a few minutes, she starts wildly flinging it across the room with her hands. Only to then look at me and say “more.” But if I remove the majority of her food and only offer small, hand-sized portions to choose from, she relaxes and is able to feed herself without working into a frenzy.

All this to say, you’re wise to remind us that slow and steady is the only way through the gauntlet of being a writer and writing in the age of internet chaos. Without that steadiness and care of self, I’m convinced we’ll lose access to the writers who nourish us the most.

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This is what exactly I've been thinking about this week. I think you're spot on that there is a fine line. For me, I aim to post one essay a week and I have to remind myself that what my substack CANNOT become- is another thing to beat myself up for. As long as I'm writing, I'm accomplishing my goals. Partial engagement has its benefits, but constant engagement takes away creative time and energy. I even struggle with this as a reader on substack, I WANT TO READ EVERYONES. (Also I'm writing about this topic as we speak!)

I have to guess there's a genre element too. If one's substack is about politics, it makes sense why they might write more frequently and engage on Notes. But if it's nonfiction, memoir, or anything of the like- consistency is helpful but I'm doubtful as to whether us nonfiction writers will yield that much more by constant engagement? Because if we opt that route than aren't we just turning our individual lives into brands and asking people, please, please, accept, love, subscribe, to me?

For me the biggest benefit that has come from writing my substack is the immediate feedback. Even if it's only one person, it's fuel that keeps me going, which is very different than the waiting game of literary publishing. Plus, I find my substack comments more meaningful than a magazine's acceptance letter (Which, although welcome) are usually along the lines of "this is great! We'd love to publish it!". Whereas my substack community will write meaningful and detailed comments about what resonated and why. I love it. It takes the illusion out of the process.

I am sticking to the slow game with you!!!

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It’s funny to me that Substack, even when I first joined not too long ago, felt like an “escape” from the IG and the pressure to produce content incessantly. But now I am just hyper aware of the “slowness” in my slow writing 😅. Thanks for being real here. I love following along.

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This is very important to me and something I think about often: “We need to be vigilant about how our message is being shaped by our medium, and watch for signs that that shaping is changing our voice beyond our recognition.” 🔥🙌

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I really appreciate the honesty and frankness of your consideration here. It brings up a lot of questions for me which I hadn’t even considered, mostly I suppose because I’m holding this whole Substack thing very loosely. I’m not sure whether that’s a good approach or not but your essay makes me realize that’s what I’m doing. I’m grateful for this moment on Substack; I don’t take it for granted and I don’t count it lasting, or at least it won’t remain as it is. A few months before joining Substack, I let go of a lifelong dream of being a writer. I write now, true, but I let go of *being a writer* as part of my identity. I think that may be part of it. If there’s a threshold I’m hungry to reach it’s that I want people to connect via my Substack, I want people to feel less alone, and I want those connections to spill into the real world.

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May 9·edited May 9Liked by Rae Katz

Will everyone please become a paid subscriber here so that Rae can get her checkmark the world needs this please for the sake of the world also she deserves it her writing is the best the world has ever seen the Pulitzers said it yesterday if you didn’t See it go check the Pulitzer prizes said Rae wins for most deserving of getting a freaking checkmark ASAP those aren’t my words those are the words of the Pulitzer people

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May 9Liked by Rae Katz

I am here for the capital E essays if that helps. Monthly sounds pretty good! Daily seems waaaay too little too often for considered writing and reading

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Thank you for the honesty, Rae.

I started my Substack earlier this year, and this is the first time I am exploring my love for reading and writing. Prior to this, I had been working on creating a blog; I bought a domain and started building a website. It was taking the time away from writing, though.

Then I came across Substack. It was a game changer because I could focus on writing and what I wanted to write about. However, it's not easy to figure out a niche, and I often struggle with balancing what I want to write about versus what my subscribers are interested in.

I have to agree with you on the platform "demands". Working a full-time job, maintaining a social life, finding time for my other hobbies/creative outlets, and adulting (yes, I am a millennial, what gave it away? lol) with a partner and two silly goofballs (my dogs), while maintaining a writing practice has been demanding, yet I WANT to do it. I find joy in it and appreciate the platform's emphasis on consistency. Currently, I am finding the expectations from Notes to be a bit overwhelming. However, I want to grow my subscriber list, so I am figuring out how to engage with Notes, office hours, etc.

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Substack is certainly the best home I've found for my writing. Sometimes I write when I've accumulated enough material to want to put it down. Better, I write when two ideas collide in my brain and spark a new insight, but I can't make those things happen to order. While I do write to find out what I'm thinking, and journal for that purpose, I'm not convinced that anyone would want to read my stream of consciousness. So, I find the pressure to perform by generating paid subscriptions through posting frequently and sharing my thoughts on Notes to be antithetical how I approach my writing. Notes have generated a bunch of paid subscriptions but paid by me, not to me! And, yes, I'll be adding this one.

I'm fortunate enough not to need to be paid for my writing. But it would be nice to generate enough paid subscriptions to cover what I'm spending supporting other writers who do need the money!

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Loved hearing your thoughts on this!

I don't have a clear answer to any of your questions, but do have some revelations (and a mental shift!) I came to this past weekend around my identity and future:

I wanna pursue writing, like, forreal.

In a future piece (or two) I plan dive into my journey of fighting to be able to write... And SO much has shifted about my life and the perspectives I have for it after my mom died.

But though I still feel a bit wobbly figuring out the "official" way I plan to show up on Substack (how often? Weekly? Bi-weekly? What am I writing weekly? Monthly? Bi-weekly? Etc.), I--personally--at this moment in my life have let go of all inhibitions around writing and showing up to write. I wanna take 3 months fully showing up how I want as a writer (after my last week-long break this week), and after MONTHS (years, if we're being technical) I'm finally... FINALLY giving myself permission to do so!

And Substack really feels like the perfect place to do so. I'm so grateful for this community. I have some amazingly lovely hype people who are loving my work and writing, I have my first paid subscriber and it's someone I admire and I got her and I am not even "polished" yet... Like I have so many screenshots on my vision board from all the lovely people who're in my community!

I someday want to be able to sustain myself as a writer (who doesn't?!) and I'm currently in a place where I believe it's possible and am fiercely advocating for it...

And doing it my way.

Right now, that's by having fun, caring about my community and this whole ecosystem (I've developed a new perspective and intention around Notes that helps me show up more on it and share and comments with more ease), and *listening* to what I need and honoring it (like the 2-week break I'm finishing up. It's like when I announced I was taking a break from public posting, my brain got the memo too and I've come up with so many drafts and pieces I'm not fleshing out and scheduling).

Like I said, post-mom life has been a bit jarring but I never wanted to stop writing, so people are on the journey with me and are so kind about it. I'm grateful to be someplace where I can figure out how I wanna navigate my newsletter in real time and still receive praise and support. Me taking my break came from just having nothing else to write... I stepped back to heal and observe life more and hopefully I can "batch" some pieces to help me find a stride for consistency, because no matter what, this platform is too important to me to just churn out forced BS because I announced in my about page that I post two times a week.

All I know is that I'm TIRED of placing all these rules and narratives in my head about how things HAVE to be or how I HAVE to show up and I've never given myself permission to just play and see what happens.

Set an allotted amount of time to just experiment and explore intentionally and have fun... and see what happens!

So that's what I'm planning to do for at least 3 months (not sure when, but pretty sure VERY soon!).

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Thank you for this discussion, Rae. I’m struggling to find my cadence, or meet it, and I promised myself when I started Armchair Rebel that I would keep going, and not let the perfect be the enemy of good. I find ‘streaks’ very demotivating, but your metaphor of one page at a time building up is exactly what I hope for, apart from a magical recovery of full health and an ability to go deep in command to produce a brilliant essay each week and be respected and beloved...

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Great post, thank you Rae. One of the things I really appreciate about Substack is finding writers like you who are honest about these human tangles and who inspire me to stay true to The Writing rather than chasing the likes. The likes feel so good though... 😉 I had to get off Notes because it was sucking me in and I don't have the will power. Part of my journey here since I landed in Jan has been redoubling my devotion to words and to making offerings, and letting the rest go as best I can. A constant work in progress, but a transferable skill I think! 🙏🏻

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“But even if I’m not posting daily, then I’m definitely feeling bad daily about not posting daily.” Haha love this!

Honestly, I have yet to experience any conflict on this platform between being myself/doing what I want and the demands of the platform itself. I feel it actually supports and rewards people who truly do their own thing and on their own terms, regardless of how it lands.

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Wow, this is exactly how I’ve been feeling lately. I just started my page a few months ago and finding that balance has been a little difficult. It’s so nice to know that someone else feels the same! Thank you so much for sharing!

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Love the comments. I made a commitment to publish one piece a week. I have nearly given up because I am so slow. Thanks for the validation that it’s OK to be a slow writer.

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This is so relatable. I want the orange checkmark, to climb the leaderboards. But I also want to keep ease in it all. And to work at a leisurely pace. For me that means aiming for weekly, but allowing myself to skip a week whenever I want. Still, I do feel pressure to also have threads and all the other paid things. And I’m still figuring out how much of that I want to do.

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