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Photo by Alexis Fauvet

Shouting into the Void

Today’s Friday and it’s my newsletter day, but to be honest I’m struggling to write today. I considered skipping it, but I feel like if I skip one day, I’ll be ten times likelier to skip another, and another, until I stop posting altogether. Committing to this weekly newsletter is hard and I’m wondering if it’s worth it.

I’m checking in after 19 of these to see if you still think it’s worth it. If you do, why? Do you have any feedback for me?

Most of the time it feels like writing into the void. I know half my 600+ subscribers open my emails, but replies are rare and usually from the same couple of people who I know personally. The rest, I have no clue who you are and why you’re on my list, although I want to know. I have no clue what value I’m providing for you or how I can help you. I don’t know if I’m meeting expectations or falling short. Or if any of that even matters.

Since I’m not getting direct feedback, I just write about my innermost thoughts and feelings. Turning myself inside out in an attempt to share myself with someone out there who could relate. I’m wondering if it’s healthy for me to keep doing this.

I’m writing this with my fellow creators in mind. To all my fellow artists who are tasked with creating content in today’s attention economy. To those who read the expert’s advice that it’s essential to write and post regularly if you want to be relevant and have any chance of making a living as an artist. And to describe the lived experience of doing that.

What Motivates Me?

I asked myself what motivates me to post? Initially, it was to “put myself out there” to be seen. To step out from the shadows and say hello again. After being a digital recluse for a few years, it was scary to step out on the stage again so to speak.

I knew that by facing my fears, something good would come out of it. Some new opportunity would arise (hello ​new podcast​) because I took action on what I wanted instead of passively consuming other’s work. It was time to add my voice back into the mix.

But more deeply, what am I really after here?

I think there’s a part of me that feels disconnected from the world and I want to be seen, heard, and understood. As an artist, I want to express my point of view and have someone else “get it” the way I do. That feels good. I’m not looking for sympathy or pity, but some sort of community or collaborators.

But there’s such a thing as the ​vulnerable narcissist​. Is that me?

I wonder if what I’m doing is out of a need to gain approval and seek validation from others. I also wonder if this one-sided medium of the email newsletter is actually what’s encouraging it because I don’t ever get to listen or empathize with my readers. It’s not really a conversation. I just shout into the void and hope that someone out there privately finds hope or healing in my honest words.

I try to detach from the outcome or let go of my need to even hear anything about it because my expression is the point. It’s my relationship with the divine within me that I’m ultimately after, and I want to be of service to that. And to get my own ego out of the way. So I tend to vulnerably overshare in an attempt to speak to something that I think needs spoken about.

All About Me?

I did get unsolicited feedback once from another newsletter writer. I made a comment on a YouTube video and another commenter replied, saying they checked out my newsletter and gave me tips to improve it. They said to stop focusing so much on myself, and to try to provide value. To offer a “lead magnet” to get more subscribers to opt-in.

I did a bit of an eye roll because I know all that. I came from that background of email marketing and building a fan base. But that stuff leaves a sour taste in my mouth anymore. I don’t want to have to use marketing tricks, or sales funnels. But I’m all about providing value, if I only knew what it was that these abstract 600 people want from me.

But this is the weird world we live in today. Ordinary humans having to become brands and serve an abstraction of followers with various needs and expectations.

The most successful businesses are providing some sort of value or utility to customers. Amazon and Apple aren’t vulnerably sharing their souls in an effort to be seen and heard. They are extremely customer focused. Their business is making YOU feel important and the center of the universe.

The people making the most money in the creative industry are the tool makers and not the artists. Artists are self-indulgent with sensitive egos. Artists want you to listen to their latest track and read their latest post. But the funny thing is that the world needs artists! We need to pay attention to what their sensitive souls are experiencing. It’s a lot easier to get views when your product is NOT the post or track, but the process behind it, or the tools you used to make it.

Making a Living as an Artist

I just want to make a modest living doing what I love. But I’m disconnected from those who actually view or appreciate my work. It’s all online and “out there” somewhere. I wonder if I’m just trying to hold on to what once was. I came up during the 2004-2015 internet when social media was still fresh. But now it’s beyond over-saturated and even more soul sucking than before. Do I need to get on Tik-Tok?

I started a newsletter because I wanted a direct relationship with my customers, fans, and readers. I think as an artist, writer, musician, or whatever – you need an audience, right? Or are you supposed to just create and speak into the void and be happy with that? It’s easy to get discouraged when you’re consistently showing up to an empty room.

Imagine going on a livestream and never getting any comments, is she just supposed to keep posting and ignore the malaise that comes from this non-interaction? Or is she supposed to transform herself into what gets engagement? Content creators feel the pull to adjust themselves to suit the algorithm and keep audience’s attention.

To create with the intent to elicit engagement for the sake of engagement is a path that leads you further away from your intrinsic motivations.

So I’m wary of caring too much about engagement or the lack of it. But if I’m being honest, lack of engagement really makes you wonder why you keep doing it. If you keep going to the hardware store looking for milk or eggs, at some point you’ll realize you’re in the wrong place.

I read ​a post​ from ​Jeff Goins’ Substack​ today and he had a good quote about the writer-reader relationship.

The greatest gift to a writer is a reader, and I was always looking for that. I think we all are, writer or not. What life requires, maybe even demands, is the witness of an other who can see you in your pain, in your suffering, in your joy and triumph, and watch with empathy. And now, with a little more experience, some unintended scars, and hopefully a greater dose of perspective, I hope I can offer the same in return.

– Jeff Goins in ​The Permission We Want But Struggle to Give Ourselves​

We All Need a Witness

When I think about it, that witness he’s talking about is what we’re all trying to cultivate in our meditation practices. We want that unconditionally loving presence to witness us in all of our glory, darkness, shame, and suffering. To be in the trenches with us and experience it with us.

Developing a relationship with that unconditionally loving presence, which some call Christ, or God, is what I’ve been slowly developing for the last ten years. Part of this process is realizing areas when you’re trying to get that true Divine Love from flawed sources in the material realm. We’re trying to fill voids within ourselves with the approval or admiration of others. Except that’s an unreliable source of nourishment that doesn’t last. And it only begets a hunger for more of it.

I’ll quote Jeff Goins again in this ​post he wrote​ about the allure of significance as a writer:

When people recognize [you or your work] that will feel good—it always does. A chemical floods your brain and fills your body, and that shit gets addictive. You go to the well of confidence and get a hefty dose only to find yourself crawling back to the same source the very next day, surprisingly thirsty. So you keep filling your cup, each time plunging a little deeper into the world of significance, losing another piece of your soul in the process.

– Jeff Goins in ​The Problem with Platform​

So it really makes me think about what I’m doing with this newsletter.

Am I really utilizing the newsletter format to the best of my ability? Doubtful. I’m not segmenting or capturing leads anywhere. I am paying for ConvertKit’s “Creator Plan” but not using any of the features. I’m basically just blogging.

The End of Blogging

Is blogging dead? Should I move to ​Substack​?

Jeff Goins seems to think so. In his final blog post ​The End of Blogging (for me)​ on his website he wrote about how the blogosphere has all but vanished and splintered into various social media platforms. Gone are the days of Live Journal and WordPress blogs where we all are commenting on each other’s posts. I miss those days.

But over on Substack, there’s at least the potential for a thriving community of readers and writers. And the possibility for paid subscriptions so creators can eek out a living putting some of their writing behind a paywall. Should I give that a go? Or is it all just a vain quest for relevance that I should really be seeking within?

Am I just a highly sensitive artist looking for approval and validation? To feed my need for significance? To build and nurture a “following” (even as we approach the ​death of the follower​) so that I can successfully make a sustainable living as an artist? Yes, I think a little bit of all of that. But is it working?

The newsletter format is something writers recommend as way to bypass social media and “own” your list. I like that it’s personal and not dependent on social media platforms where it’s ​getting harder and harder​ to actually reach the people who follow you. But if it’s too one-sided I’m not sure I can keep it going.

I might like the podcast format better honestly. It’s easier for me to share my ideas in a ​real conversation​ but isn’t as personal to you. I’d still love to contribute directly to your needs and being of service. But I may cut back or phase out this newsletter if I need to.

That’s where I’m at today. Who knows if I’ll even feel the same next week. But that’s what I got.

Have a good weekend. ✌️

Jeff

Featured Photo by Alexis Fauvet on Unsplash

Jeff Finley
Jeff Finley

Jeff is a graphic artist, designer, musician, writer, and mystic with a passion for truth and personal growth. He's the author of Wake Up, Maker/Mistaker, and Thread's Not Dead, as well as the creator of Starseed Supply Co. Learn more about him here.

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