Pardon The Intrusion

Last week, having given up on Ghost Pro — mostly due to the inability to use a custom theme — I set up another self-hosted Ghost instance. Despite the time it takes to restore images, starting a new instance from a backup of Ghost is fairly easy. The Ghost team has really refined the process.

When deciding how I wanted to handle newsletter emails, I thought back to this post from CJ Chilvers. In it, Chilvers tackles whether to do a curated style or essay style newsletter. He thinks the choice is ultimately a false one, but still comes down on the side of the personal essay.

Anything can be an essay. It’s the most versatile format of publishing. Link posts, quotes, photos, videos, a Q&A, or just plain-old paragraphs of ideas — it can all be formatted as an essay. Essays can be a sentence or book in length. Whatever length keeps you creating, and your subscribers reading is the perfect length.

Chilvers lists several other reasons that he believes the essay is the better choice. Among them is that he believes the personal essay takes less work.

I have enjoyed doing curated newsletters in the past, but I agree with Chilvers in that they are more work. They take time and energy that I don’t always feel like I have to spare. For me, it’s also challenging because so much of what I read tends to center around difficult topics and I frankly don’t want to make a habit of posting about those.1

Once I got through setting up my subscriber list, I decided that I was just going to send out my usual (essay style) posts as newsletters, the way most of the writers using Substack do. It only took one email before I regretted the decision.

Putting my blog posts directly in someone’s inbox feels to me like an intrusion. I second guess the value of what I have written, and whether it’s good enough to compete for space with other emails that I presume must be more important. I don’t have this same feeling with a blog post or RSS. Those feel like pull technologies, where someone can easily decide if they want your content, without ever making you aware of their choice. Unlike with email, a subscriber to your RSS feed can unsubscribe without you knowing. They don’t have to visit your website, either.

I think, for now at least, I will be skipping newsletters and just posting via the web.2 There will be a few people who won’t read my output (especially in my family) because they won’t have posts pushed to them through email, but I think that’s okay.

  1. Though once in a while is okay.↩︎

  2. With a feed available via RSS, of course.↩︎


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