Plain Text & The Truth
Just finished a big project. Afterward, I lay with my back on the floor and stared up at the ceiling and considered – WOW. The world remains intact. Still carpet. Still a popcorn ceiling and the lingering smell of chicken for dinner. Right in front of me, another human face. Family! Friends! This, after weeks of Massive Writing Days — when my eyes felt stretched and over-big, doing things like rubbing my face and popping Starlight Mints and exceeding recommended caffeine levels. At all times, the book danced on the backs of my eyelids like REM sleep.
I did not, during this period, send many emails. I did not make social media posts. Accordingly, I was needled by the impish cousin of guilt — The ShouldBe. Whispering: Psssst, you shouldbe better at scheduled updates. You shouldbe sharing clever posts about yourself. Shoulbe tweeting, streaming, marketing — I’ve listened to The ShouldBe for years. But I’m starting to disagree.
I’ve had torrents of words rushing through me lately, so I’m going to lean on the words of someone else. I’d like to borrow from Mary Oliver on the nature of art and creative work. This passage comes from her final book of essays, Upstream:
There is a notion that creative people are absent-minded, reckless, heedless of social customs and obligations. It is, hopefully, true (. . . ) It is six a.m. and I am working. I am absentminded, reckless, heedless of social obligations, etc. It is as it must be. The tire goes flat, the tooth falls out, there will be a hundred meals without mustard. The poem gets written. I have wrestled with the angel and I am stained with light and I have no shame. Neither do I have guilt. My responsibility is not to the ordinary, or the timely. It does not include mustard, or teeth. It does not extend to the lost button, or the beans in the pot. My loyalty is to the inner vision, whenever and howsoever it may arrive. If I have a meeting with you at three o’clock, rejoice if I am late. Rejoice even more if I do not arrive at all.
Her words. I love and feel them ring true. I am glad she missed the meeting and burned the beans to bring them into the world. A hundred meals without mustard. A thousand emails unsent.
I will post more messages. I have a vague idea I’d like to repost abbreviated versions of my mailing list letters ever Wednesday or maybe every Sunday? I will try, but I am primarily a humble servant of The Vision. So if you do not find an update here — rejoice.
P.S. (Extended version of this message originally sent to email subscribers– embark here.)
Time to come clean.
I’ve spent a year and a half building an email list and have NO IDEA WHAT TO DO with it. Self-promotion? Professional insights? Cute check-ins heavy with emojis??? Cropped graphics, woozles & weazles, embedded streaming from my desk and it all made me narcoleptic face-first into keyboard ZZZZZZZzzzzzz.
Because — no fun. I don’t want to be cute and promotional all day. That sounds exhausting & awful. This has to be FUN. It has to be INTERESTING.
So while diligently building My Email List to Nowhere, MailChimp asked:
WILL SUBSCRIBERS RECEIVE MESSAGES IN PLAIN TEXT OR HTML??
WARNING!!! the MailChimp shrieked banana in hand, If you use Plain Text you CANNOT embed pictures nor monkey graphics! You cannot neither dazzle nor Truly Shine!!! No corkscrewing borders! No automated countdown clocks, tickers, widgets — and I thought Well, HELL YES. That’s GREAT! With a sad, stripped-down format from the late 90s, I can’t really do ANYTHING but type letters and hope they’re worth reading.
The idea was born: PLAIN TEXT AND THE TRUTH.
Real process updates from a working writer, what I’m doing/thinking/reading. Thoughts on day jobs, getting published, having adventures. What matters and what’s worthless. Some emails will be epic poems of TLDR proportion. Others will be over-brief and highly disappointing. There will be gems.
Each message will be as honest as I can make it. In this way, I’ll connect with readers and The Writing Tribe without social media as a go-between. I don’t like social media. And I believe in the magic and power of words on a page — this wild alchemy that continues to bind us, fire us up, make us better understand one another. A careful arrangement of characters can make you fall in love, start a protest, inspire banning & burning, make you move cross-country, quit your job, start over with a smile and there’s really something to it, this whole writing thing.
So this train is leaving the station. If you’d like to join, Welcome Aboard.
I hope this works. If it doesn’t, I’ll let you know. Honestly. In plain text.