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Thanks for all this insight and tips and tricks ! Think we both set up on here around a similar time and I’m (mostly) concentrating on enjoying it. I love being a writer and find it easy to consider myself one. Though this is years after my writing started from a most desperate place!

Following a breakdown in 2016, I found a counsellor (for 3.5yrs) who suggested journaling. I was that desperate I started the practice immediately! I went on to describe journaling as a tool that saved my life. Now it helps me level up in all areas of my life! Recently I shared a blog on this breakdown only for it become my highest read blog😃 when I think back to where I once was to where I am now...🥲

https://warriorwithin.substack.com/p/baring-all-about-the-breakdown

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Thanks so much for this – to me, it's further confirmation of what I've come to realize over the past year: no matter the outcome, I'm learning to not care who reads my writing or when, to write purely for the sake of it, because it keeps me alive and sane, because there are words I need to let go of that won't ever leave me if I don't do the work to tease them out and let them go.

So, accepting that I'm not ready (not now, maybe not ever) to consciously *do* anything to help my writing spread. I'm hardly even reading others' writing these days (other than reading novels to my kid) because I'm so focused on just getting my words out.

I know my writing is *fine* and has substance, but believe it's often too much to digest – which is also fine to me right now, because my priority isn't subscriber count but my own personal evolution via my writing, which often requires me publishing more than my mind thinks is "smart" to publicly let go of, and/but I know that'll change over time, with practice and refined discernment.

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I really appreciate this perspective! And speaking from experience, this dance with your writer’s intuition will only help feed a true-to-you (and sustainable) rhythm when you do feel ready to bring your writing in a more formal way. ☀️

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Thanks for this! I feel so much better when I give myself this “permission to play.” The marketing to find readers usually feels dreadful - I much prefer the interactive approach that you’re describing, it’s genuinely building community with others and that in turn fuels more creativity/play when I see what others are joyfully telling stories about!

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Marketing always felt dreadful to me, and I was trained in it! In my mind, the work we did in content marketing was permissible because businesses with employees have to grow somehow, right? But applying the strategies to my own feelings, how my mind worked and what innately I found compelling/distasteful as a writer? I have been l-o-s-t. Until this year, I couldn't find a version of marketing that didn't make me want to hurl everything out the window. And I'm hoping what I've wrapped my arms around will help writers stay in that place where creative expression can flourish while also carrying that writing into the world. 🫶

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deletedNov 27, 2023Liked by Amanda B. Hinton
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Maureen, I'm going to tuck you in my pocket and take you everywhere I go. Thank you for this kindness and for reflecting me back to me. I really do want these stories to come to life. Thank you. 🙏🏻

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This was great. Thank you, Amanda! One of the things I really appreciate about Substack as a platform is the opportunity to consider and then comment substantively on the writing of writers I love and admire. And now that we can share those comments more widely, its a win-win.

For instance, for more than a year after she started publishing Dear Sugar on here, I read Cheryl Strayed's newsletter religiously. And her writing always makes me think deeply, so I found myself responding-- not to accomplish anything necessarily other than to just be part of the conversation. Then I went to a workshop with her-- my first-ever writing workshop-- and I went up and introduced myself. I felt a little ridiculous, honestly, but I told her who I was, that I always commented on her newsletter because it moved me so much, and she instantly responded, "Oh, I know you! You're wonderful!" It just about knocked me over. She then became a subscriber to my newsletter and I've gotten any number of subscribers through my comments on her newsletters, and it all feels very authentic rather than forced, which is always my problem with marketing. It feels so calculated and forced. Focusing on storytelling, as you describe here, feels totally different.

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Nov 27, 2023Liked by Amanda B. Hinton

Asha, this is such a cool story! And one that really speaks to the joy of moving with authenticity. You were drawn to Cheryl and let that resonance guide your actions, and you made a real connection with not only her but with some of her readers. I think that's so beautiful.

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"It’s also highly possible this knowledge library has resulted in knowing too much about marketing and that it’s choking out the inspired originality of your writing that needs to come to the surface" THAT and so much else of what you shared here felt as if you took the loud noisy voices in my brain and gave them a place to land.

Being asked to reflect on how writing makes me feel is a balm. It's fun and expressive and relieving. And I want that in my life.

Thank you for this, it really felt like you were talking right to me which I appreciate it so much. And also the fact that my birthday is June 3rd felt like even more of a connection.

Bravo on what you're building for yourself and for your little one. Here for it and inspired by you!

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That means so much to hear! Those loud, noisy voices in my brain needed the "osmosis of writing" to give them a more productive place to roam. (What energy available in them to harness, right?) Glad you're here. 🫶

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It's so refreshing to see someone talk about marketing and admit that no one really knows, rather than pretend there's some perfect objective formula that works for everyone. Media companies pay millions to research this, and they still get it wrong.

I used to get really frustrated with not being able to build an audience, and I did exactly what you said. I collected information and tried to contort myself into someone I'm not. I was miserable, and I still didn't have any readers. I recently put a note on my cork board that says, "Art Not an Ad." I love the practice of writing from beginning to end. I just hate all the other stuff that surrounds it.

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Amanda, thanks for sharing your experience with all of us. I am fairly new here on substack, around a month. I am 45 years old and coming to the end of a 24 year career in the Navy. I have always loved reading and writing. I made the decision to start writing here partly as means of helping me learn to transition out of the military and into the next chapter of my life. First off, I just love the process. My final drafts rarely look anything like the first draft. That constant revision and work is where the good stuff happens in me and hopefully in the writing. I haven't given a ton of thought to marketing but I have tried to do the things you mentioned. I read a lot of other writers, comment on their posts, restack when something resonates, etc... I would probably be overwhelmed if I had thousands of subscribers suddenly. I think that slow growth is healthy. It allows me to find my place, my unique story, and to build relationships and community. I am going to use your writing prompt and see where it goes. :)

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Matthew, thank you for being here and thank you for your service!! My grandfather served in the Navy, as did my cousin until a few years ago. This new chapter of your life sounds thrilling and like a good fit already. Can I make one humble request? Let the Navy come along with you, the parts that served you or made an impact on who you are today, as a writer or otherwise. When I worked as a resume writer, one of the biggest barriers for former military folks was seeing their time as having mattered—that their roles in leadership, steadfastness, reliability, etc., could and DO count in the "real world," for lack of a better term. I'm excited for what's coming next in your writing, and if there are any books I can recommend or share, please let me know. I'd be honored to be a resource.

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Writing gives me a sense of agency, a polite euphemism for power. The better I learn to write the more agency/power I have.

I'll never come close to duplicating the incredible sensation of learning to read. But with writing I can try to get as close as possible!

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Wow, I'm not sure I've ever reflected on what it felt like to learn to read. I'm not sure I even have a small recollection. It's just always been there. What about you?!

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I remember I learned to read in first grade, which I guess is late these days. I had no language arts in 1967 Kindergarten. I remember feeling on top of the world.

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Nov 27, 2023Liked by Amanda B. Hinton

I think one of the reasons we work so well together is that our ideas about marketing are very similar, especially the idea to throw marketing out the window entirely when necessary 😂 There is very little I love more than choosing paths of least convention, because even with 12 years experience working in marketing, running marketing teams, building startups, blah blah, I know that the best marketing strategy in the world doesn’t yield fuck all compared to the way meaningful, creative, inventive, soulful work can spread like a wildfire, can reach and resonate with an audience. That’s the work: to keep offering your craft to the world in the ways that feel right and true to you.

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I’d be remiss if I didn’t point all my sparklers toward you in this three-part series that launched today.

When we met, I was just barely out of the ABANDON ALL HOPE category for marketing myself. I was baaaaaarely ready to start from scratch with marketing. I was reaching out for help with a blank slate, and I was ready to try something different. Without a counterpart, guiding, encouraging and (this is a big one!) respecting my intuition on what’s right for me, I’m not sure where I’d be at.

LET'S CREATE AMAZING THINGS OK??

☀️

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Nov 27, 2023Liked by Amanda B. Hinton

I’M IN!

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Or maybe, to keep offering your craft to the world in the ways that feel as right and true as the craft itself!

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Nov 27, 2023Liked by Amanda B. Hinton

Thank you for this excellent post. I have been living with the question "what takes me away from myself and what brings me back to myself?" Writing clearly brings me back to myself.

But as I considered responding, something interesting showed up: I felt a hesitation, as if I had to be a "certain kind of writer" to be worthy of responding. Stopped me in my tracks. And formed another question to consider:"what brings me toward community and what takes me away?". Responding feels vulnerable yet leads me toward community. I am grateful to all who take the risk of writing AND responding.

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Thank you for the gift of noticing, Jeanne! I still hesitate in public spaces. I wonder, I rehearse, I write and rewrite if I'm feeling especially angsty. What has helped is to see try a bit of "commenting titration," wherein I post once or twice a week to start on a newsletter I particularly love and notice what happens. (Usually, nothing dire. And sometimes, something fine. And occasionally, something very special and heartwarming.) I'm grateful to everyone who takes the risk of writing and responding today, too.

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Nov 27, 2023Liked by Amanda B. Hinton

Amanda, I'm fairly new here and recently discovered you. This post felt like what I imagine a big vitamin injection would (though I've never had one before.) Refreshing and full of healthy, life-giving things. Thank you for sharing your own story and how you finally sorted out what felt right. I'm 45 and though I wrote for magazines off and on in my 30's, largely have been longing to write as an adult and doing other things instead (including parenting.) Writing has always been hugely important to me, so I'm starting to write here about the many ways we get stuck. I'm leaning into un-sticking myself, gradually, and finding ways to be a little braver. Desperation played a part in my case, the kind you feel when you're actually tired of your own ill-fitting, naysaying voices.

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An excellent post Amanda, I can't wait for the next two!

Writing feels amazing to me! When I am in it is when I feel the best and most alive, even when it's sucky!

I don't think I've written out of desperation, however I just realized that my best performing post was written while I was in survival mode a my Mom's deathbed so maybe there is something to that I have never explored. Certainly when I can get out of my own way and allow the real, raw me to get through it resonates deeply, just as the same applies to the writers I love to read.

I know very little about marketing but have found that when I focus on the articles other folks write about their Substack numbers and the tricks they do and the tweaking etc. that I don't feel good. I feel "less than" inside, like I am doing something wrong. By no means is this the fault of the other writers, rather it's something in me. I am learning to stay away from that kind of thing. I quickly scroll Notes looking for interesting things to read and comment on rather than things about numbers or marketing. So, my new marketing from scratch is to do none of it! That being said, at some point I will need to put on my adult hat and look at my own analytics to get some sort of a plan because I do want some kind of a lovely growth strategy that feels good to me!

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Nov 28, 2023·edited Nov 28, 2023Author

In many ways, you're probably primed for a happy writing journey precisely because you haven't gotten bogged down in the muck of writing for google and likes and algorithms. The best feeling of marketing I've been able to define is casting out a net, or sending out invitations. As long as there's a clear, accessible central hub or gathering space where people can find you, read what you're all about and engage, you're using a lot of the same muscles on repeat. Just in different settings, with different offerings and approaches. Write your stuff, cast the net, shake the hand, be a friend. ☀️

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I love that you cast out a net. I always picture like a sunbeam (this was even before I wrote The Bright Life, but now it's even more powerful!), there are many rays of light going out to whoever needs them most.

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This was deeply honest and appreciated. Thank you for this thoughtful piece. I decided to not have any expectations. Enjoy the process, the community in the comments and above all supporting other writers.

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I’m trying really hard not to have a goal with my new substack beyond “write consistently and see how it goes,” but I’m a marketing copywriter by training so it is absolutely a challenge not to stare at my metrics all the time. Not to mention, my best “performing” content right now is all very LinkedIn influencer style, and the one thing I know I absolutely do not want to be is a LinkedIn influencer.

So for now, I’m trying to stick with writing to the theme of “things I feel compelled to tell people,” and if that’s marketing-y, then yeah, it goes on LinkedIn, and if it’s about figure skating and I end up losing subscribers over it, that’s also good.

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I went through a similar time, feeling pulled in disparate writing directions. Once I had a full-on season of musing where I basically did everything but write, and it kind of resulted in a reset. Now when I jump onto LinkedIn, which is still rare, I know instinctually I’m not writing the kinds of pieces that get traction there. But I share them anyways and move on with my day. I guess it feels a bit like confirmation that I’m going in the right direction over here. ;-)

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Marketing is not art! Thank you for that.

As I reflect on this piece, I think I realize that I loved writing the very most back in 2010 when I started writing on-line in a blog I hoped that at least one person would read. That person: my mother. I did not feel any pressure to market what I wrote because well, I didn’t even know how to market it, and I didn’t know that marketing my writing might get it before more eyes. Not only that, I didn’t worry about whether or not my writing would be well received because I had no readers. The excitement I felt when one unknown to me reader read my words and wrote back saying my words resonated with her was all the encouragement I needed to keep on sharing my stories.

I think a lot of my writing has been corrupted by being told I had to build a platform on social media in order to find any kind of success as a writer. I’m trying to free myself from that mindset now. Thank you for this post!

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Well Amanda, this is my first comment on your 'Stack. I loved your essay, and read ALL the comments. There's so much here. First off, I know very little about marketing. I started my 'Stack the same time you did, June 2 2023. I had nothing to offer and nothing to bring as far as followers go. I think I had about 30-35 friends on my email. I'm retired. But all I've ever wanted to do is write. I worked 45 years in a sawmill, and was either reading, and writing, every spare moment I had. I worked on the river and sat on my boat either reading a book, or writing, and editing stories I was working on at home. I'd get up at 3:30-3:45 every morning before staring work at 6:00 am.

All I wanted to do when I retired, was write. And now I do. But having been a Blue-Collar worker, I know little about marketing, or computers; I know nothing about finances, or Science; couldn't care less about religion (even though I write about it.) But I do know how to write. I figured out the best way to get subscribers was to leave comments on other 'stacks. You have to be encouraging, and polite. You have to be willing to give advice if a newbie asks how to do something. But more than that, you have to write.

I don't write essays. Why would I do that, right? Someone might read me. No, I write fiction, and not only fiction, but long fiction. I'm in what I call, the "Novella Zone". I write stories that I want to read as a reader. I don't really write for an audience, not a specific audience. I don't write horror, or fantasy, but, I guess you'd call it Literary (although I hesitate to call it that myself.) But I feel if there's quality in the writing, readers will come. Right now, I'm trying to get PAID subscribers because I want to print up copies of my stories and send them to my subscribers. But I need about 65-70 PAID subscribers. I don't know how to market myself for that, so I just put word out on Notes once in a while, and on my posts when I put them out on SUNDAY and WEDNESDAY.

If the story is good, people will read it. I get excited at the idea process. I love the writing process. I love to layer things, and use at least one of the five senses on every page. I love dialogue. I don't plot my stories out. I just let them take me where they want to go. I don't worry about anything when I write a story. I don't care if I write something that happened fifty years ago and people find it offensive, when I know what I wrote was honest and truthful. I don't warn people about possible triggers because, well, what others think are triggers, I rarely do. I'll do it if I think about it, but I usually have to ask my daughter, and she's waaayyy to PC for me. But I still ask her. I didn't even know what Cultural Misappropriation was until she told me. By then, I'd already written a love story that takes place in Kenya during the Mau Mau uprising, another story set in Congo during Independence; a story in China during the Japaneses invasion. Now, I'm working on a story involving a gay man that takes place in Berlin and Paris on three different timelines. I write things that challenge me.

And people are still finding me, and reading me. Now, I've stepped out of my comfort zone again and started reading my pieces out. I'm actually enjoying it. I used to think I didn't have the "looks" for reading on line, or the voice. Now, I don't care. People are leaving me comments that just blow my mind. I don't get a lot, but I'm getting more now than when I first started.

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