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Please stop paying me
A few days ago I realized something. I don’t like writing.
I realized it because I found creative energy to work on programming projects again, and I experience writing programs differently from how I experience having to write. Even the turn of phrase “having to write” betrays my disposition toward the craft.
When I’m very excited to build products or just program computers for the joy of programming, I dread going to sleep and every part of me cannot wait to wake up and write code again. I’ve never felt that about writing. Writing has always been a chore. I think I’ve known this all along, but have never been able to admit this to myself until now.
When you read anything about anything anywhere, it tells you what great [INSERT CALLING HERE] do. Great startup founders and engineers write well and write a lot because without clear writing there is no clear thinking. I think I bought into that too much for my own good. So it feels liberating to say: I hate writing. It’s painful and laborious and every good piece of writing I make feels like delivering a baby. A rewarding experience for sure, but I think even the most loving of mothers would stop being so loving if she had to deliver a new baby every week.
One thing that duped me is a lot of positive reenforcement. My best pieces of writing get tens, sometimes hundreds of thousands of readers, and that gives me an addicting sense of elation. I certainly never expected to make money doing it, but enough of you find my writing sufficiently interesting to offer the ultimate seal of approval— you transfer money from your wallet into mine. I deeply appreciate it, and deeply appreciate you spending time on reading my essays, but unfortunately this isn’t sufficient impetus for me to produce good work. When I’m forced to write on a schedule, my writing sucks and my life is miserable.
Which is a good reminder why some of my writing is good. It’s good when I have something important to say. Important things are hard to say by definition— if they were easy people would have already talked them out and they probably would have lost their importance. At least they’re hard to say for me. So when I do it it’s always very slow and painful, and it turns out good because I say something that matters to me in a way that nobody else bothered or managed to say. With my particular idiosyncrasies the intersection of that and the business of running a newsletter is an empty set.
So please stop paying me. For the folks that have prepaid, I’m not exactly sure how Substack tooling handles this situation, but shoot me an email and I’ll figure out how to return a prorated amount.
I will continue writing. When I have something important to say, I’ll go through the pain necessary for me to say it. I’ll also write about my observations as I pursue my product and programming work— technical, anthropological, and simply keeping you up to do date on what I’m up to. I don’t expect you’ll be hearing from me less often. In fact, I’m hoping this will allow me to write more. But owing people weekly essays as a matter of business isn’t my tao. For all the reasons above, and primarily because it makes the essays suck, and I don’t like producing bad work.
Until next week, hopefully. Slava.