Today, I want to tell you about some of the folks on this email list.
Folks like yourself.
Roz picked me up from the airport once. She then drove me three hours to the next state’s border, just so I could check yet another state off my bucket list. We never met until that day, but she’s been following my work for a while. Hugs were had. Patrick picked up my journal from the Lost and Found in Warsaw, and handed it back to its rightful owner (meee!) in Toronto. Valera found a very old physics textbook that was my dad’s favorite textbook, and shipped it my way all the way from Russia. That was one wicked birthday present for Papa Solo. N. and L. flew to Italy so we could finally meet in person, and snuck into a locked up stadium in Rome, so we could run a mile on the famous track. And yep, I am only using their initials here, because this was all done under my very questionable leadership, and I do not want to get them into trouble. Paranoia forevar!
I spent years trying to will myself into starting an email list. I couldn’t quite figure out if I didn’t want to start one, or if I was resisting the idea of starting one just because everyone told me I should start one, or if I was scared to do it.
After starting my very first email list, I then spent years writing to the list only occasionally. I’d email a few times a year, fall off the proverbial wagon, feel guilty, try again, fall off again.
The issue was that I was not entirely sure who this list was for.
It started in my obstacle racing days, and my life has changed a lot since then. I’d start thinking about my “audience”, as one is supposed to, and then become paralyzed with “who cares?” and “nobody is interested in that!”.
It wasn’t until I started writing through it all – one way or another – every couple of weeks – that it all started to come together.
Maybe - just maybe - I didn’t need to schedule my content a month ahead.
Maybe - just maybe - I didn’t even need to identify my avatar perfectly (you know the one… “my soulmate client is Susan, she’s 34 years old, she works in an office, and has two children”).
Maybe - just maybe - I’ll sit down and write a letter to you all - a few times a month. That is it. And that’s how it all came into focus (voila?), and Letters To Friends was born.
“I love that - how did you come with that idea?” someone asked me recently. I didn’t even know where to start. I didn’t come up with it. I just thrashed around - doing this thing imperfectly for years - until it started ever-so-slowly getting polished into shape.
It’s like that with many things, isn’t it? Years ago, I first heard about the idea of “1,000 true fans''. First popularized by Kevin Kelly in his 2008 essay, it argues that an artist (writer, photographer, dancer, creator) does not need a huge following - all they need is 1,000 true fans, where a true fan is someone who follows your work, and will buy anything you produce. Ok, cool. 1,000 true fans sounded manageable. I liked that part. However, the term “fan” grated on me. When I think “fan”, I think back to my Backstreet Boys days, and let me tell ya - there were a whole lot of tears, smeared make-up and very long line-ups for concert tickets (in person! We bought tickets in person! The tickets were printed on paper!!!). It was fun and intense, but although I might be quite comfortable BEING a fan, I don’t know that I’d expect anyone to be MY fan. I ain’t Beyonce. Also, I don’t really need people who follow my work to buy anything I produce. That’s a lot of pressure on people. And a lot of pressure on my work. How many people would truly want to read a collection of funny essays about miscarriage? Y’know? Friends, on the other hand… Friends are freaking awesome. Friends can pick you up from the airport, and help you move, and send you THE best pizza crust recipe, AND help you hunt down this book that you read once. Well - see the list I started this email with.
There is an expression in Russian that says “don’t have 100 rubles, have 100 friends!”. I promise it sounds more catchy in Russian, because it rhymes and everything, but the sentiment holds.
And so, it was my birthday, and I thought “what could be better than 1,000 friends”?
Thank you for being my friend.