It’s time for a little spring clean around here!
I always write to find my point. I don’t sit down with a clear idea of what I want to communicate—that would be too easy. I sit down and eventually work out what I’m trying to say. I sometimes worry that I’m the human embodiment of that room full of monkeys with typewriters, but it’s probably best not to think about that too hard.
This newsletter, I think, is starting to find its point. It began as a general author newsletter; no particular purpose, just whatever’s on my mind. And that was fine. But over time, I’ve realised that I’m trying to create something very specific here, and it’s a place rather than a topic. I’m clearing a space in which we can gather, and see each other, and ruminate over the question of how to live.
That’s a big question, isn’t it? But we’re all circling it. Most of us are weary of the same old story, the noisy encouragement to bring about endless growth, to stay positive, put on a brave face and hide our uncertainty. Many of us are wondering how we can be more gentle with ourselves and others, can learn to bring rest, integrity and beauty into our lives. And I hope I’m not alone in being heartily sick of gurus, the people who claim to know all the answers. It’s a scam. Nobody knows the answers anymore—too much is changing. We need to figure this out together.
That’s why I chose the new name: ‘The Clearing’. I love the image it conjures, an opening in a dark forest; a safe, secret place where we can gather. Perhaps an enchanted place, a place where magic lives, where the possibilities are different. I also like the connotations of the word ‘clearing’—the process of finding clarity, of silt settling in the water, a de-fogging of the mind. Will it all come clear eventually? I don’t know. Probably not. But, as you know by now, I don’t believe that we should be seeking to finalise our happiness and contentment. The process is the point.
It’s also why I’m opening up paid subscriptions today. What’s really happening is that I’m moving my beloved Patreon community over to Substack. It’s fair to say that Patreon was not the greatest platform in the world to manage, but it also felt like an outpost, whereas this place is the centre of my world. I want to draw all my work together here.
I’m in love with Substack at the moment. It feels like a place where I can create a community that connects to other individuals and communities, big and small. So from now on, you’ll still get a free newsletter each week, and extra information about each new podcast episode, but in addition you’ll see posts about my book club and the hangouts I run with other writers and creators. There is also a special tier for people who want to offer extra support and work a little more closely with me, which includes two online retreats per year. As your contributions help to produce and transcribe my podcast, all subscribers will get an exclusive ad-free feed of How We Live Now, with occasional bonus episodes.
Going paid isn’t for everyone; I completely understand that—you’ll still get a vibrant stream of content as a free subscriber, and my deep appreciation as always. We will also be rolling out some free places for those in financial need, just as soon as we figure out how to do it well. The subscriber offer is aimed at people who’d like to take part in more live and community offerings, as well as those who have the brain-space to read a little more from me (I mean, sometimes I think that I don’t have the brain-space for that, but I’m grateful that you do).
There’s a final thing I want to say, and that’s about personal sustainability. One of the reasons that I’ve ruminated for so long about adding a paid stream to my Substack is that I’ve worried that I’ll never be able to take a break. People are paying, I think to myself. They’ll expect you to be on your game year-round. In the spirit of this newsletter, I wanted to unpack that a bit, because I will never, ever be on my game year-round. I never am. I get ill sometimes, or take a holiday. Sometimes I have deadlines that take up the entirety of my being, and so I can’t find any more words. I’ve developed an offer that I think is as manageable as possible (curtailing my worst over-promising instincts), but I will be bringing my whole humanity to this place, and I hope that will be understood. Every now and then, I might find a ‘supply teacher’ to take my place; if I need a month off, I’m interested to see that some creators pause subscriptions for a while. But however I manage it, I will be honouring my own need to rest. I think it’s important to voice that. You are invited to do the same.
I hope to create a place to dream and to awaken, to find the world’s quiet magic and to revel in the luminous mundane; a place to ask questions and to hold space for complex or incomplete answers; a place that invites connections with other like-minded souls. I hope you’ll stay with me.
Here’s what’s new:
You’ll keep receiving my weekly newsletter, including How We Live Now podcast posts to enrich your listening.
Monthly or Annual Subscribers:
Join a community for wild minds, winterers and enchantment-seekers. For $7 a month, you’ll get:
Exclusive weekly bonus posts, such as reflective community prompts or the culture and media capturing my stray attention.
Creative Hangouts: Live, bi-monthly recorded online conversations with extraordinary writers and creators and an opportunity to send us your questions. Ask me and my guests about our work, or send us a query about your own creative life. We’ll share culture and media recommendations, too. A great space for readers and all kinds of creative folk.
Creative Questions: In a bi-monthly live online event, I’ll choose two of your questions about creative practice for detailed coaching. We’ll be indexing the recordings with the aim of building a truly useful library of advice.
True Stories Book Club: A book club for lovers of life writing, wisdom and beautiful words. We’ll read 6 books per year as a group with community discussion and live, recorded, online events with the authors.
Immersive bonus mini-episodes of How We Live Now + all podcast episodes ad-free.
Discounts on my workshops and events wherever possible.
A space within The Clearing for deeper reflection, deeper play. If you’d like to work a little more closely with me and support the ecosystem that I’m creating here, The Retreat offers some exclusive benefits:
A personal thank-you note and welcome pack including a signed, dedicated bookplate.
Digital retreats: Twice a year, I'll lead you in a reflective or creative process that feels right for that moment. This will take the form of a digital retreat pack with some prompts to work with at a time of your choosing, plus a three-hour live online workshop with me. These gentle gatherings will ease you into a process of personal transformation and repair.
Support the community: Your membership will sponsor an annual subscription for someone who can’t afford it.
If you’ve read this far, I have a special offer: from now through Friday 12th May, click the button below for 20% off an annual paid subscription.
Thank you for being here. I hope you’ll be as excited as I am for the future of this space, this community. I hope you’ll come along.
This reminds me of the poem Clearing (in the best way) by Martha Postlethwaite
Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world
so worth of rescue.
I love the final point you’ve made about going to paid and feeling like you’ve got to be constantly showing up. Thank you for articulating what I think so many of us feel worried about. Really excited to see how you’re writing helps us all think xx