Why I'm killing my Substack newsletter
I've got some bad news ...
Almost 18 months ago, shit hit the fan. I don’t need to tell you this. If you’re a human being in 2021, you already know it. You feel it in your bones. You lived it. You hopefully didn’t breathe it. You probably have PTSD. Maybe you’ve got long-Covid to show for it. If that’s the case, I’m really sorry. It sounds super shitty. I hope you get better soon.
For me, I didn’t get sick, and neither did my family. I’m incredibly grateful for that. I did lose almost all of my work. As a freelance journalist, every single piece that had been commissioned from me by March, 2020, got canned. That was my main source of income, but I’m not complaining. We were lucky: my wife and I had, coincidentally, started a food delivery service. For obvious reasons, that took off.
(That was a whole other ball of stress. I wrote about that experience here, if you’re interested)
I found a stop-gap in bacon and eggs, but my soul missed writing. For me, it’s been more than a career. My dad’s a writer. Janet Frame was my babysitter. I grew up around books and magazines and newspapers and words, everywhere, all of the time. As a young teen I inhaled five books in a sitting and memorised RTR Countdown and Rip It Up magazines where writers like Steve Braunias, Bronwyn Trudgeon and Murray Cammick wrote magical things about music and made me want to do the same.
So I have to write. It’s an addiction, a compulsion, a necessity. It was Covid-19 that made me realise this. Even if it’s for no one but me, even if I’m not getting paid for it, I have to do it. So, during lockdown, starting a Substack newsletter was an inflatable rubber ring thrown to rescue a drowning swimmer. This newsletter, which I called The Boiler Room after the sweaty Big Day Out dance stage, was a lifesaver.
I didn’t know where it was going to go, or what it was going to do. I just started putting stuff down and sending it out. Some of it was stupid, like this x-rated story that no one would publish, or this rant about the worst interview situation of all time. Later on, it got more serious. Ratings spiked when David Farrier and I investigated the money drop man, and when I dove into Auckland’s iMax building saga.
Some of you beautiful people started paying me. So I did a few subscriber-only posts, like this interview with iMax building architect Ashley Allen, and this deep-dive into how scalpers make money from Lorde tickets. They were fun, but again, they didn’t get a lot of readers, and they weren’t making me anywhere near enough money to turn Substack into a full-time job. It was a great advertisement for my freelance work, and I treated it as such.
Then something unexpected happened.
I got a job.
Honestly, I had no intention of re-joining the workforce and returning to full-time office life. After seven years at Stuff.co.nz, and another seven at NZ Herald, I thought I was done with all that. I left the Herald two-and-a-half years ago, and I still have PTSD over some of the things that happened there.
An offer came out of the blue, and it was too good to turn down. Over coffee, I was convinced. Immediately, I said yes.
I started on Monday. After a week writing for The Spinoff, I have zero regrets. There are puppies, and windows that open, and good people everywhere I look, and intelligent discussions about things I care about. I’m being given the time to dive into big, complex, knotty issues, things that require care and compassion. There are stories I want to tell, things I want to share. If you don’t want to miss those, follow me on Twitter. And if you’ve got something you think’s worth investigating, get in touch.
So, all of this is a long-winded way of saying two things. Firstly, thanks for reading, thanks for caring, and thanks for giving me your time. Over the past year, I’ve seen the stats, and I’ve noticed. Every click meant something to me. Secondly, if you are a paying subscriber, if you have been supporting me, feel free to cancel your monthly or yearly payments. This will be the last post from me on Substack. For now, at least.
(If you feel like you’re owed a refund, I’m happy to sort it out. Just send me a message)
But, when you do, consider switching your donation to The Spinoff. They’re doing great things, they’re investing in great journalists, and they’re expanding. It’s true: when I left the office at the end of Thursday, a builder was due to arrive to saw the desks in half so they can fit more people in. It’s exciting, and I’m fortunate to be a part of it. If you need me, I’ll be there for the forseeable future.
Remember: words matter.