As posted to Facebook, I think this is important to share, demonstrating something about how I view friendship:
You are my friend. I have been sharing a newsletter for nearly two years now, in case you missed it. It is free and contains news (and other things). No obligation to sign up, but I want to pin this so you — YES, YOU — know. (And no worries if you don’t want to sign up — I do blether a bit.)
Longer Version, With Secret Snippets of News
This is a different version of my not-that-regular post, explaining how I don’t really use Facebook. Or, more pertinently, I don’t use the Facebook feed.
I won’t go into the details (again) of why, for many years now, I have not used this platform as intended. This doesn’t really affect the message contained here. It has been a long time since I looked at my feed and the main reason I still have this account is because I find some of the Groups just too useful to leave.
In short, just because I don’t like your photos or status updates, just because I don’t send messages here, or share memes and news with my friends and family, does not mean I don’t think of you. I do, probably more than you imagine.
For a long time now, I’ve been intending to complete a partly-finished essay, entitled ‘On Friends and Friendship’. In it, I look at how the idea of a friend has altered over time and, especially, in recent years. Social media, for better or worse, changed everything — for everyone. One day, I shall finish this essay. Like another not-yet-complete essay, ‘On Home’, it has grown and morphed, starting with a wide view, then zooming in very close, to discuss personal thoughts on my own, perhaps weird, take on friends and friendship. Why am I like this? Does it matter?
To me, a friend from my past remains a friend, unless something beyond distance in time or space has happened to tear us asunder. And that is very rare. I really don’t enjoy drama, preferring to iron out conflict and sponge clean upheaval.
If I went to school with you, then the way my brain works (rightly, or wrongly) still has you classed as a friend, despite the fact it is highly likely we have not shared a space or conversation in, ahem, SOME years. You’ve lived your life, I’ve lived mine, we continue to do so — but you are still a friend. Likewise with university (both times), clubs, work, and general social interaction. You’re still my friend.
This also works with those who are no longer with us on this earthly plane, those whose time came too soon — they may be dead, but they are still friends. Death does not end a friendship, so why should distance or time?
For some years, my medium of choice to share thoughts and news was the email. (I even used to handwrite letters, once upon a time, remember them?) But the email and, specifically, the long, several-thousand-word email, became a big part of my life and days. However, the thing about sharing these missives is that they are potentially an even bigger time-suck than social media can be. A long letter is great to receive, true, and also interesting to write, yes, but my time could be better spent. Especially (crucially) since I make a living through words — and word-fatigue is a very real thing.
I remember reading an interview (maybe? or maybe a journal entry?) with Neil Gaiman, in which he said (and here I paraphrase, as I can no longer find the exact quote) that he remembered taking advice from someone to stop writing long emails. That, by doing so, he would find considerably more time in which to actually write other things. Seemed wise to me and it made a lot of sense. I stopped sending as many long emails (I still, sometimes, send some, it’s very hard to break a habit completely, after all.)
Around the same time, I realised the simple answer to this problem was to send a newsletter, sharing my news, personal and professional, illustrated with my photographs and peppered with references to things I found interesting or enjoyed. I joined Substack and sent out the first note, which was really just a test run cross-posting a blog entry, back in July 2019.
In November of that year, I began sharing a newsletter on a monthly basis, sometimes more, as I prepared to say farewell to Thailand and hello to Europe, and Portugal.
Every month since then, I have shared at least one newsletter, sometimes two or three, switching to Revue earlier this year. Sharing the newsletter is a habit I enjoy, whether it is the process of taking notes on what to share, choosing images, drafting, editing, or sending — each part is fulfilling, as is knowing it is read, receiving replies (you can hit reply to the email and I’ll get your message), and replying to those (relatively briefly, see above…).
Essentially, my newsletters are all those things I used to share on social media, distilled and curated into a message I send to friends, wrapped up in a longer format, like those emails I used to craft.
I make announcements professional (hey, buy my books!) and personal (hey, I’m getting married to Aurélie in April and, hey, we’re having a baby girl, due October 19th, [French system, which means in the UK system, err, any day now…). I often share the books I’m reading, or the movies I’ve watched. I send out news of book group promotions (whether giveaways, review copies, or Kindle Unlimited) and forthcoming releases I’m working on, sometimes talking about the process of writing, other times trying hard not to.
The newsletter contains multitudes, just like those emails, or the long and winding Facebook, Tumblr, Blogger, or LiveJournal pieces I once posted, anonymously, or not.
The crux of this piece is the simple fact I’d like you along, I’d like you to be able to follow my news and, if you choose, respond. I’d like to know that I’ve done my best to let YOU know what I’m up to, where in the world I’m up to it, and even how this makes me feel — whatever ‘it’ might be, to stretch this paragraph a touch further than perhaps it should be.
If you hate my writing, or me, I really advise against signing up.
And if you sign up and immediately regret it, just unsubscribe! It’s not for everyone.
I hope some of you who didn’t know about the newsletter do sign up. It’s all free and full of things I think you may find interesting.
Take care my friends, and remember, there’s much joy and wonder out here in the world, despite what you may read.