The short answer is, not writing essays on Substack. This makes me sad, and I am planning to produce many more updates in the coming weeks. The long answer, below.
Working with Foster
I’m on record as saying that most writing education, especially online writing education, is pretty horrible. Many people I know have purchased expensive writing courses, or gone through MFAs, without having much of an apparent impact on what they do. I actually think a lot of writing education is counterproductive—if you’re a shitty writing teacher, you can quite effectively alienate your students from their instincts.
However, Foster, which is sort of a hybrid online school/community, seems like one exception. As it should be, they focus as much on psychology as craft, and they’ve thoughtfully designed a group setting that’s genuinely supportive and helpful.
I’ve worked with them before, and I’m pleased to say that I’ll be working with them again during their upcoming season. I’ll be doing a couple of workshops, and, also, everyone who attends will get a copy of the latest edition of my writing course. My formidable friend Michael Ashcroft is doing a workshop, too, and there’s lots of other great stuff. So if you’re looking for a writing group to join, I’d recommend it—also, seats are limited.
Speaking of my writing course…
My course, and becoming more capitalistic
Right now, I’m polishing and filming what I think will be the last rehaul-level update of my writing course. It will be out in a couple of weeks, and you can buy it. Also, everyone who already bought the course will have access to the new update. As well, you’ll be able to purchase the course with the addition of some 1:1 video format feedback, which could be a cool option.
I’d planned to finish this a couple of months ago. But, honestly, what has taken most of my time is reckoning with my allergy to being a salesperson, and being capitalistic. I do not like marketing myself.
This might strike some of you as funny. I think, from the outside, it might seem like I am comfortable with marketing. I’m on Twitter all the fucking time, in spite of my mixed feelings about it, and my following, here and there, has grown quickly in the last few years. But I don’t think of anything I do as “marketing.” I just blurt random statements and slightly modulate my blurting in response to what seems to resonate. Every time I think of trying to actually make money based on these activities, I grow pale and meek.
Part of this is a received attitude. I still have a hangover from the literary world, where the ideal thing is to exude a refined Brooklynite nonchalance, and either be glamorously poor or secretly have money. You’re not supposed to do sales, really. Also, part of it is that I grew up without much money, so, at some basic level of world-model, making money doesn’t feel natural or safe. I notice that when my course sells out, it almost feels dirty. Like, ooh, I made something of value that people want to pay for—was I supposed to do that?
There’s been a recent shift, though. It wasn’t a terribly complicated shift. I said to myself, “fuck it, I want to have a family one day, I should go make some money.” This was a tremendously liberating update to make. It’s like, okay, if irritate people with my salesmanship, that is fine and probably inevitable. Unlike a lot of my glamorous former literary peers, I am not secretly rich, and being tasteful comes second to getting the dad machinery online.
I also had a really helpful call with my friend Paul the other day. During the call, I expressed my worry that I would become one of those sales-y people—you know the ones I mean, the guys who are posting threads like, “use these 52 AI-powered browser extensions this week or you’ll fall hopelessly behind into a chasm of bankruptcy and unfuckability.” He looked at me, compassionately, like I was stupid, and told me that I would never be one of those people, that their behavior was only possible given a complete lack of self-consciousness, which is clearly not my issue.
So, I am going to make more products and services and flog them more. If you anticipate that this will upset you, I apologize. But I want to have a family one day, I should go make some more money.
The woo stack update
My meditation life has been intriguing lately. Increasingly, I sit down on the cushion and feel myself drifting into an alternate world, where my consciousness feels fused with a greater force beyond myself. And that is pleasant, but it’s also been feeling a bit drifty and zombie-ish, like I’m sinking into the kind of lifeless peace and tranquility that seems endemic to certain cults and vegetarian restaurants.
Accordingly, I wanted to incorporate something more body-centric into my practice, so lately I’ve been playing around with Realization Process, a set of practices created by Judith Blackstone, who was a dancer until she had a horrible back injury, which left her in need of a way to attune to the physical.
In traditional meditation, you observe body sensations. In RP, you try to inhabit your body sensations. This is a subtle difference that might sound like nonsense on the page. In reality, though, it’s an entirely different way of approaching conscious experience. When I slip into this mode of being, I feel the same equanimity and spaciousness, that I get from my usual seated practice, but there’s also a lot more aliveness, more attunement to the particulars of sensate experience. I feel primed to fully encounter the world, rather than just float through it. I feel like I’m a little closer to the physical sensitivity and poise my cats seem to exhibit when they’re not falling off furniture or trying to eat my laptop.
I had a session with a Realization Process teacher a couple of days ago, and it was pretty extraordinary. (I wish I could just put the Tweets in the email, but Elon is still grumpy, evidently, so I can’t.)
This is a direction of depth I was previously unaware of, and I’m excited to explore it more. If you want to check out RP stuff, there’s an audiobook here, and I’m taking this course right now.
In my 20s, I was really disdainful of anything that seemed woo or New Age-y. And in my 30s, I’m still pretty resistant to the woo aesthetic, but I keep hanging around woo and New Age-y people and noticing that they get fucking results. Apparently, the ability to skilfully interface with the human psyche does not correspond to being able to produce plausible-sounding scientific-ish abstractions about why what you’re doing should work.
Interesting what you said about RP and the difference between 'inhabiting' and 'observing'. The distinction seems to play on a kind of distinction between parts of consciousness that observe and those that do not. Which I think of as a false distinction, in that all parts of everything both observe and inhabit. To that end, I sometimes try to find out what everything about me is inhabiting, not just my body. Every different kind of tissue etc has its own way of inhabiting and sensing and it's a curious thing to investigate this.
You can be woo and still live in the real world. 😁