There’s something irresistible about George Melly, and his approach to life. I read an early memoir of his when I was a teen — my dad listened to his music and I was curious about the character of the man — and was pleasantly disturbed, as you can be as a teenager. He handled his desire so loosely, his open marriage and his bisexuality, and I was attracted to that. I could imagine him as the guy who kept everyone’s glass topped up at a table.
There'll be a change in the weather;
And a change in the sea
From now on there's gonna be a change in me;
My walk will be different, my talk and my name --
Nothing about me is gonna stay the same
Change my address
Where I’m living at
And change my tall one for a little short and fat
No-one knows you when you’re old and grey
There’ll be some changes made today
I’ve been listening to this track of his a bit this week. The weather here in Barcelona has switched fully to summer now. I can keep the windows open all night. If it rains on my laundry, so what? — it’ll dry in short order. And because I’ve been thinking about change a lot. I’ve been thinking about the way I write, who I write for, and how it works, as a job.
When I started my old tinyletter, I intended to keep it up — a semi-occasional offering of “offcuts”, ideas I couldn’t fit elsewhere. But when I left London and went freelance fulltime, there wasn’t the space to offer offcuts. I have found myself pitching a lot, and often to no avail. I’ve also realised I was changing my writing, to fit the needs of the magazines I’m writing for.
That’s cool, but it’s not how I want to write. And it’s not really what I’m good at, or what people like about my writing. The economic models for writing have changed so much in the past 30 years; there are few steady columnist jobs, and the nature of them only suits certain writers. For the rest, we have to be pitching a lot, and relentlessly, for a myriad of different places. I’ve found it doesn’t suit me so much, so I’ve been pitching where I can — regularly for Tribune, the Architectural Review and New Humanist, and taking on a lot of copyediting work to pay my rent and taxes.
I miss writing things for a specific audience who want to read my work, though. So I’ve decided to change my entire operation, as something of an experiment, and to see if I can make a new model where I get to write what I want to be written, for an audience who will engage with it, rather than shouting into the ether. My plan here is as follows: I want to send an essay or piece of fiction to my subscribers every week. I’ll be releasing one a month for free to all subscribers, then a couple or three more to paid subscribers. A subscription will be $5 — about the cost of a nice coffee in London, and the minimum substack allows — which is about dollar an essay. You can sign up for a paid subscription here.
I considered a patreon, but the whole thing of tiers, rewards etc. didn’t sit well with me, nor does the idea of paying to support a writer in general for their work. Writing for publications is a collective endeavour that requires many hands and eyes, and all should be recognised, which general patreons don’t do, in my mind. This way, it’s simple; you’re paying for a service, and can cancel at any point. I think that’s a fair way of doing it. I worked out if I get a couple of hundred subscribers then I can pay my rent, and not have to produce work I don’t really think needs to be written. God knows, as a freelancer you can end up putting out more worthless content in the world just because you need to keep the lights on. I have some big projects I want to do, which probably can’t pay for themselves; a book on espionage and homosexuality, for example, and a new novel about sadomasochism.
It’s hard writing about this. There’s a taboo in England — a stupid, counterproductive taboo that only really helps bosses and rich people — about talking about money, about how you pay the rent. And there’s a taboo about saying that who you are or what you do has value. It’s taking all I can not to be apologetic and self-deprecating about this. But ultimately, I want to write better work, and to write less filler, and to write it for an audience that wants to read it, not as clickbait to drive shocked and outraged traffic for advertising revenue. The contemporary media landscape isn’t equipped for doing that, so I’m trying this new experiment, for at least a year or so, because I think this could be a fair, sustainable way of doing it.
Please let me know what you think - you can email me at spitzenprodukte[ a t ]gmail.com, or on twitter. If you’d like a full subscription when that goes live, but can’t afford it, just let me know and I’ll sort it out. And if you like my new emails, and want to chip me a few quid for them, please do!