I'm pondering on this day feels like walking the ridge line atop a mountain, observing one side as the past twenty years, the other side is the future, wondering if that amount of time counts as an epoch, but it certainly has been epic!
And amazingly, this configuration or separation of life's compartments, in how one period of time moves on to another, history repeats many things. For me, today’s message – not unlike my columns in recent days, are both the end of something grown large in my life, something sprung from a conversation (the kind where parties to it have their respective and sometimes different takes on what it meant, what they remember and how they feel about it,) as that moves from one side of an invisible wall to the other.
Today is the last day of twenty years of writing a column, now transitioning to a new launch pad location, a change of scenery, similar distribution methodology, but everything else is a leap forward, not off any cliffs, but progress, slathered on top of re-thought indeed ambition expectations - so, tik tok ... we'll see.
But that starts tomorrow, Monday, March 20th, so first, more about back then ...
For the moment, I wish to dwell, think, reminisce and obsess about this THING called Musings that began one day 20 years ago without any thought of there being a second day, or a third, let alone a year, or two, or three.
Still, if anyone might have suggested a twenty-year run, I’d question if they needed to see someone because that would seem delusional.
And perhaps I have been delusional from time to time, and maybe I am now because of my heightened enthusiasm for what comes next.
This is part adventure, part housekeeping and business efficiency/managing costs and increasing revenue opportunities, and wanting to test a broader audience for this and other writing, so my 'bags are packed, I’m ready to go,' prepared for this long anticipated and move following today's distribution of this # 7,305 Musing, I'm leaving Mail Chimp for more than a prettier launching pad or some side benefits.
I’ve changed distribution providers before; it was a relatively simple conversion and database clean-up, but this is like the difference between pretending to fly while on the ground compared with getting in a plane and taking off …
And a fast plane to boot!
Most days over these twenty years – that’s 7,305 consecutive daily columns (20 X 365 + 5 leap days) begin with some degree of forethought. That might be a fragment I’ve written and stored, something planned but percolating on a back-burner because often that’s the case.
And, as often, I write from scratch after my early morning walk the day before, some 20 some hours before readers see it.
Or be rewritten from scratch late at night when I’ve elected to scrap, as crap, what I’d started.
That too often has been late in the day, when sleep and fatigue beckon, but I’ve blown past my 'theoretical' self-imposed loading/posting target time of 6 PM by recalculating many times, rationalizing/juggling work and play – because I have in my head all day, “Easy, I just need to polish that bit from this morning …” self-talk. Until I review what I dashed off in haste – and decide to change my message because, on reflection, I don't feel clear about what I am trying to convey, or feeling it’s close but not ready yet, or rejecting the premise altogether.
Sometimes, however, it’s a different reason: something happened.
Something showed up that day – an event in my orbit or around the world, some priority trigger or emotional touchpoint triage in my belly. Then I find myself pounding the keyboard late at night, bleary-eyed like last night. That began as, “Let’s go an errand, go for dinner, watch some TV, and then before bed I’ll take a few minutes to polish and then load Saturday’s column.” (by the way, Calgarians, Buffo Ristorante have a mushroom risotto unlike any I’ve had or made – west side of Chinook Mall, north end - next to Sak’s)
My 11 PM expected finish was 1:15 AM, and sadly it contained some typo/grammar errors I’d like to take back …
That can often get very late, and as some readers (thank you all, thank you, especially RH) point out, the typo/grammar stumbles show up more.
This is the finale, the last day/last column of the year, the last of the 20th year, so clearly, not to be taken lightly.
What can I say that can adequately cap this extended run/rant/rumination that puts words on a page, then ‘showing and telling’ the next day?
Initially, I would wake, walk, write and hit the ‘send button’ at about 9 AM, sometimes 10 AM. It was not very professional looking. Looking back now, the writing was potent but sloppy; publishing was ‘posting hundreds of addresses via copy/paste’ from a saved list into the bcc line 100 addresses at a time, and sending that email repeatedly was tedious.
By the end of the first year, I graduated to using a paid list service, and over the years, I moved my list around from one service to another. I can’t recall all their ice names; most recently, Constant Contact for several years, then a few years ago to Mail Chimp. The moves were each triggered by that mixed-message reality, higher cost v. more fulsome service, or the preferred, an improved service, simplicity, efficiency/less time spent loading and manipulating postings, and lower costs.
This challenge for anyone publishing their work or business message; generally, only huge companies can effectively fund the staff and software, so most companies hire a service, but it's just a bunch of tech tools, but you have o manage it, operate it AND have an understanding of how it works, and to be sure service won't be denied service at some point or have their lists lost. These services can be just as brutal in banning someone or blocking their publications as can Facebook, Twitter, etc.
The little guys like me need a secure service that won't be interrupted, from a site that won't go down, and has integrity I can count on because I am the custodian of data/addresses of my subscribers who've entrusted me. In comparing vendors and their services, prices and user-friendliness, my investigation of Substack was a refreshing and empowering experience. It was suddenly not a price/value for money between vendors who want my money; the objective of Substack is to let writers write and to support them with tools that support and enable their success. This sounds almost too good to be true.
A few years in, I also started posting in duplicate on markmusing.com as part of a strategy to grow the audience and also publish other work (poetry, short stories, speaking tips) with hopes of creating and expecting that writing fun/for free was a stepping stone on the path to finding new clients/customers and publishing some books, and possibly as a platform for publishing writing by other authors who, like me, didn’t have an agent or publisher.
I still don’t have one, and I’ve not been looking for one because I had more pressing priorities, and also with a naiive hope that a great agent or publisher would hear about my work and seek me out.
Along the way, I’ve explored self-publishing vis-a-vis independent publishing resources (there are SO many options out there, and many of those are bad ideas, and none come with a sharp-penciled editor which I’ll undoubtedly need) so I feel better positioned now to understand that landscape, but still without sufficient confidence to walk it without someone I trust deeply to hold my hand …
So far, I’ve some brainy friends in the book publishing business, one recently published first novel, Letters to Singapore, and some other very helpful writers I won’t name, so I’m looking forward to tapping them for some wise guidance.
I chose Waterglass Press, the publisher imprint name I plan to use; I’ve registered the name/URL, but nothing beyond that. Then one day, while exploring options for growing the audience/mailing lists with alternatives to Mail Chimp’s increasing costs, I discovered Substack. The more I looked, the more I liked it. To save the curiosity among my readers from hours of fatigue, I recommend two articles that do a great job and underscore why, for me, and hopefully for the benefit of current and future readers of Musings: Vanity Fair and Wired.
The big difference vis-à-vis most online media, social media and print publications, it is advertising-free, and there are no interruptions, pop-ups or squirrels to take you off track. Sure, each publisher can cross-link with others to help readers explore other writers. Publishers want an easy-to-use tool that spreads their words and makes them some money rather than relentlessly costing them money. Most writers/publishers on Substack offer free versions of their work and paid subscriptions that provide/wider scope for the reader.
And readers aren’t tripping over adds or getting a popup every time they click on something.
Substack needs to make money, and so do writers. It seems the success of their model confirms that readers still appreciate good writing over poor writing, more options over fewer, more revenue over less, and some revenue over none.
I suggest you poke around the bountiful supply of Substack publications. I will be exploring and linking to writers and publications I like, ones that I expect my readers might enjoy, and the most popular ones – look for links on my Subtack platform I’ll population after Monday’s launch.
On most platforms, you will find a mix of newbies and veterans, young and old, every gender/slice you can image – but mostly men and women, telling stories, distributing news, and sharing opinions. So far I am seeing a highly credible range of writers and a minimal number of cracked pots!
I will follow the lead of many publishers on Substack, facilitating comments and dialogue among readers (similar but, in my view, but cleaner) that social-media gridlock to their paid subscribers. My intention, initially is to allow all subscribers to have that access initially.
As you might expect, nearly all writers on Substack have a free subscription for anyone, and for those who wish to upgrade to the paid option, they have a more fulsome array of resources and content. And I, like all the rest of those publishers, will welcome all readers (if you are getting this mail today, that’s because I’ve populated my Musings platform on Substack). After the mail out today, I’m removing the list from Mail Chimp.
So far, I’ve not anchored two publications on Substack, with some more to come. I’ve not abandoned Mail Chimp – it’s still great for now, for some things I publish, and as an excellent marketing shotgun for my day job work in real estate.
So, I expect you are still wondering, and perhaps growing weary after all this preamble and background information:
What is today’s Musing column about, and where is it?
It’s right here, coming next (scroll below) – a special treat for Musing readers who were not here 'in the beginning' , a republishing of 1st Musing, March 21, 2003, the piece that started it all.
Thank you, readers, for your patience and for reading this far this long and following me on this journey – always one without a singular focus. I’m no renaissance man to be sure, but no tunnel vision for me. The range of topics, the length of the columns are getting longer, and some days they are as short as they were when I began.
They say the best writers – of fiction in particular – but I think it fits so many activities in our lives, “begin with the end in mind”. I’ve only a few times considered THE END, of this Musing process – on rare deeply-down days, but those days are often prolific writing days.
What you’ve read from the top to hear was written from scratch in Saturday morning, yesterday, and what follows is the ‘end bit’ I decided to publish a couple of months ago and haven’t had and reason to consider anything else. I thought, since most readers on the list day weren’t along for ride in the beginning, this will be first glimpse of the ‘big bang’ if Musings, the one day missive to six friends and my eldest daughter – here it is, written on a day like this twenty years ago:
It was short, untitled, and hastily written – and now that I’ve dug out my archived files I realize a minor miss-remembering the start; in 2003.
That year, March 20 was the first day of spring, a Thursday – and that day my daugter and I went for a walk from Eau Claire where I was living at the time over to the Heartland Café in Sunnyside (they’ve relocated to Okotoks; that venue is now Vendome), and as we walked back our discussion took some wide swings, we talked about both having a challenge of exercising regularly (though I paid for my gym membership every month, I believe you actually have to go there often), we talked about writing (she was on a few vacation days from her first post-graduation job, anxious about a great new opportunity she was pursuing with a great employer, which she got. She’s going strong still, moving ahead and upward in a great career) and our shared feeling that we ‘had a book inside us’, and a hundred other things.
I know my first column (below) arose from that walk/talk.
When we talked about the difficulty of getting started to write, I tossed out (without any experience in writing outside of real estate industry publications or formal writing education) my favourite Tom Peters quote, when I suggested:
“Ready, fire, aim!”
By that I wasmeaning, we just need to start, and the rest would follow. I wanted to believe that, and I was wanting to encourage her, hence my ‘taking a stab at writing something the next morning’, which began a habit I can’t quit …
Whether my daughter has a novel somewhere in the works or not, she’s never told me and I’ve not pressed her.
While I’ve had plenty of time myself, my novel project is on-hold at about 30% / 30,000 words of a novel wants-to-be a three-novel series that’s been ten years, so far, in the making. Sometimes it's time required to mull the story, sometimes its finding a package of time and opportunity.
I have no right to invade her privacy to know, or evidence she has anything underway, but I still believe as I did twenty years so, that she has novel inside of her – and hopefully it’s not a story of a writer/father murder mystery …
And seriously, where would she find the time to write?
Since that walk twenty years ago her life has been far more demanding than mine; on top of her full time communications job she’s been working on work, and life - she married, built a family (I have two fabulous grandchildren), created a side business after her first mat-leave, then returned to work.
Whenever I've read any of her business writing, I'm proud at what a professionally, meticulously smooth and effective writer she's become. And she’s woven into her mix, her balance, a calm and steady demeanor, parenting skills that dazzle me at the great job she is dong. Those kids are the walking, talking evidence of her nurturing. Read, fire, aim – indeed!
We all take paths we never expected to, encounter obstacles we don’t expect (but our life has prepared us to handle them), and that walk, talk, and writing the first column the next morning (ostensibly to take a stab, using my/Tom Peters advice,) to walk and then write. If I had not, there would not be twenty happy years of self-discovery, a following of faithful supportive readers, and there would not be a ‘new/next chapter’ starting tomorrow on Substack.
it was a great day for my walk this morning . .
the river is flowing . . the geese are crapping in the water and short old oriental people are out walking along with cyclists going too fast and runners dot the landscape
but you know, there are no oil wells on fire, no one is wearing camouflage, the rumble of traffic was commuters on their way to work in their SUV's . . not the roar of 70 ton tanks !!
life is good this morning
we are safe & well
the challenges of this day are few compared to the situation of many . . .
happy spring . . .happy friday ..
The responses from readers to that first Musing:
You forgot to add that there weren't any war protesters blocking traffic and setting themselves on fire! Hope you're well, KF, San Francisco, CA
My Friend, I appreciate your reflection on the day---we are truly a blessed group, JJ, Calgary, AB
Thanks for your thought darling! You're so right. The other day on the phone I was talking to a friend who was complaining about what? (something) - and she was waiting for me to reciprocate the experience, I said "I can't forget how fortunate I am - my child is safe, I'm safe, I'm not packing my most precious belongings into a cart to leave my home in search of a haven” I bathe in more drinkable water every morning than many women have for their entire families......We are SO LUCKY!, MP, Calgary, AB
And Happy Spring to you. Thank you for the reminder. It is not blue sky and sunshine here but the mercury is higher and one can sense that spring is possible. And on the other side as you point out we have many blessings that too often we take for granted. Hope all is well, SC, Fredericton, NB
Nice......feelings!!! nice thoughts !!!!! nice morning to us !!!!! !! thanks to Lord !! one reflection.....! The violence done in our name in time before memory; the unremembered wounds we have inflicted; the injuries we cannot forget and for which we have not been forgiven! The remembrance of them is grievous to us; the burden of them.....is intolerable!!!! Mark.....Many, many happy ...spring days !!!!!; MdP, Tucson, Az
Hello Mark, I look forward to reading your musings first thing in the morning - your positivity brings a smile to face the day and you always provide food for thought even though I may not always agree with what you’ve written. Keep on writing, EC, Toronto, ON
OK, very intimidating for your readers to have to follow Kathy’s brilliant intro. I don’t know how or why I stumbled onto Musings some 20 or so years ago but I do know it helped me gain the courage to change jobs and companies at 50 when common sense suggested otherwise. It was a very good move for me and I’ve been a devoted fan and eager editor ever since. Not all Musings resonate for me, but many are very good and some are pure gold, RH, Calgary, AB
What a privilege, that from Melbourne Australia - I can enjoy Musings, thoughts, emotions and Pearls of Wisdom - far from the other side of the world, to provoke thought, consider alternatives, smile, sometimes weep and just to look forward to something every day, MD, Melbourne, AUS
It has become an enjoyable habit. It allows me the opportunity to either question my alignment with a long standing dear friend or identify those differences that provokes an internal dialog that most often tends to broadening my position on life. My Life!, JJ, Calgary, AB - [*many thanks to JJ a friend of 40-yrs., and one those ‘original six’ recipients of the 1st Musing
Reading your words every morning is one of my daily rituals. I enjoy reading about your personal explorations, your questioning, your struggles, your honest thoughts on big and small matters. The thing that keeps me engaged and reading day after day is your willingness to be vulnerable which gives us readers a glimpse into your real life…not a perfectly curated social media life. Keep on keeping it real Mark!, NM, Calgary, AB
Your Musings often evoke sweet memories of my life. In whatever form, please continue, DM, Calgary, AB
Good morning Mark, In answer to your assignment: Your column gives me a pause in my day where I get to consider another point of view on a wide range of topics and emotions. To agree or not agree is not the point. It is the shift in (my) thinking that matters. Thank-you for your daily contributions to my day, ADL, Victoria, BC
Every day, an email comes across the Atlantic landing in my box at my busiest time. I rarely miss the read! There is always something which makes me feel I haven’t wasted those precious workday minutes. Thank you, VJ, Paris, France
Thank you for our weekend assignment. So what do your musings mean to me?? Not wanting to write a novel here but two words immediately come to mind - Optimism - yours, and Connection - for me. Reading your morning musings is a ritual, starting some 20 years ago. I may not agree with some passages but always enjoy the reading. Over the years I have taken away many of your interesting points of view and woven them into the individual of who I am now. The latest; February 19, 2023 "Change your lens - see what's right with the world". Thank you for your dedication and continuous ideas, JKE, Kelowna, BC
Mark, you have asked for an honest opinion and here it is: I believe, you know, I am a big fan and supporter of yours. You have demonstrated grit, creativity, and perseverance in writing a musing every day for the last 20 years. And this is in additions to your other publications. I wonder when you wrote that first column whether you thought you would be looking back on the sheer volume of words you have produced and kindly shared with us, each day, for 20 years. It is a testament to your determination, focus and discipline. You are a very talented and insightful writer. I enjoy your wordsmithing and phrasing. I concur with the ‘Preface’ your friend Katy wrote so very eloquently. I only wish I had her and your command of structuring the English language so as to be as enticing and captivating to an audience. I have often thought that receiving your musings, weekly, would be, for me, more meaningful; and perhaps, appear on occasion, not so rushed. I appreciate you do not write just for me. I also acknowledge that you have a need to write daily. I encourage you to continue, but to distill those daily musings into a refined culmination of your daily thoughts into a weekly production. I do not know if you feel pressured to produce a daily musing now that you have done so for 20 years, but if you slowed down to a weekly publication that would alleviate time pressures, you so often make reference to, and create space for some of the many other life goals you have set for yourself, RT, White Rock, BC
Mark, your column starts my day like driving my TR6, always shifting forward 1,2, 3 and 4, not looking back! Thank you, LA, Yellowknife, NT
AND - if you have a minute - I've relocated the Monday Morning Minute publication. It's now over on my 'Mark writes here' profile at Substack.