Cracking the Walnut: An Introduction
Why I moved to Substack
Hello! Welcome to Cracking the Walnut, in which I break open my own tough shell to get at the sweet stuff inside. (Though I should warn you right off the bat that it won’t all be sweet. There are also some bitter pieces, and bits that are kind of… off?... in puzzling ways.)
What this Newsletter is About
I spent the past decade writing and publishing a series of young adult thrillers. One of my very favorite things about them was the container they provided: through writing stories about characters who came from me but were not me, I could explore my own psyche from a safe distance. I could work out issues that had long been buried in my subconscious. And the journey I went through as a result was epic indeed. To give a brief, declawed summary: writing the books felt therapeutic, but publishing them made me want to stop living.
The path I took to where I am today—back to relative stability—was pretty unconventional. I’ve been wanting to write about it for a while now, but whenever I sat down to try, I was so overwhelmed and uncertain of where to start that I kept finding excuses to do anything but write. At the same time, I’ve really missed having the thought-processing container that my novels used to provide. (That’s putting it mildly. It’s more like, “not having one has taught me that it is essential to my sanity.”)
I suppose I could journal about all this, but for me that just feels like homework. For better or for worse, there is something that compels me to share my writing with others (despite my often-crippling fear of being perceived! Yep, it’s a very fun combo).
Over the last few months, I’ve realized that I need to write a memoir to tell the full story. I see this newsletter as a place where I can begin working on material and finding out what aspects are of the most interest to you, my readers.
Plus: I’m lonely. There, I said it. Writing is such a solitary pursuit, especially for something like fiction, where I’m often the only one who sees the story for years (I’m the figuring-it-out-as-I-go kind of writer, so initial drafts are way too messy for anyone but me to look at). I’ve really struggled with finding my people, especially other writers, and with getting my work out to a wider audience. Which brings me to…
Though I was initially skeptical about this platform, I think it will be the perfect place for me to carve out my new home. I’ve been blogging regularly since 2007, but my current blog is a tiny hamlet on the faraway outskirts of Internetland, and I’ve found it hard to persuade people to come visit.
Substack feels more like a high-energy urban center, where lots of people are bustling about, building beautiful stuff and cultivating supportive communities in their respective niches. And the writers here are amazing! Since joining a few months ago I have read countless thought-provoking essays, and I feel creatively energized in a way that I’ve been lacking for a long time.
I’m inspired by the idea of using these newsletters and the collaborative aspect of Substack to guide the shape of my memoir. I encourage you to comment on anything you’d like to know more about, anything that needs clarification, etc.
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There’s a writing adage that “the universal is in the specific.” I have found this to be true in many aspects of life, and that will be a guiding principle here as well. Meaning, the content of these newsletters will be focused on my own personal experiences, observations, opinions, and thoughts. That may feel like an odd choice coming from a person who feels that individualism is a toxic force in our society, but paradoxically (I’m also a person who loves paradoxes!) delving deep into one individual can help illuminate what’s going on in the wider world.
I write from a place of curiosity. It’s how I explore, and play, and attempt to figure stuff out. But I’m still just feeling through the dark over here (and it’s hard to crack walnuts in the dark).
All of that is to say, I am very hesitant to dispense any sort of advice, and I do NOT want to give the impression that I have figured out the One Weird Trick to finding healing and living your best life. I acknowledge I have various privileges that shaped the options that were available to me, and I am DEFINITELY not here to judge the way you cope with your own stuff. I’m just sharing stories and thoughts from my specific journey. Which, I might add, is ongoing, and will always be. This voyage is long, nonlinear, and messy. And that’s exactly what makes it so interesting.
It means a lot to me that you’re here. Thanks for reading!