TAoN No. 135: Highlights of Year Two of this experiment. Plus: Chore as opportunity, and more.
Anna Nekrashevich via Pexels
It’s been almost two years since I expanded TAoN, adding a paid tier with more posts and extras. So it’s time for an update!
There’s plenty of good news. This time last year TAoN had about 18,000 subscribers. Now, as I type this, the number is 32,432. Astonishing. Also, 282 other Substack publications now “recommend” TAoN. (I don’t think the “recommend” function existed a year ago.) Also astonishing. Thanks so much to all!
Less impressively (being honest), the number of paid subscribers has barely budged from this time last year, and remains a very small percentage of total readers. That’s kind of a bummer, because I would love to devote more time to this newsletter, and financially that’s just not plausible with current numbers.
But that, ultimately, is my problem, not yours! And I’m gonna work on it!
Because, really, I can’t complain — I continue to love writing TAoN, I believe in its mission and believe it has value, and I love the readership it’s attracted. So I’ll say it again: Thanks so much to all!
SOME HIGHLIGHTS OF YEAR 2!
Looking through the past year of posts, a few of the most popular — and some of my favorite — (free) installments were:
Ingrid Fetell Lee on everyday joy
Larry Smith on a six-word prompt inspired by TAoN’s icebreaker series
Kevin Kelly’s noticing wisdom
The Re-Frame Game and its sequel full of ideas from readers, Games People Play
And finally (recommended to newcomers who missed it back at the turn of the New Year): “Hi, Resolution” — make your world strange in 2023
I’d love to hear your favorites, particularly (though not only) if you put anything into practice.
While I do have plans, goals, and ambitions for TAoN in the year ahead, what I’d really like is to hear what you’d like to see more (or less) of. I experiment a lot — maybe especially in posts for paid subscribers — but often it’s hard to gauge how those experiments land with readers. If I did something you liked a lot, or really disliked a lot, let me know.
Also: The past year was so busy with other work obligations (see above on financial realities) I haven’t kept up with all Substack’s new tools and innovations, so if you have thoughts on that front I’d love to hear. And if there’s some other newsletter that did something you really like and you think I might learn from, let me know that, too.
Not surprisingly, I’d specifically be interested in any thoughts about how to get the paid subscriber figure up — I’m very serious that I’d like to be able to spend more time on TAoN. I definitely have no shortage of ideas! I just have a shortage of time to work on them.
You can use the comments or the email address near the bottom of this issue.
FEEDBACK FOR ME — THAT I HOPE IS USEFUL TO YOU!
One thing I know I want to do a better job of is passing along some of the fun — and useful — stuff I hear from TAoN readers. I’ve been particularly pleased to get more physical mail lately this past year (the address is toward the bottom of this post), and I also want to do better at acknowledging that. So today I’ll do both by thanking Christine Richards for sending me her lovely little book, Things I Notice When I Walk the Dog.
It’s very short and sweet, featuring Richards’ super-appealing illustrations, and shares a simple message:
Walking Agatha, her basset hound, involves a lot of waiting around while Agatha sniffs. And Richards has learned to make this an opportunity: “While I wait, I notice things,” from morning dew to full-moon shadows to acorns to falling leaves. She ends with the message: Take a walk and see what you notice.
I’ll add an additional message to build on hers:
Convert an everyday annoyance or chore (waiting while the dog sniffs everything) into an opportunity to engage with the world.
And thanks also to Tara C in Ireland, to Liz Callaway for her dazzling celebration of Sondheim, to Joni Sager for introducing me to John Sager’s very appealing work, and to the reader in NC who alerted me to this essay about nostalgia (the postmark made your name impossible to read!). I appreciate you all :)
TAoN is a reader-supported publication. For access to past and future subscriber-only posts, discussion threads — and most important, to keep this free edition alive for all — support TAoN with a paid subscription.
THE NEXT FREE EDITION IN TWO WEEKS.
IN OTHER NEWS
IKEA bomb shelters (generated by AI).
Mike Pence at Dunkin Donuts. (Whatever your politics, this is funny, and keenly observed.)
On Patrick Nagel’s ultra-1980s art … which became the ubiquitous style of nail and hair salons. (This one’s for you, Martel, if you are out there.)
Very good BBC radio doc (30 min) on gamification, especially in the workplace. Somewhat disturbing, undeniably fascinating.
“Seeing or hearing birds could be good for our mental well-being.” WaPo gift link.
The music landscape of American Graffiti, explored and explained by Marc Weidenbaum.
A half-hour video on Charlotte Moorman, the cellist and collaborator with Nam June Paik and many other artists; I had not heard of her, but having learned a bit in the recent (recommended) American Masters episode on Paik, I had to find out more. She’s definitely a show-stealer.
Friend of TAoN Jim Hanas launches fiction Substack series Lou Reed’s Nephew.
Peter Landau: “I draw a dead person every day.” An obits-related practice, so recent examples are Martin Amis and Jim Brown. (Via Jim.)
I meant to send this post out yesterday but took a break to visit, with E, The Whitney Plantation. Worthwhile. Also recommend Clint Smith’s How The Word Is Passed.
What passport colors (allegedly) mean.
OKAY THAT’S IT!
As always, I value your feedback (suggestions, critiques, positive reinforcement, constructive insults <directed at me, not at anyone else>, etc.), as well as your tips or stories or personal noticing rituals, things we need a word for, and of course your icebreakers: email@example.com. Or use the comments. —> Or just click the heart symbol. That always makes my day.
And thanks for reading …
RobWalker.net | NB: I use (some) Amazon Affiliate links
All this by Rob Walker PO Box 171, 748 Mehle St., Arabi LA 70032. Send me mail!
To unsubscribe see the grey box at the bottom of the email, or go here.
The newsletter had been around in a more low-key form for several years prior, branded as TAoN in 2019 to coincide with the book of that name.
Things I noticed today thanks to Rob Walker
One neighbor gave me iris bulbs
The other mowed my lawn
The other daughter weeded
The others youngest cries “Hey Dan!”
I took a rose cutting from McDonald’s parking lot
Asked for a million dollars to restore the courthouse
Drew some pencil sketches
Planted poppies (I want the opium)
Hung my clothes outside to dry
Mistook crab apple petals falling for snow
Smelled the fragrance of spring
Chatted with geneticist about pancreatic cancer
Played scratch cards in Fagins pub
Sent my ski pass refund to Maria to pay her doctors and buy watercolors
Walked the river trail and thought Kingsolved is a genius
Met a young man to do some tile
Debated politics with the roofer
Christine’s book & your addition to the idea resonated with me. I notice lots of interesting things whilst walking my dogs but rarely do I photograph them & if I do I don’t share them. I always thought no one else would be interested, but maybe I’m wrong 🤔