John Warner wrote a great piece on four categories of people who write for the public.
In a separate, preceding, post, he writes:
My goal is for my writing to engage readers on a “shared inquiry” level, where whatever I am saying is not viewed as a declaration that demands agreement, but an exploration attempting to illuminate the subject at hand in a way that encourages the reader to go exploring with a light of their own. I won’t claim that I always succeed, and I’m going to close this newsletter with some recommended books from writers that I think are surpassingly good at it whose abilities I can only marvel at, but I’ve gotten some reader feedback recently that makes me feel like I’m on the right path.
Another fascinating point:
Good work if you can get it, and if you can do it. Yglesias makes somewhere in the high-six to low-seven figures on his Substack newsletter alone. I’m hoping to get to $20k by the end of 2023.
Unfortunately, I can’t seem to do it. For one, I do not want to write things for the explicit purpose of some proportion of the audience to yell at me. For two, I cannot write four or five of these pieces a week as Yglesias manages. In order to engender the kind of engagement with the act of writing that I find fulfilling, and that I believe leads to the kind of audience engagement I’m looking for, I must spend many hours during the week ruminating over what I am going to write and then half a day or more pulling these thoughts together into this space.
Don’t get me wrong. I love this.
It reminds me of Robert Caro’s words from Working:
Whatever it is that makes me do research the way I do, it’s not something I’m proud of, and it’s not something for which I can take the credit—or the blame. It just seems to be a part of me.
See also Oliver Burkeman’s piece on joint attention.