A Very Unassuming Launch

Everyone I know is launching a Substack, so I am too. And I promise it's going to be absolutely, um, adequate.

Hello.

I’m here. You’re here. Um.

This is awkward. I don’t know how to write a newsletter.

I think I’m somewhat okay at writing essays, not a total failure at fiction, and sometimes lucky with tweets. But newsletters? It’s a whole other art form. One I have never tried my hand at. Until today.

You are witnessing someone discovering a new skill. It’s probably very unimpressive. But thanks for sticking around.

Why am I even trying? Well, I’m part of a writer group, the On Deck Writer Fellowship. And it looks like everyone in it and their mother have a Substack newsletter. I already feel left out because I don’t use Roam Research, so I decided there would be no more missing the train.

I’m launching a Substack.

To write about what? I don’t know. Do I need to know? I guess it would help. Maybe.

Okay, how about this. I’ll write every week, so I develop the habit of writing. My blog essays tend to be too long and diverse to be released on any sort of schedule, and Twitter is pure chaos. So having a regular thing here sounds like a good idea.

I’ll share parts of recent essays I have published (see below for an example). Teach you a thing I learned. Tell you about my life. (I’m not sure that you should care about my life. Maybe I’m writing more for myself than for you. Sorry.)

I’m calling this Light Gray Matters. My blog is called Dark Gray Matters, so this is a play on words. Not a stellar one, I’m afraid.

But it is going to be lighter (get it?) than the essays on the blog. (Not that those are heavy!) It’ll be silly. It’ll be short. Hopefully, it’ll be fun.

I hope I see you at the next issue, next Wednesday. Here’s a button thingy that you can click to make sure that happens:

Meanwhile, I remain

Self-deprecatingly yours,

Étienne


Essay: Nothing Is Inherently Obvious

Last week, I published an essay on obviousness, focusing on reasons to not worry too much about saying obvious things. This is a common concern of mine when I write or tweet. So I came up with a few rules for myself. Here’s one:

If it sounds obvious but you’re combining it in a non-obvious way, then it’s not obvious.

Here are two obvious statements:

  • Whales are mammals.

  • Milk can be used to make cheese.

We combine these two statements, and voilà, we get something much less obvious: cheese made from whale milk is a thing (or, at any rate, a theoretical possibility). I don’t know about you, but I have literally never thought of whale cheese until I came up with this example.

Thus the common, but true, advice: it’s far easier to combine existing ideas than to generate new ones. Everything is a remix.

Note that the rule also applies to combining an obvious idea with a non-obvious one. The beauty here is that the non-obvious idea can be as simple as some personal story. “Love hurts” is obvious to most, but we still enjoy stories that combine it with personal details.

The essay also features my incredibly amateurish graphical skills. Such as this image I stole from somewhere about the optimal level of knowledge to be motivated to write (hint: the best time is often right when you learn a new thing!).

If you, too, struggle with whether your ideas are too obvious to be interesting, click on this button to read the entire essay.

Hi I'm a button, click me to read more

And if you think you’ll enjoy this newsletter, despite the obvious awkwardness of it all, please don’t hesitate to subscribe. And/or share it. Here are some more buttons. Buttons are colorful and fun.

Share Light Gray Matters

It’s likely that I’ll get better at newsletter writing. Don’t miss out on the moving story of growth that this promises to be.