Episode 40: Quick Bite, Writing on Substack

Chris Wells & Emma Nicholson

Release date: August 24, 2023

In episode 40, Chris and Emma shared that they now offer a newsletter and paid subscriptions on Substack. Chris has decided to hold off on producing a book this year and instead is sharing writing for the public directly while working on other projects. Making the theory more accessible is our goal, and this is one way to get it done.

Although Chris feels called to this work, the reality is that they are currently working primarily for donations. We discussed how values need to be weighed and balanced. For instance, the desire to make information about the theory as accessible as possible while also ensuring this content creation is sustainable. Considerations like authenticity in content, valuing yourself and your work, and making tough choices all connect with the theory.

It has taken a lot of time, contemplation, and effort to reach a place where we can offer a subscription plan, and we’re grateful to everyone who has already signed up. A paid subscription costs $60 annually or $6 monthly USD. The cost to become a Founding Member is $100 per year.

If an ongoing subscription isn’t your thing, you can also make one-off (tax-deductible!) donations to the Dabrowski Center or pick up some cool Positive Disintegration merch for your money.

There is bonus content available for this episode (Paid subscribers only)

Here are the links to our first free newsletter posts:

Welcome to Positive Disintegration, the Newsletter!

Two Years of Friendship and Podcast Co-Hosting

Overcoming the Stigma of Mental Illness, Part 1

Interesting Quotes, Volume 1

Note that an audio recording is available for each written post for accessibility. We’re still working on transcripts for the podcast episodes, but you can find the ones we’ve completed on the Dabrowski Center website.

Thank you so much for supporting our work. We appreciate you!


Emma: We're back for another Quick Bite. Chris, today we want to talk about our newsletter.

Chris: That's right. So, true, there's already a Dabrowski Center newsletter. But when I started the Substack account where we host the podcast, I originally created it because I was going to do a Positive Disintegration newsletter on Substack. Because there are so many authors I follow on Substack, and I think it's a good platform for writers. That was my plan. I created the account. Well, then I met you, and we used it for the podcast. But I tried to leave a section open for a newsletter in case I ever got it together to write for the public.

I realized more and more how much I had to overcome self-stigma to a certain degree before I could feel comfortable talking about my work openly out in the world online. It's been such a struggle for me. People who've been my collaborators in the past—shout out to Kate Arms and Jen Merrill on this. I struggled so much to do anything on social media. They would work with me, and they would both be so good about sharing stuff on social media and I would be like, well, I can't. I just can't. I didn't really have any good reason for it that I could explain at the time.

But I can tell you now that the reason was because I was, first of all, going through a disintegration. I was moving away from seeing myself as mentally ill and accepting my reality that I wasn't, and that I had misunderstood myself. I truly embraced the theory of positive disintegration and was able to reframe my life. That was a pretty lengthy process. That's when I opened the door to all of this nine years ago. The point is, now, I really do want to share my writing on Substack, and I finally feel ready for it. It feels exciting, and especially because I have this enthusiasm finally that has been missing for the past few months. It feels good to know that I'm ready to work again.

Honestly, I know that that's what Frank would want for me—to focus again and get the work out, and especially written work. I've said in multiple episodes at this point that I've been working on a book, and it's true that I was working on the book, but I've decided for now that I really want to share briefer pieces on Substack.

I also need to set up paid subscriptions because the reality is I've gotten myself down to very few clients. I've been focused on writing because I really want to get work out into the world to help people, and to make the theory more accessible. So, that's my plan. I'm going to put the book on hold for now and get this Substack account started. If you're interested, I'm going to put a link in the show notes. We're going to launch this episode when I do it so that we can get it out there, and you can hear my rationale for doing it, and hopefully be interested enough to subscribe.

You don't have to pay. You have the option to have a paid account or a free account, or you can have a founding account, which is a little more money. If you are somebody who has money, I would appreciate it if you could go the extra mile and do that because nobody hires me to do this work. All of my work is done via donations for the most part, except for a speaking engagement or camp or few clients. One way I can support myself right now is to have a Substack account, and I'm going to do it because I finally feel ready to share this stuff. There's so much I have to share, as you know. You made the hilarious comment last night that I have more material than a haberdashery, which I thought was just perfection.

Emma: You do, you have lots of content. This raises some questions around authenticity and content. Sometimes, when you've got content, you've got to let it marinate when it's not ready, and you've got to put it out in the world when you think it's done. So, putting your book on hold and I've done that before with videos. I'm like, no, I'm not quite ready to release that yet. I've got to keep working on what it is that I want to say. It's a weird position to be in, because on the one hand, you only want to put out content that's authentic and when it feels right. But on the other hand, it doesn't come free. The platform that we use to podcast on costs money, and the equipment costs money, and getting transcripts costs money.

Chris: Yeah, the transcripts are expensive, people. Because we hire somebody to help.

Emma: You're kind of caught in a weird place between, well, if I get people to subscribe, then I'm going to have to do content semi-regularly, at least, because I don't want to let people down. But at the same time, I don't want to put out rubbish because it's on a schedule. I guess that's where you're in the unique position here, because you do have more material than a freaking haberdashery—you've got stuff that you're sitting on.

Chris: Well, I have a plan. Most stuff will be available to everybody. The whole point, honestly, is that I want to get content out now that I think will be helpful for people around the topics that I've struggled with, that I know other people resonate with. I'd like to write a piece about Overcoming the Self-Stigma of Mental Illness. What I just described about how hard it was to move away from thinking of myself as broken.

I happen to know that the episode I did for Aurora on Embracing Intensity where I basically gave that message, you are not broken. She made a short on YouTube that has been viewed thousands of times. I was shocked. And I've gotten so many messages from people who were like, that message of “you're not broken” was so important.

I want to help people move through that process. I know what it's like to feel broken for a long time, into middle age, and then have to learn how to heal from that and embrace myself for who I am. Well, that's what I'm hoping to do with this account. But I want those articles to be available to everybody. So, if you have a paid subscription, the material that you're going to get is what you called the “nerdy bits” or something. I have all of this stuff around the theory to share.

Emma: When you want to promote this work to the world, you want to get the theory out there because you know it's helpful and it's valuable and it's made such a difference in our lives, so we want to share it with other people. You want content to be freely available because that was part of my struggle at first before I started doing my content was, I want to learn about this theory, but I don't want to be forking out for every book under the sun or paying to get academic articles. I was stuck in that space, and I really feel for people.

I know I want people to have the information, but at the same time, you're like, yeah, but it's coming out of my pocket, which is okay at first, but in the long term, is that really sustainable? If you get in a place where you can't create content at all, it's kind of like rock and a hard place because you want people to have the information. But yet, at some point, you will hit that wall where it's like, well, if we don't ask people for either donations through the Dabrowski Center, or we don't ask people to pay for a Substack subscription, then it's just not sustainable.

Chris: It's true. I feel really called to this work, so I have struggled to charge money for what I do. It's been a real battle for me. The people who know me know that this has been hugely difficult for me to figure out. I'm at the place where I am basically working for donations. I refuse to charge a lot for what I do. I need this information to be out in the world because I know that my job is to help people. So, that's what I'm doing.

If you are listening to this and you can afford it, then please, I would appreciate it if you can pay and subscribe. If you can't, you can't, and that's OK. I really, truly want my work to be available in the world. But I also have confidence that there's going to be enough value in what I do that I should give people a chance to pay, and they will do it. I mean, my God, people pay for all kinds of garbage as subscriptions. If I put out a quality product, I have to just have faith.

Emma: Man, OnlyFans is absolute proof that people will pay when they want something. Right? Like, Pornhub is available free on the internet, and yet there's heaps of people paying for OnlyFans, so people are willing. It's the asking, I think, that's difficult. And I think I wanted to add to that, even if you don't feel like you're in a position to go into a regular subscription, you can also donate via the Dabrowski Center and do a one-off, and every little bit helps.

Chris: That's right, it's tax-deductible if you want to make a donation. I need help paying for stuff. I've been doing it for free for a long time and not only giving stuff away, but going into debt to pay for the things that I do. I've been very privileged to have a very supportive spouse who has helped me make all of this possible, but I don't think it's a stretch to start having a paid newsletter.

Emma: I don't think so. And even if people want something for their donation, we've got merch as well. You can get yourself a Positive Disintegration podcast hoodie if you want or a mug or a tote bag or a mug.

Also, you're in that position where you don't want to just go down the road of, well, you have to pay for everything. There's balance in this. I think, funnily enough, that actually comes back to something in the theory, which is values. This is another example of where you can be in a situation where maybe you've got conflicting values and you're not sure how to act on it. Do I ask people to pay for this stuff? Do I not? If we both won Lotto tomorrow, I'm sure we would do everything for free. But that's not the reality of it. And then, you've got this conflicting value of, well, shit, if I don't ask people, then there might be a point where I've just got to stop and go back to the day job thing because I can't pay my bills. Your family's important as well.

Chris: I don't have a day job to go back to. This is a lifelong issue for me, that I have always prioritized my own work over anything else, regardless of if it paid. What I'm asking people to do with this newsletter is, this is a way to support me and my work. If you're the one who's paying for a subscription, you're paying for something extra.

Everybody's going to have access to work that I would say is the highest quality, meant for everybody. If you're paying for a subscription, know that you're getting extra. I am sharing things with you that are important to me, and I think are valuable and worth reading. So, if you have a deeper interest and you want to pay, you should pay because you'll get more, and you'll have a special place in my heart because you'll be helping support my work.

I know that if I give people the opportunity to support me, they do. My study group has shown me that. The study group is made up of people who are willing to pay monthly to have access to me talking about the theory in our small group and on Zoom. I know that this model works if I just give people a chance.

Well, thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to talk about the newsletter and explain my reasoning and tell whoever's still listening way more than you ever wanted to know about my terrible work history. The reality is I have always struggled mightily to have a job. Literally every job I've ever had in my life after the first month, I'm like, oh my God, I'm wasting my life away here. I need to write. I have this need to do this work and to somehow help people. I guess the other thing I want to say is thank you to everybody who's listening and who does support my work. I appreciate you so much.

Emma: Thank you to everyone who's listening. We appreciate you joining us as always. If you do have a chance, please consider subscribing to the newsletter on Substack, or you can make a donation through the Dabrowski Center, or you can even pick up some positive disintegration podcast merch. This podcast is brought to you by the Dabrowski Center. If you like what you've heard, please consider leaving a donation through the link in the show notes. And if you're listening to us on Apple or Spotify, consider leaving us a review or a rating. You can get in contact with us at positivedisintegration.pod at gmail.com. And you can follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.