Mere Being 003 - June 2023

Writing about Pivotal, writing for subscribers, Magic LTR, writing-writing-writing

Hello there, new subscribers! I'm Nat Bennett, and you're reading Mere Being, my other newsletter – monthly, less about software and more about art, what I'm working on, and whatever I feel like writing about this month. It's based loosely on Craig Mod's Roden.

About a third of you are new since the last time I sent this out, because I had another big traffic burst from the latest issue of Simpler Machines. Turns out folks really like it when I write about possums – and Pivotal.

I am conflicted about this. I have complicated feelings about Pivotal. It was a great, important, life-defining experience for me but it was also, at times, very difficult. If I write about it I want to be able to write about the whole experience – not just the good parts, not just the bad parts – but getting that right is hard.

Stories about Pivotal are stories about people, and those people are still out there and having careers.

Simpler Machines was actually originally going to be a Pivotal-diaspora newsletter. I pivoted (ha ha) at the last minute because all the feelings I had about Pivotal – less than a year into the VMware acquisition – were still too fresh for me to want to share them with the internet, even with other people who "got it." And even now, with more distance, I'm wary of writing a lot about Pivotal. It's a little bit like writing about family – that mix of affection and oh god what is wrong with these people – but a family that people on Hacker News have opinions about.

But the response. Man. I've gotten nearly 1000 visitors to that page since I put it up.

And I like writing about it. It feels great to really nail a shared experience – to say, "This is how it was" and then have folks show up and say, "Yes! Exactly!" That's a big part of why I write, and why I write the way I write, publicly, on the internet, with an e-mail list.


So, anyway. Earlier this week I crossed a threshold I've been chasing for the last few months now – 200+ subscribers – partly from writing the Pivotal piece and partly from whining about it on Mastodon.

I've been writing online in earnest for about two years now. Depending on how you look at it 200 subscribers is either a lot and I'm doing well – newsletters are hard, getting people to sign up and stay subscribed is hard, and I have really good open and response rates so I'm definitely doing something right – or miserably you-should-probably-just-start-over low.

If I was better at marketing– if I had a stronger, crisper pitch for why you should subscribe– if I had a lead magnet– if I was more engaged with the right online communities– if I'd written more guest posts– I'd almost certainly have more subscribers by now. Folks talk about starting to write and getting 1000, 2000 subscribers within that amount of time.

But no one whose newsletter I really like writes about it like that way. If I go through the newsletters I personally really enjoy there's always like, 10 years or more of writing-in-public behind them. So I guess this is year 2 of my 10 years.


The latest Magic set is based on the Lord of the Rings – the book, not the movies – and mostly reminds me of how much I love that book. And the Silmarillion.

It's been weird because I listen to a lot of Magic podcast content and these folks are mostly passingly familiar with the Lord of the Rings and they don't really care but they're now learning the names of a bunch of creatures and events in detail so they can have conversations about how like Birthday Escape is the best blue common.

They also have no idea how to pronounce any of these words. Like good lord. One of them called Shelob "shu-lub" and I thought I was having a stroke.

I'm not sure if it's a great set just on its own merits but the flavor, man – I won a game last night by making Rosie Cotton of South Lane my ring bearer and then attacking through Sauron the Necromancer for the final point of damage. It's just fun.

One of the things I say a lot about media is, "It's a rich text." This doesn't mean that I necessarily think the thing is very good. Rat Race is "a rich text."

Lord of the Rings is a really rich text. It's about man and the divine, the nature of power, the nature of creation, friendship, hope, what makes a "good life" – but also, substantially, hiker hunger.

Food is a huge part of those books. A substantial chunk of the beginning of it is devoted to the various meals the hobbits eat while they're out on the road, and why they appreciate them.


Writing begets writing and I have been doing a ton lately – three newsletter! – and it feels like all I want to do is more, but at some point I gotta stop.

Thanks again for reading,

- Nat

Subscribe to Simpler Machines

Get essays a bit faster. I write about once a week, mostly about software development. It's free.
jamie@example.com
Get a weekly email