The Psychedelic Bard [Trenchant Edges]
And also accountability; Reading time: 7 minutes, 12 seconds. Contains 1449 words
Welcome back to The Trenchant Edges.
I’ve been saving the longest recap subject for last. This was our original Investigation into Terence McKenna’s Timewave theory. It quickly spiraled from there, as is only natural.
We’ll also be delving into the math of this newsletter, both financial and posts.
Including exactly how much I’ve made since the end of June 2020 here.
There’s a *lot* to get through today so let’s take a moment to remind you all that if you want you can book a time to talk with me via zoom and let’s get into it.
Can I use Psychedelic Bard Again as a Title?
So, Terence McKenna was a former Berkley free speech radical in the 60s who got into weird drugs and ethnobotany as his disillusionment with Normal Politics mounted.
With his brother and some friends, he went into the Amazon to find a variation of Ayahausca, a traditional brew of DMT and an MAOI. Instead, they found mushrooms and serious weirdness.
This won’t be an exhaustive list of posts about Terence because there are too many to list and some aren’t very good.
If any of these are subscriber-only, let me know and I’ll give you a trial
If you want to know my background on McKenna, you can start here. I wasn’t one of his 2012 acolytes and if I’m being honest, I thought they were pretty foolish for believing it. I wouldn’t really get into his work until late 2014.
Next is a piece on the colonialist subtext of Terence and co’s Amazon adventuring.
It also includes probably the best description of this newsletter’s name I’ve written: “Trenchant as in Trench, as in digging, as in-depth. Edges like you find on maps and knives. “
Then there’s the introduction to Terence and his ideas. It’s good shit.
And, of course, probably my best early piece, Terence McKenna The Criminal.
Here’s a timeline of events around The Experiment at La Chorrera
And then we’ve got one of the main criticisms against Terence’s larger works, although it’s far too short and needs more examples. Terence Mckenna is a bad scholar.
Months later, I was able to get a copy of the 1975 edition of The Invisible Landscape.
An outline for the big Terence Investigation piece I’d planned as the main kind of output of this newsletter. I’d still like to write this, but I need a bit more of a tolerance, err, Terence Break.
And a piece about the first chapter of the Invisible Landscape.
Then two different takes I had on Chapter 4 of Terence’s Book True Hallucinations: Last August and in June.
And the prelude to the post I’ve been procrastinating about writing for two months.
So aside from a few tangents like Terence talking about UFOs and the like, that’s where we stand now.
Trenchant Edges By The Numbers
Let’s talk about the original format of this newsletter.
My original plan was to write a weekly newsletter on Sunday mornings for free, then two more during the week for paid subscribers.
That lasted From June 25th or so until August when I ran into two problems: The first was reinjuring my back and the second was not getting a scholarship from substack, which left me without motivation.
I spent August trying to get back into the swing of things but only got 4 emails out. From September to April, I got less than 1 email out/month. I paused subscriptions for some of the time, but let them running again in January.
Not so good.
In May, I wrote 19,424 words in 26 emails. Not quite daily, but considerably better.
In June we hit 30,320 in 25 emails
In July, 32,694 words in 23 emails.
And so far in August, 18,459 words in 11 emails.
Emotionally, I kinda feel like I should continue these near-daily emails until I’ve more or less written as much as I promised with that original format. We’re about halfway there.
Plus, frankly, I like doing it.
But all the feedback I’ve gotten suggests I need to publish less and care less about word count. Which all makes sense.
I use word count as a measure of productivity. It’s a tool that’s why I can write as much as I do after years of picking a number and saying, “OK, I just need to write 500 or 1000 words and then I’m done.”
Of course, it’s no measure of quality. When heavily editing I usually try to slash word count by 10-20% or more.
Now, let’s take a look at the other set of numbers: how much I’ve made from this project since June 25th, 2020.
My gross revenue overall has been $1,710. With about half of it ($695) coming from this year. After fees, that’s down to 1,462.20 net.
Contrast with my copywriting packages which run $1-2k/month, and usually take me 5-20 hours of work/week. Vs the 5-10 I put in here and you can see the issue.
All of this is my own fault, of course.
If I’d stuck to my initial business plan, this newsletter would probably be much bigger now than it is. I’ve focused on producing content at the exclusion of promotion or monetization, because of how bad I feel about the past year of janky publication.
It’s an interesting conundrum: By trying to strip back to just the writing to make sure it gets done, I’ve completely skipped on promoting the newsletter any way but using Facebook. Which I keep getting monthlong bans from, lol.
Anyway, I bring this up because at some point I’m going to have to decide on an actual business model for TE and I want to be transparent about where I am and how I’m doing it.
That probably means moving back to fewer posts/week and paywalling some of them.
Which I’m not thrilled about, but think it’ll work out better for everyone.
I might also do some syndicating on medium.com or amazon.
Yes, amazon is distasteful, but I need to develop a few traffic sources so I’m not dependant on Facebook for new subscribers.
And I need financial security more than I need to feel good about my ethics.
I’d like to be making $1-2k/mo from this newsletter. So, back of the napkin, that’s 200 $5/mo subscribers. I’ve currently got *checks notes* 31 out of 465 people on my list.
Except that isn’t right. First, I get $4 of that $5 per subscriber. Second, I have two higher tiers. $50 for a yearly subscription and $150 for a lifetime. Or $43.43 and $130.35 respectively.
So, to get that $1000, I’d be looking at a spread like 1x Lifetime/Mo + 5 Yearly Subscriptions + 163 monthly subscriptions. And, uh, that doesn’t count taxes.
Is that viable? Eventually, I think so.
Anyway, maybe that’s too much in the weeds of the finances thing for y’all.
The cool thing, and part of why I wanted this particular kind of business, is any kind of growth after it starts to pay for itself is pure absolute gravy. So right now I’m working for a lot less than my time is worth, but if I stick with it and invest in growing the newsletter (and if that works, lol), I should be able to make more than my time is worth if this keeps growing.
What about expenses?
Well, the only expenses directly relating to this project have been a Domain name ($10), the custom domain option for substack ($50), a PO box ($80), and that first edition of the 1975 Invisible Landscape ($165).
So, $305 or so. About $1,100 in profit. Neither bad nor particularly good for about 6-7 months of work.
It’s enough to keep a man going at least.
The Future of Trenchant Edges
After this week I’m pretty certain about a few things:
We’re probably going to change the name if I can come up with a better one.
For September I’d like to move to a Subscriber post on Fridays and a Free post on Sundays. If I keep my current writing schedule, that’ll give me a chance to edit and proof MUCH better.
The Sunday post will probably be two essays instead of one. So, 2-4,000 words or 10-20 minutes to read.
At the end of September we’ll see where people stand.
I’d like to keep the investigation structure, but I haven’t really been using it so it’ll probably just need revamping into a more coherent process.
Let me know what you think in the comments.
I've been following the newsletter since pretty close to the beginning, and have been loving IAPCWE and PDCP for quite awhile. I am always entertained, educated, challenged, and even illuminated by your writing, so my number 1 suggestion would be to stick with whatever sort of workflow/schedule enables you to stay healthy and motivated while still writing.
I, as an easily distracted office drone, greatly appreciate the daily epistles, but I can also see how that might be unsustainable over the long term. A couple of polished posts a week would certainly still provide lots of useful wisdom and inspiration without burning you out.
As far as subject matter: I, personally, like a deep dive/investigation. I trust your intellectual integrity and sensibility, so I'm inclined to follow you down the historical rabbit hole on all sorts of weird issues. And there's already so much wide-ranging punditry and opining going on these days, so I think a narrower focus actually helps you stand out from the crowd of people who are just venting their spleens online.
But, if you do reduce your posting to 2-3 emails a week, you could potentially split those days up into differently topics? I.e.: McKenna Mondays, UFO Wednesdays, Friday Open Thread, and Gnostic Sundays (to choose some topics at random). As a deep dive wraps up, you replace it: (UFOs are over, now let's do McLuhan on Wednesdays. Or Cryptozoology. Or 6th Wave Psychedelic Posadism.)
Regardless, I really appreciate seeing your public writing and persona grow and evolve. It's a helluva a ride, and I'm looking forward to sticking with it for awhile.
PS: Thanks for the reminder about subscriptions. I've been meaning to do that for awhile, and somehow it always slipped my mind. Correcting that error now.