One Hundred Weeks of Total Integration
Catching my breath after a relentless publishing schedule
This post is, unbelievably, my 100th weekly newsletter in a row. One hundred weeks of Total Integration! As someone with ten fingers who appreciates round numbers, it feels like an achievement. This week, I thought it would be worth marking the occasion and thinking about what comes next.
The initial reason for writing this blog was to see if I could. Without a deadline, it’s difficult to finish anything, but it is immensely satisfying to make a commitment to yourself and follow through.
I'd also argue that it is difficult to know what you think on a topic until you have exposed those thoughts to the world. Only then you can judge your ideas as you would those of others. A weekly deadline has led to some frantic moments, but I’ve always been happy to have published them.
One of the other aims of this weekly blog was to find my thing. I don't know if I have quite done that, but I know what I don't want to write about. Forget news, celebrity gossip, sport, AI, and crypto, forget anything that is excessively recent and not Lindy.
Alas, this is exactly what the majority of people are looking for when they go online. People consume hours of podcasts and YouTube about the most ephemeral of current affairs. It is the closest humanity comes to a shared story. However, the newsletters I read most regularly are those that are the least topical. Here are five I regularly enjoy that follow a singular path: Svelte Lectures, Alfie’s Newsletter, Camilla Grudova, The Pathos of Things, and Photos, Photographers and Photobooks.
I wrote a review post last year and included some stats. Since then, I have gone from:
136 to 305 subscribers.
347 maximum number of visits in one day to 1,249.
9,000+ visits to 30,000+.
Here is an attempt to make sense of the first hundred weeks.
Posts 1 to 10
The plan was for my first post — about year-long projects — to come out on the 1st of January but I got stage fright and posted my favourite photos from the previous year. I was keen to establish that this was an experiment, as if to say “Don’t judge me!” I was obsessed with health and promoted going to the gym, drinking kefir and doing Parkrun. Maybe it is all part of a midlife crisis? I was, for instance, writing about mortality, my past blogging life, alcohol, decoupling, and the friability of all things.
Posts 11 to 20
After three months, I started to hit my stride, thinking a little more about how to engage different audiences. There were photos of the pandemic, an interview with my wife, a review of the controversy between Nir Eyal vs Johann Hari, and by far the most in-depth research I’ve done, in this piece about the motorway that cuts through Glasgow.
Posts 21 to 30
The name of this blog, Total Integration, was finally discovered after a trip to see Top Gun: Maverick. Another cinema experience led me to enter the Neil Scott multiverse. I also wrote about niche topics like my book group, Brian Eno’s idea of scenius, and split ticketing.
Posts 31 to 40
I don’t tend to write about current affairs, but my take on Effective Altruism proved fairly prescient given the fall from grace of Sam Bankman-Fried. The trouble with writing on ephemera like social media is that it feels incredibly irrelevant 18 months later. Far better is to write about topics that deeply fascinate you like photographic ethics, cool, being anti-social, and integrity. I also went on holiday (but not from the newsletter!) and wrote about yoga retreats and escapism.
Posts 41 to 50
A lot of the posts during this period had been hanging around half-written for years, such as writing on the End of the World or New Escapologist magazine or posting photos of Mannequins. I also posted my first links post to help with a fallow week.
Posts 51 to 60
The largest number of views in one day came from a short rant about Glasgow’s buses, which was widely shared on Twitter. This was before Elon Musk salted the Earth and banned links to Substack. I initially wanted the posts in 2023 to be shorter and breezier, but it hasn’t quite worked out that way. There have been posts I like on pain, nouns, the future, and ageing.
Posts 61 to 70
I still don’t know how to write a viral post, but thousands of people came from Reddit to read about Nietzsche and Photography. None subscribed. I wrote a review of a performance art festival and a photography exhibition, both of which led to new and interesting connections. I stopped a daily photo project, yet photography remained an obsession.
Posts 71 to 80
As well as writing this, I have also been submitting articles to other publications and editing articles on Wikipedia. Any idea that didn’t get picked up could be posted here. I think the best things I wrote were written in quickly like this review of Porn – An Oral History or this on Existential Productivity.
Posts 81 to 90
By this stage, I had a better sense of what people wanted to read but found myself trying to avoid audience capture. Hence, a random collection of articles on yoga, routines, photo essays, photosketches, and pub quizzes.
Posts 91 to 100
Interviews are easier to produce than writing something from scratch, but they are time-consuming. I somehow managed to do four interviews in a row with Rachel Maclean, FK Alexander, Caitlin Merrett King, and Simon Murphy. The last one is by far my most popular post. As an insight into my method, the blander the title, the more controversial the topic but these posts on the occult and class were well-received.
Next year, I plan to try writing about one topic. I want to know what it does to my writing, the depth of my understanding, and how the audience receives it. I do hope you’ll accompany me.