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The Surprising and Not-So Surprising
Reader survey results
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Over 500 of you filled out the Sayable reader survey and wowsa, it was a doozy to read through all the responses! Some answers really surprised me and others didn’t surprise me at all.
For instance, it surprised me that you guys (mostly) seem open to more regular posts here. I can tend to feel (like a good Enneagram 9) that any time I’m talking is too much talking, so it was encouraging to hear that most of you don’t feel that way.
One answer that also surprised me was how many of you haven’t upgraded your subscription because of financial reasons. I’ve always said it but I’ll say it again, if finances keep you back, I understand (there are plenty of Substacks I don’t subscribe to and wish I could because I’m being careful with my finances), and would ask you to just drop me an email sayabletheblog at gmail dot com with the subject line: Please upgrade my subscription. As long as you haven’t previously unsubscribed,1 we’ll get you upgraded as soon as possible.
One answer that didn’t surprise me in the least, and in fact delighted me to no end, was the demographics answer. It has always been my desire to not cultivate an echo-chamber and amass a group of readers who think just like me and wow, you guys are all over the page! I loved seeing this, truly. What it tells me is two things: First, you’re here to learn from me as I learn from you, and second, you’re also not interested in being in an echo-chamber. These answers also helped me to see where I need to continue to grow as a listener and learner. So thank you!
Finally, the part of the survey that took me the longest to read through and process were the last two questions: What are some topics you'd like me to write about more? And Knowing this survey is completely anonymous, is there anything you'd like to say to me about ways I can do better to serve you and the reader community?
The hundreds of answers offered up a lot of food for thought for the first question, but themes emerged that were helpful to see.
A ton of you want me to talk more about church hurt, deconstruction/renovation, singleness/marriage, gender roles, and sexuality, specifically on LGBTQIA+.
Almost as many of you want me to talk about nature and climate, politics and culture, spiritual formation and grief.
This was helpful for me to see because I can tend to stay away from some of the more hot-button topics. Now, just because you want me to write about them doesn’t mean I will ;) but it helped me to see where many of you are and what you’re looking for in the world of words.
On the second question, instead of sharing my own perspective on things, I thought I’d just offer up some of the comments you offered to me. Again, more than 500 answers, so I can’t share all of them, and though there’s a temptation to only share positive ones (of which there were an overwhelming amount!), having integrity means I should share some of the negative ones so you know that I know I want to grow in these areas.
“I would encourage you to change up the days of the Zoom group. I know that keeping it on the same day is great for consistency. But I have a standing meeting at exactly the same time, so I am never able to attend. If you rotated days, it might include a few more folks.”
Noted! Many of you said this and I will take a gander at my calendar for 2024 and see what we can do.
“I appreciate the way you communicate private information publicly--I've seen you graciously and firmly acknowledge that you're withholding things you might not be ready to share yet. So when you do share your private journey, I know you share from a place of deep discernment and that you choose your words with years (?!) of intentionality.”
Thank you. This means the world to me. I often struggle with how much to share and when, but I work hard at this.
“Because you have very clear and healthy boundaries, you sometimes come across as “aloof” or separate from your reader. Readers absolutely do not deserve “full access to Lore”, and I don’t have a solution or think you even need one…but the question was required and that’s what kept coming to mind.”
Ah, you are not the only one who has told me this and, also, if it helps, it’s a common reflection from those in my actual real life too. It’s something I’ve worked hard on with my real life friends over the past few years, but I’ve noticed the harder I work on it with the people in my actual life, the more detached I tend to be online. But noted and thank you for your insight!
“It's rare to find someone who seems just as shaped by the writing of something as I am shaped in the reading of it. It's as if you are in progress in your creating and I am in progress in my reading and there is a compassionate connection there. Many Christian authors stand over their readers, authoritatively and impatiently demanding that the reader catch up to where they are. In your writing, even when you are a few steps ahead of me, you patiently pause and wait while I catch up so we can continue on together. That kind of writing is a gift.”
This is beautiful and I felt cared for by you as I read it. Thank you. That is my whole heart.
“From time to time, I wonder if you're wrestling with traditional orthodoxy in a way that draws you away from the bible.”
Hmmm, I want to say a whole-hearted NO to this question, but I think, if I’m honest with myself, I would say it’s become a both-and for me. The ancients used to talk about the two books of God, one being the Bible and the other being nature, and as I grow, I resonate with this. God has revealed himself in every rock and tree and human being just as God has revealed himself in scripture. And just as scripture has been twisted or interpreted or translated imperfectly, so is the world and everything in it. So I would say a more honest answer to your pushback here is that I am not being drawn away from the Bible as much as I am learning to carry the Bible in tandem with all of life. I hope this makes sense (and thank you, reader, for sharing your email address with me for further conversation on this =)).
“I understood the move to paid, but it feel like there could be slightly more free content.”
Noted! Thank you for sharing.
“As a current free subscriber, I dislike receiving post previews. They feel a lot like spam in my already-cluttered inbox.”
Really helpful as well. The marketing tactic is to share previews in hopes of gaining new paying subscribers, but I do understand how that feels more markety than I want you to feel from me (I also don’t like this when it happens to me too). I will try to put the paywalls at the beginning of posts from now on.
“I appreciate your commitment to slow growth and the care you take in your writing to never apologize for your convictions while also seeking to make others feel welcome who are not in your “camp”. As a writer myself it is an encouragement and reminder that this work can be done without selling my soul, though it will be difficult.”
Thank you. It means the world to me that you see this very intentional work on my part.
“I think I’ve finally realized you and Nate live at a much slower pace than is expected of us. You guys enjoy slow things genuinely. Writing, poetry, being in nature. I’m challenged by that. And would love to continue to hear how you guys move through life with that intentionality.”
It’s true. It’s true. Thank you =)
Finally these two answers were back to back and made me chuckle:
“Be more open about what you think.”
“I appreciate your willingness to be open.”
It reminded me that we’re always going to be too much for some people and not enough for other people and just right for other people. My work is to be open to the Holy Spirit and the life of Jesus and the love of the Father, and trust the perception of that openness to God.
Alright then, thank you again for filling out the survey, I have (I’m not kidding) 72 pages of comments from you all and I will be taking each one to heart side by side with these words from Adam Grant:
Thank you to the so many of you who care enough to help me grow.
Have you preordered my latest book? The Understory: An Invitation to Rootedness and Resilience from the Forest Floor?
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