📝 Notes for the Curious: Edition #81


After recently celebrating three years of Notes for the Curious I decided to take a little time to think about what I wanted from the next three years, and maybe the three after that. The Notes started as an experiment. I wanted to know if it was possible to put something out into the world which would connect with other people but which wouldn’t require me to do things like a) trick them into signing up by offering them something in return for doing so and b) would add value to their inbox rather than simply occupying space in it, c) was not a sleazy sales funnel.

Most of the time, I think it’s achieving what I set out for it to do, but every now and then I wonder, could it do more?

The beauty of writing the Notes is that because it was never set up to be anything other than what it is, I can continue to experiment with how it shows up in the world. Which is why, I would like to ask you to join in an experiment with me today.

You see, the thing with putting writing out into the world is that you don’t always hear a lot back. That said, I do get some lovely emails after each edition, please do keep sending those when you feel moved to do so.

I’ve considered, in the past, opening a group for Curious Readers (and quickly ditched the idea as I didn’t think it would be something I could sustain and therefore failed my first checkpoint for new projects - can I do this competently and consistently?) or running a reader survey (still musing on that one). I knew that what I really wanted was to create more of a two-way interaction between me and my Notes readers, but also one that did not feel burdensome for either of us.

I think I may have hit upon something, inspired by Ann Friedman, to ask just one, simple question to my readers. I’m using the magic of Google Forms for this as it is 1) familiar and 2) allows readers to respond anonymously which will hopefully encourage you to participate. If this works, I will share the responses in the next Notes. If It doesn’t we will simply move on to the next experiment or keep things exactly as they are. Who knows? But I love that we can approach this without any great fear of failure or expectations attached to it.

So, the question I have chosen to start us off (or end the experiment on if i hear nothing back!) is this,

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

I hope that you will share your answer here (hint: it’s usually the first thing that springs to mind when you read the question). I’ll be sharing my response - and any other shareable responses I receive - in the next Notes.

Until then, let’s get on with this edition of the Notes…

1) Was it worth it?

This year, as many of you know, has seen me pull back extensively from my work in public and prioritise other areas of my life. As we approach the middle of the year I find myself reflecting on how far I’ve come and whether the decisions I’ve made are the right ones. It has in no way been easy to make some of the decisions I have had to make. And as freeing as it has sometimes been, that freedom has also been frequently overshadowed by crippling guilt, frustration and other negative emotions. There are many, many times when I have questioned my decisions. Which is why, I found reading this article from Tiny Buddha so interesting. Here are seven ways to know if your sacrifices have been worth it. To be brutally honest, I still have no idea, we rarely do when we are in the eye of the storm. It is really only ever time that will give us the perspective we need.

2) Email like a man

This was a real brain twister of an article for me. I believe that there is very little in the world that is more powerful than language. The impact of the right words, said at the right time can rarely be beaten. As a woman who writes, I am very aware of the gender differences in how we write. I have had the Chrome plug in referenced in the article installed on my browser for many years to remove words which might diminish the impact I want them to make. And yet, I also believe that we should not have to modify ourselves to fit what others want us to be. I remain divided on this point, even after reading the article, as I think many of us are. Do we show up fully and exactly as we are even if it risks the point we want to make or do we bend the way we show up in order to prioritise the message? What do you do?

3) The dark side of social media

This article chilled me to the core. Although the ultimate message is one of hope and redemption it reminded me, once again, how unprepared I feel for the oncoming storm of social media which will hit our family in a rapidly decreasing number of years. How did one liberal leaning family lose their 13-year old child to the alt-right? Try to read with an open (albeit terrified) mind.

4) Community Exclusion

I’m a community builder, it’s an instinct, it is something I do as a reflex. I am always scanning for connections and making sure that everyone who enters my sphere has somewhere they feel that they belong. The flip side of that though, is that in building healthy spaces for people to belong means that from time to time, keeping those spaces healthy for the majority means removing the disruptive minority. This is agonising for me. Every. Single. Time. I will always keep people in community for as long as I possibly can, often far longer than I should, in the hopes that allowing them to bear witness to the behaviour of the community as a whole and the feeling of belonging that it creates will encourage them to be a positive participant. Statistically, I don’t have a good rate of return on this, and yet, still I try. So why do I continue to do it? This is why, the human brain cannot distinguish between a broken bone and a broken heart. Social exclusion is a frightening, devastating situation which is reaching - in my opinion, a critical point in our society. The more that we exclude people and make them feel like outsiders the worse off we all are. Yet we still need to hit the balance between safety for the majority. I have no answers for this. I am very much still in my learning and understanding phase. If you have resources for me, send them on over.

5) A day in the life…

The end of next month will find me breathing deeply in the French countryside as I attend my first ever writing retreat. It is very, very much needed. I intend to dive deeply into the book and try to crack the backbone of it. Just the anticipation of indulging in so much uninterrupted writing time lifts my spirits. As writing is my focus at the moment I thoroughly enjoyed this (new to me) series of interviews with writers where they spoke about the structures of their writing days.

Until the next Notes,


P.S. My website is having a little spring clean at the moment as I pivot my offerings. All the content is still there, it might just look a little wonky if you are visiting it for the next few weeks. Bear with me, good things are coming.

Who am I and who do I help? I’m Emmy McCarthy and I make small businesses better and help people create leadership in their communities.

❓ Do you have a burning question that you think I can answer? I don't have all of the answers, but that just gives me a good excuse to learn more. Hit reply to this email to send me your question.

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