How It Started/How It’s Going

This week marks the first anniversary of The Cut. That might not seem like much when put against, for example, The Guardian who celebrate 200 years this month. It’s a big milestone for me, though, as it’s the longest sustained and consistent run of publishment on this blog since—well, ever.

Yes but Rob The Cut is just you reposting a bunch of links every week and pretending there’s an office of people behind you.

True. But then, also untrue. Also, how dare you talk about The Cut Crew like that? Fictitious journalists have feelings too!

The whole point of starting The Cut was to connect the two pastimes I was indulging in most through lockdown. Regina Brett put it succinctly—

‘A writer writes.’

But then William Faulkner said—

“Read, read, read. Read everything – trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”

Stephen King summed up the whole darn Situation—

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

Lockdown gave me that time, and believe me, I’ve done plenty of both over the last twelve months. Living on Twitter, trawling my Feedly links, gobbling magazines (a subscription to Readly is a very worthy investment, giving you access to hundreds of publications, including some newspapers, for the price of one), reading a ton of newsletters every week kept me entertained, but wasn’t really helping me get blog posts out. There’s only so much material you can wring out of lockdown cooking, or the joy of having an insect share your space for a while (not kidding about that one, by the way).

So I went back to basics. A long time ago in a bhahdery blah blah bla-blah when dinosaurs and Margaret Thatcher still roamed the earth and phones had cords and dials, I began a Blogger site called The Ugly Truth. It was, as the fashion ran at the time, a weblog—a sort of diary of whatever I’d come across that was interesting and wanted to share. Like Twitter without the screaming and in a space I could call my own. My space, for want of a better phrase.

The Cut is the modern incarnation of that feel, with a little more structure. As it’s coming out of my reading list, there are a specific set of interests. Film, food, booze, music, the joy of language, the importance of comics and the links that are just too weird not to share.

Structure is important. It keeps things easy to read and more importantly, easy to write. There’s a preamble to set the scene, like the opening monologue of a chat show. Links are grouped together by subject or theme, trying to make one flow into the next without that screeching handbrake-turn of tone The One Show has managed to make its own. And we finish with a song, of course.

As a treat, have a peek behind the magic curtain. Here’s what The Cut looks like without any clothes on.

There’s the preamble at the top, with a READ MORE link that breaks it from the home page into the main body of the episode. Placeholders for links. The Exit Music bit at the bottom with places for the intro, YouTube embed and farewell. The placeholders get filled through the week. Using WordPress on my phone and tablet means if anything grabs me it can be in place with a couple of taps. When I get to the bottom that’s enough material for one ep. Anything extra gets spilled into next week. That’s it, really. All I have to do then is write the preamble, the intros for each link, sort out artwork, make sure it flows nicely and so on and so there.

But it’s still a blog, Rob. Why not roll The Cut into a newsletter, send it out as a weekly email and start monetizing? Did Substack show you nothing?

Yes. Well. I was thinking about that quite seriously at one point. Observant members of The Readership will note I did dabble with a Substack instance of The Cut, as a straight cut-and-paste of the weekly post. It foundered quickly. One step too much. Then the issues with Substack’s problematic championing of problematic writers became a thing and I just went urgh and walked away.

Here’s the thing—I do this for fun. Well, ok, it’s not fun when I’m up early on Saturday morning staring blearily at a screen trying to remember why that link to the clown motel in Nevada seemed like a good idea. But I’m a little lost and a little sad when I don’t have an ep of The Cut on The Go. Conversely, hitting the Publish button always gives me a little buzz of happy satisfaction. I never fail to smile when it goes live.

But I don’t have to do it. No-one’s asking me to put together a weekly slumgullion of linky stew. More importantly—no-one’s paying me to do it. Shifting onto a model where I have to hustle for readers and keep things exclusive to an expectant email list is many light-years from where I want to be with this enterprise. Let’s not forget—The Cut is entirely dependent on the work of other, more talented people. Without them, all you’d have every week would be the skeleton I’ve shown you above. I’d be kidding myself if I believed I could charge simply for that. I’d need to include more original material and I can’t guarantee how often that could happen. It makes more sense to keep The Cut as an open platform that anyone can read anytime, anywhere, for free, forever.

(If you like what I do and feel the urge to buy me a beer anytime, though, I will accept gracefully. I’m not a complete churl.)

Merrily we roll along, then. I’ve had a few bumps of positive feedback lately from people whose opinion I value greatly which is all the fuel I need, really. Honestly, I do love to hear from you, Readership. It’s good to know someone’s reading. To be honest, though, I think I’d do it even without the hit numbers, which regularly slip into double figures. Maybe I should rethink that whole monetisation thing.

Ah, what the heck. Let’s finish on a high.

See you on Saturday.


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Writer. Film-maker. Cartoonist. Cook. Lover.

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