Nuance Store! Grand Opening!
Why have I been working as a writer all this time when I could have been selling mugs?
You know those moments when you look up from your life and realize, with breathtaking clarity, that it’s exactly the life you dreamed of when you set out on your journey? You know what it’s like to feel years of hard work and ambition suddenly coalesce into deep satisfaction, as if the vision board you put up in high school has vaporized into your own personal pixie gas?
Professionally speaking, I can think of three memorable examples of this feeling: getting published in The New Yorker for the first time, receiving a fan letter from someone I was a fan of, and walking into the same classroom where I was once a graduate student, this time as an instructor. These triumphs felt like more than just triumphs, they felt like rights of passage. They were reassurances that, for all the times I’ve doubted myself, I had taken the right path after all.
But none of these validations come close the profound sense of lifetime achievement I’ve felt over the last week. After more than two decades as an author, essayist, journalist, and overall literary citizen I now have a podcast and am selling merchandise. (Or “merch” as we say in the trade.)
How did I make the pivot from creative professional to creator? Back in January, in a blog post about my podcast, I joked that I was going to offer coffee mugs that said “Nuanced AF.” I really was kidding, but many people took me seriously and said they wanted one.
The show, you see, is all about nuance. It’s all about (and you can skip this sentence if you don’t want to hear this blah blah blah about the podcast itself) engaging with topics that have been rendered taboo because they’re not often granted their due complexity. I interview writers and philosophers and scientists and scholars and, of course, other podcasters. There are many podcasts in this vein now, but mine is the best — or at least has the best dog barking in the background.
What I’m saying is that nuance is in style. Everyone’s talking about it! Before long, there will be a Nuance Industrial Complex. It won’t be enough just to be plain old nuanced. You’ll want to be really nuanced, the most nuanced of all. And since I was into nuance before it got big, I figured I owed it to my professional legacy and the world at large to monetize it somehow.
So I set up the Nuance Store on the podcast’s website. There I offer fine items that reflect the subtle sensibilities and sophisticated tastes of my listeners — namely mugs, shirts and bright yellow baby onesies (because what’s more nuanced than a baby?). They all bear what is now the podcasts’s unofficial slogan, Nuanced AF. If don’t know what AF stands for, Google is your friend, as the kids say nowadays.
The last several weeks have been a whirlwind, a grinding stint of design work, mug style comparisons, and figuring out how to use on-demand printing and shipping services. As if composing an opera, I reckoned with layer upon layer of artistic choices. I had to decide whether the show logo should be on the front or the back. I found myself in discussions about font size and style that become so heated they rivaled President Kennedy’s cabinet meetings during the Cuban Missile Crisis. There were moments when I didn’t think I could go on.
But as an artist, I know it’s all about the process. I wouldn’t trade this last month for anything. The times I’ve spent at idyllic artists colonies, working in seclusion as my most high-minded and inspired work poured out of me like the fresh maple syrup I was served in grand dining rooms every morning is nothing compared to the zen-like flow creating a merch line. Not to speak to another person’s experience, but I’m pretty sure that if Michelangelo had been around in the age of Printify or Teelaunch, he would have skipped those ceilings and gone straight to thermoses.
I don’t have thermoses yet. In case you missed it the first time, I have coffee mugs (classic design, simple lines), T-shirts (in tasteful “sport grey,” which only took me eleven days to decide on) and baby onesies in bright, super-nuanced yellow, which took me exactly eleven seconds to decide on. The onesies come in four sizes, because apparently babies need to buy the same outfit in different sizes, which I confess I’ve done with jeans a few times.
Again, you can order these items in the Nuance Store or, if you join the podcast’s Patreon page at the ten dollar-a-month level or higher, you can get a coupon code for a deep discount on any item, which effectively means a free mug. I’m including these details purely to add texture and specificity to this blog post. I don’t mean this in a promotional way at all. Since nuance is my brand, brand promotion would be totally off-brand.
Still, I can’t overemphasize what a profound journey this has been. If the young aspiring writer that I once was could have peered into her future and glimpsed her destiny as an e-commerce mogul, she would be overcome with emotion. I now know why they call those retail outsourcing services “fulfillment centers.” Because I am Fulfilled AF.