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Why Are We Here?

Let’s shrink that question down a bit — it’s awfully big for a blog post as-is.

Also, can we please call this something other than a blog post? I never really liked that word, even back when I was blogging all over the place. It always felt like language that would eventually get replaced by a better word, but alas that day never came.

I feel the same about horny. In both cases, my quest for linguistic satisfaction remains, frustratingly, just out of reach.

Specifically, that headline is asking why are we here, on this non-blog?

It’s a query for you and me both. If either of us can’t answer the question, then we should probably leave. The stacking of dollars has never swayed me, even to our studio’s detriment. Time will always be the most important currency to me, and the differences I can make, from subtle to large, in what little I have.

I learned to write in a place a lot like this. I don’t even remember the name of my very first blog. Only Cindy, and maybe three other people even knew about. It was a Blogspot (remember those?) where I wrote anonymous movie reviews into a vacuum.

I didn’t need an audience. The exercise of articulating my thoughts about what I had seen on the page was enough to make me happy. Pressing that publish button filled the endeavor with permanence, even if no one ever read the work. It existed somewhere beyond me.

After getting rejected by a publisher, I tried drawing my crowd online. A monumental undertaking, for sure. But naivety here was my wild card. Without it in the deck, I might never have played the game.

No more Blogspots for me. I had to look professional. So I learned enough WordPress over the weekend to publish … something … the following Monday. I registered the domain, Writer Dad, and bought a professional theme. A hundred bucks later, my first online business was born.

Except it wasn’t a business. At all. I didn’t know what I was doing. But that never stopped me from doing it with all my heart, every day ending in Y. 

The audience grew fast, but I had no way of monetizing my efforts. I read and researched until my eyeballs got soggy, but all the  blogging advice boiled down to the same basic answer:

I needed a niche. 

But I didn’t want a niche. I just wanted to tell stories.

Blogging to sell shit never appealed to me. But I niched down and did it anyway, far away from Writer Dad, first with a site (DON’T MAKE FUN OF ME!) called Potty Training Power, followed by a second, more serious domain: Ghostwriter Dad.

The thinking was simple: I know you like my writing because you’re here every day, and that’s literally (haha!) the only thing I’m offering you. If you need me to write for pay, here I be.

Potty Training Power proved I could make passive income, even if the numbers were relative peanuts, and Ghostwriter Dad gave me a steadily-growing business, taking me from $5 SEO articles at the start, to ace copywriting skills that landed me a full-time gig as creative director for a content marketing machine.

I built hundreds of websites and led a team of writers to craft thousands of articles. I wrote sales pages and autoresponders, leaving my fiction dreams to gather dust.

Until I could no longer take it.

Sterling & Stone was my escape hatch from that life. A studio where I could tell the stories I wanted to tell, with amazing people who wanted to tell them with me — Johnny and Dave.

I dove headfirst into fiction, leaving the shore with no intention of ever returning, quitting consulting and copywriting cold turkey to focus on telling stories. I even pulled the plug on The Digital Writer, a content marketing blog publishing “epic posts” to collect email addresses from online writers. The site was only a few months old, but my weekly posts had yielded 15K addresses.

Delete.

Johnny pitched The Self-Publishing Podcast, and I was all-in. His idea sounded like content marketing that was easy to love. Talking for an hour each week would be as easy as showing up for me. Then I could get right back to telling stories.

As the podcast grew, so did the surrounding business. Johnny loves both the stage and the mic, whereas I’m more naturally introverted, and at the time, was still seriously burned out from all those thousands of blog posts.

Whenever it was time to write anything for our audience, from Write. Publish. Repeat. to our emails, Johnny always went first, and that division suited us both. Until the ever-increasing weight of our Smarter Artist expansion finally grew too heavy for either of us to hold and the thought of writing more nonfiction made us want to barf.

After shuttering that part of the business, Sterling & Stone sort of went into hiding. 

Okay, no sort of about it. We recorded a year’s worth of podcasts with me, Dave, and Johnny, that we never even published. Being so totally open with our audience hadn’t really worked out for us the last time, and our studio felt naturally gun-shy.

We had transitioned from a publishing company to an IP incubator with a publishing arm. Discussing our future ventures and unripened plans seemed premature. Broaching topics about our emerging partners and nascent collaborations felt even less fitting.

I kept itching to return in some form, but it never felt right. Our studio had too much on its plate for that not to feel a little (or a lot) like shoveling dessert into my maw before eating my vegetables.

But that itch has been constant ever since.

When growing our studio in the autumn of 2022, we emailed our list with what is now internally referred to as The Shackleton email, written in the tone of Ernest Shackleton’s famous ad:

Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.

There is no direct historical evidence to confirm this ad’s publication. But the story of that story does exactly what it’s supposed to, capturing the spirit of adventure and the daunting challenges faced by Antarctic explorers back then.

Twenty storytellers joined our family. We called them Shackletons.

A year passed before I sent another email. We had yet to reach our destination, but agreed that it gleamed on the horizon and declared that the next part of our journey was more like the Oregon Trail.

After the Pioneers came to join us, the door to our old audience was open wider than it had been in years. Johnny left the studio to hack through the publishing wilderness as a lone explorer, and that was a story our former community deserved to hear.

I promised to write that audience once a month, which somehow felt like too much and not enough. And what was I supposed to say?

Meanwhile, I started an internal blog (fuck that word) for Sterling & Stone. We called it The Campfire. I promised to write something once a week for all our storytellers, which somehow felt like too much and not enough.

And what was I supposed to say?

I still wanted to talk, maybe more than ever, but not just in a silo. And now I had two.

I found myself caged, my words caroming back at me from the walls of dual chambers, yearning for open skies.

I didn’t really know that yet. The feeling was still just an itch, albeit the kind I pay attention to. I wrote something for the Sterling & Stone Campfire each week while thinking about what I would write for the larger audience when the time came. This month, I detailed my semi-monastic approach to February and told the audience all about the best dictation software I’ve ever used, coded by Malcolm, a good friend of the studio.

It all felt adequate to me, but never better than that. Worse, it lacked the emotional sustenance I was looking for, making me even hungrier to satiate an audience with my words like I used to.

At the start of the 2024, after I had been ghosting for fifteen years, Sterling & Stone started a sister business, Invisible Ink. As a studio, we continue to do more and more ghostwriting. Everything from crafting IP for production companies and studios to developing celebrity memoirs. Thanks to our wide network of thought leaders and entrepreneurs who know and trust us, perennial seller style business books keep coming our way.

Our current system allowed us to hold a few projects at a time. Partitioning that side of the business with its own identity makes it so each of the siblings could properly grow.

Starting Invisible Ink gave me a reason to get on LinkedIn. So I started writing posts while preparing to spend some time on the platform. Doing that cracked something open inside me.

I finally saw a constellation in the chaos, and the grind yielded nectar — rich, rewarding, and unexpectedly satisfying.

Everything I do must have purpose. That doesn’t mean I never fuck off, because of course I do.  But for me, purpose isn’t a solo act — it’s a full-blown concert, with the songs played in honor of those who have invested in my soundtrack.

If an opportunity doesn’t sing in the key of our collective dreams, it’s swiftly tuned out.

At long last, the idea of an online home for me feels like a puzzle piece snapping into place. One that not only feels agreeable, but indispensable.

Don’t call it a comeback. Or a blog.

This is my online home and I’m inviting you inside it.

Which brings us to why we’re here.

I am here because:

  • I want to connect with others through my words: our old Smarter Artist audience, Sterling & Stone storytellers, fans of my fiction, and all the new friends I’m constantly meeting. To recapture the essence of what won Cindy’s heart when she met me: the sort of storytelling that sparked this entire adventure and currently finds too little space in our lives. To serve as a living repository of my thoughts, evolution, and milestones as I pass them.
  • I’m ready to offer a window into the rhythms of my life and work, embracing the transparency that drives me and finding joy in the directness and spontaneity this platform affords.
  • This can be a place to make new friends, both for myself and the studio. Writing about my life and the things I love while making it relevant to you will naturally shine a light on Sterling & Stone, while offering earned insights on entrepreneurship, publishing, collaboration, IP, and creativity. My work here will also attract potential fans for my fiction, and clients for Invisible Ink.
  • It’s been more than a decade since I had my own list. Not a Smarter Artist list, a Sterling & Stone list, or even a Sean Platt author list. I mean, a list of people who would actually want to read an elaborate mosaic of the shit in my head. The once-a-month Campfire newsletter gives me a place to do that.
  • The act of writing is a mirror reflecting my inner landscape, to teach me more about who I am. Treating that exercise as a daily discipline is a personal flywheel that I’m excited to turn. Sharing it is a bridge built from my experience to yours. And if you don’t know what a flywheel is, I’ll be explaining that soon.

You are here because: 

  • Maybe you’ve been reading me for years and were intrigued by the memoir-style narrative that starts on the day I became a storytelling entrepreneur (I was five) and continues with a new episode of my life so far each week.
  • It might be the insights into collaboration, entrepreneurship, publishing, the intricacies of the IP game, or the broader landscape of business that pique your curiosity, assuming you’re looking to understand some underpinnings of creative and commercial success.
  • You could be here for the allure of free short stories when I share them on Sundays. Or for a guided tour through my back catalog.
  • Most of you won’t want to sample every dish, but a relative few will want the full feast, and I’ve set your table for the smorgasbord if you want it.

If none of the above is true, then you’ll think I suck fast. My style of communication can be off-putting. Polarizing, I’ve also heard.

But if one or more of those things are true, then welcome to the crossroads of curiosity and collaborative creativity. I feel incredibly grateful that the time and space in my business and life have finally aligned for me to be here.

Except for my family, every remarkable thing in my life is — at most — two degrees away from my first 90 days at Writer Dad. 

That incredible fact only bounced into my head as I was jumping on the trampoline in between the rough draft and edit of this post. A fine example of the quicksilver nature of blogging.

Just don’t call it a blog. Those have comments, this does not, and will not. I am easily reachable by email, and only a little less so on LinkedIn.

Now that I’m writing like this again, the  faucet of ideas in my head is turned on full blast. I’m sure it won’t be too long before we reach the bigger version of, Why are we here?