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Asking Questions


Why I’m moving to Substack


When people say something big is coming, you can usually guarantee that that thing is less exciting than the build-up. Why? Because the big thing coming may change the person’s life even dramatically while barely registering a blip for you.

I’m moving all our emails and blog posts to Substack but this isn’t just a migration to a new platform behind the scenes. Before I explain this big (for me) change, I want to share how I think it will affect you first in TL;DR fashion:

  • An invitation to transformation and fruit without all the hustle.
  • A slow and exciting movement of people pursuing growth too.
  • A more vulnerable look at topics I’ve been too shy to talk about.
  • The content or worksheets we thought we’d turn into products but will share on Substack instead.

If any of that sounds intriguing, keep reading and be sure to read the sampling of posts to come.

Here are 10 reasons I’m moving to Substack:

1. I feel like a dancing bear.

Or worse than a dancing bear, I feel like I’ve been in a toxic dating relationship with Insta for the last few months, calling it names, crawling back when I see how much sales we get from it, trying to mold my life around its very finicky patterns and it’s high time I wised up. I know people who find so much beauty in the apps and do it so well, so I tried to see it—I really did!—but I think we’re all different and it’s hard for me to unsee how silly I feel doing what’s expected of someone hoping to grow on the platform these days.

2. You get to see just what you sign up to see.

You either pay with your eyeballs or with cash. So for social media, you’re paying with your eyeballs. I scroll and see one pitch after the other with the ever-present #ad or affiliate link with a few value-filled accounts in between but it’s getting rarer and rarer in my feed. And no shade to affiliate links. We have them and I use them but it’s overtaking my feed and feels more like a sales machine pumping out referral links than the creatively inspiring space it used to feel like. When I step into my Substack app, it’s a totally different vibe. More on that below. To clarify, we aren’t shutting down our Instagram account yet, (maybe ever?) but Substack will be where community happens with a specific goal. (More on that below, too!)

3. The numbers make sense.

Even with all the marketers touting social media, our numbers don’t lie. We have almost as many email subscribers as Insta followers but emails have a 60%+ open rate while our Instagram (at best!) is seen by 30% of our audience and at worst? 5% And that’s seen! Not even engaged. This isn’t an ad for email marketing but maybe me trying to convince myself or make sure I get why this is such a no-brainer move for us.

4. Substack is the next right step.

My first blog was a wedding blog when I was a wedding planner. No real personal posts, just wedding content. I loved it but I wanted to talk about more. So I started the Val Marie Paper blog with more personal and faith-related posts. I loved getting to expand into more topics!! But it’s mostly prayer-related and not too controversial. I’m ready to write to a very specific and safe community about more challenging topics that I don’t have the skin (or mental strength) to share on social and battle trolls. My physical lack of energy due to different health issues has me going “Ugh, never mind, I don’t want to share that”. I’d rather save my energy for my family, friends and church. This new safe, community of people that I’ll get to comment with back and forth on posts feels more than worth some of that limited energy.

5. I want to be a writer who writes.

I’ve been blogging since 2008. 2006 if you count a column in our college newspaper. 2004 if you count Xanga. And TBH, I will always count Xanga so 2004 it is! 😉 My college dream was to write a column preferably for some magazine in New York City. Hence the column name, SWF Seeks the City. Yea, it makes me cringe too! Regardless I wanted to write. Not about politics or anything specific, just whatever piqued my curiosity! And holy cow, it took me 20 years but I’m doing it! How is this different from the blog? First, Substack will have a very organized format and specific goal and membership/group feel. Secondly, the blog has been hard to justify making a priority because it doesn’t directly contribute to VMP sales. It helps in theory, but when there are only so many hours to work in a day, it gets pushed to the backburner a lot. And even when I can post, I have to be fairly quick about it. I’ve been so blessed to get to write 6 books but to be honest, I have had very little time to write when it’s not for a specific project. How can I justify dedicating my best work hours to writing if it’s just because I love it most? I’m running a business. This is not a hobby so this has been a rub for quite a while. Emma Gannon said this and I felt it deep. “If you become a writer who does not write (and instead you are sitting in pointless meetings) then: something somewhere has gone a bit wrong. I was miserable because I was doing everything but writing.”

6. I don’t want to write a book.

People have been asking if I have another book in the works and I got nothing. I feel like I should have a better answer but truthfully, I don’t have a book planned and I’m OK with that. I had been sitting patiently in a season without writing, but as I dove into Substack, and seeing what was possible to write, not for algorithms, not for expert status, but to bring value to myself and others excites me. I enjoyed writing books, but I truly just want to chase curiosities, ask way too many questions and share my insights in hopes it would help someone else. I love sitting with a topic for a bit and then getting to jump into something else.

7. I want to hone my craft of writing.

The crazy thing is, even as a published author, I don’t feel like I was able to dedicate much time to becoming a better writer. No one told me not to work on that skill. It’s just not the emphasis. In the publishing landscape today, a publisher will do better (I’m stereotyping but there are obviously exceptions) with a mediocre writer or book with a big following than an unknown writer with exceptional writing skills. True, if you have exceptional writing skills an audience will likely follow, but it’s also true that those wanting to publish have to spend more time learning the algorithms than honing their skills of writing. I got a book deal. I had a decent following and I won’t pretend like that didn’t play in my favor. I don’t think publishers are looking to put out mediocre work at all. I honestly feel like my publishers were some of the best and always recommend them! My editors were amazing and I took away some great lessons from the editing process, but if you look at the landscape of publishing as a whole, I believe any Instagram influencer with 100k following could have a book deal today if they wanted, no matter what the content. That’s no dig on anyone. Just an observation that even if you get into the publishing industry, the focus may not be on honing your craft as much as building your audience. From what I’ve seen in Substack over the last few months, the craft of writing is appreciated so much that it’s an ideal space to grow it.

8. I want to embrace my local life.

I found this in one of my journals recently. Looks like I’ve been wrestling with this longer than I thought: “Write to reach many / Disciple to reach few / Social media is the convoluted place of trying to disciple many.” I have been wrestling for so long with how to live in real life while also loving to write. Substack seems like a fresh way that we can have community (the comments sections are LIVELY!) without feeling like I’m an InstaLeader/Teacher. It’s less about the persona of an individual and more about the community and content.

9. I like to read.

I can barely read long-form content anymore. This book-lover is struggling to pick up a book with the blaring siren song of my phone calling. Friends, I love a good meme! My sister and I DM each other our favorites all the time. I love the little bits of content I see but it has eaten away at my reading time in the last few years. On that note…

10. My brain is frying from Insta-size content.

No joke, since I’ve been more active on social media the past 3 months as we had staff changes, my memory is foggier. I can’t remember things as well as before. Yes, Substack is still on my phone but what a far cry scrolling till my thumb’s sore is from a thought-provoking article that challenges me. Substack is like the slow-living movement for content. It’s like walking into a library and asking what you want to learn today. It’s not a place of mindless scrolling. Substack is also the virtual writing cabin of my dreams. It’s where I can sit with something and not worry about how I need to present it to get the most engagement. If you want to read it, it’s right here. If you don’t, that’s ok too.

If you think this is crazy or asking, who would pay to read a blog? I’ll share this:

I’ve been thinking about Substack for a year. At first, it felt crazy to me too. And over the year, I’ve poured a lot of prayer into what will be next for me. I’ve prayed about how to do the work God has given me a desire to do when it feels like the urgent keeps winning out. I feel confident that this is the next step but it doesn’t mean I’m expecting it to make sense to everyone or even look successful on paper. My aim isn’t to become a millionaire through Substack. I simply want to see what’s possible when I can finally make writing a priority knowing I’m committed to keep writing for everyone who’s committed to me.

I’m excited to see and I hope you will enjoy the ride just as much as I do. I’ve heard some Substackers compare a subscription to the idea of patrons in the old days where wealthy art lovers would support an artist so they could take time to work on their craft. It’s a lovely idea but to be honest, one that makes me uncomfortable to think anyone would do that for me just so I could do what I love. My hope is that the value you receive will change your life. That you’ll start asking questions where maybe you’ve never thought to ask questions. And hopefully, we’ll answer a few along the way too.

I know Substack will not be for everyone. If you’re a curious reader who misses the old-school blog days, I think you’ll love it. If your jam is memes or videos, I can’t promise you’ll like Substack at all. If you like memes, but desire a slower pace and challenging content, give it a spin.

Here’s the goal and vision of Asking Questions:

Ever since I picked up a steno pad in journalism, I’ve been asking too many questions. Sometimes it embarrasses my husband. Sometimes it transforms my life. Striving for more of the latter.

I’m mildly obsessed with growth and being transformed to look more like Christ. I have pursued that through goal-setting and better habits, but honestly, I see God transform me most when I slow down, challenge my own thinking, ask questions and most importantly ask HIM the questions and make space to listen.

What to expect on Substack?

(PAID) On Mondays, I’ll unpack a question I’m wrestling with and will end with a few questions to wrestle with God in prayer. You can expect bullet points, practical tips and the every-so-often helpful PDFs.

(FREE to all subscribers) On Wednesdays, I’ll send out The Pep Talk. This is a quick encouragement to KEEP PRAYING. It’s amazing how often our not praying can be attributed to simply forgetting to pray. I want to help with that!

(FREE to all subscribers) ONCE A MONTH, I send my Monthly Digest which is a curated list of what I’m loving at the moment. I normally include resources, products, articles, podcasts, or random things I’m doing that month that I think are helpful. This is also where I share my list of what I’m currently reading too.

If you’re on our mailing list already, you don’t need to do anything yet! 

We’ll be hosting all our Weekly Peptalks and Monthly Digests emails on Substack and they will show up in your inbox like normal. For a short time, you’ll also get emailed previews of paid content to see if it’s something you find valuable. Totally fine to stay a free subscriber! And if you just get the Monthly Digest, we aren’t able to send some and not all free content so if it’s too much, feel free to unsubscribe completely! No hard feelings. Again, I know this won’t be for everyone.

Here’s a peek at some of what’s coming up:

  • What has been my biggest VMP fail to date?
  • Is romanticizing your life Biblical?
  • How can we make a girl’s trip more intentional? (Worksheets included)
  • Are there virtues to being late?
  • What would a Sabbath day every month look like?
  • What if I’m a Christian with hypochondria? (yes, this was gonna be a book. Going to be a series here instead!)

The monthly subscription will be $5 a month. You can choose a yearly subscription which is discounted 33% off at $40. I’ll be writing one paid post a week so that’s less than a buck a post if you get the yearly subscription. And because I know you’re taking a gamble on me, those who sign up in the first month (by April 3) will get 20% off their subscription for life!


Want to poke around first? Go here. And if you end up loving it and want to share with others, there are other fun bonuses when you refer people here.

I started this out saying how often when people have “big news” it’s rarely big for the reader. I truly hope this is like the sleeper news that seems very “womp womp” but in a few months starts to make real change in your life that you’re pleasantly surprised by!

Alright, let’s start asking some questions!

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