I'm gonna just, like, lay them out there for you
I’m not a famous person. There was a time—twenty-plus years ago—when I thought I had a chance to become at least mildly famous, or a pseudo-rockstar as I’ve jokingly referred to it over the years. But it didn’t work out.
And I’m certainly not famous for the written word. This poses a problem when it comes to asking people to subscribe to receive my words in their inbox. If I was someone like sayor , you’d pretty much know what you’re getting into when you click the big blue button.
A big blue button, not unlike this one 👇
In a way, it’s nice to not be well-known for some very specific type of writing. There are benefits to writing about whatever I want each week. I can express myself in whatever way feels true, rather than placating to an algorithm, feeling the need to “provide value” to readers, or having some premeditated notion about what type of writer I’m supposed to be.
But it has drawbacks too.
Every time I see that a new subscriber joined, I think about the context that person has about me. Maybe they read one piece of mine, they found it interesting/moving/funny/heartbreaking/etc., and decided it was good enough to click that big blue button and see what comes next. Maybe they dove deep into my archive and read a bunch of pieces (I saw someone did this just yesterday morning when I woke up to a series of notifications saying they liked a bunch of my pieces). Or maybe—and this is becoming increasingly more likely—they somewhat blindly subscribed as part of Substack’s recommendations feature or new Notes feature and have no idea who I am or what I write about. It doesn’t help that this newsletter is called Just Enough to Get Me in Trouble, which is a mouthful and explains essentially nothing about what’s inside of it. But I like the name and I’m not changing it.
This post is my attempt to bring everyone up to speed on who I am and what I write about. My multitudes, if you will.
If you’ve been around here for a while and feel like you already know me well, then maybe you’ll find something in here you missed before or something you might want to read again. Or maybe you should go just outside and enjoy your weekend instead. Either way, it would be cool if you considered upgrading to a paid subscription.
And if you’re feeling super generous, the big blue button below will take you straight to purchasing the Founding Member subscription, which comes with a 15% donation to the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and a FREE one-hour creative coaching session with me 👇
Okay, enough with the preamble, let’s get into it.
As far as I know, I’m the only Lyle McKeany in the world.
I’ve been writing here on Substack since September 2020. I started it because I wanted to build an audience for the book I was writing, which is the book I’m still writing. Prior to launching on Substack, I had written on WordPress, Medium, a more obscure site called Svbtle, and I even wrote tour diary entries on my old band’s website 20+ years ago before I had ever heard of the word blog. But I had never committed to publishing something every single week until I started this newsletter.
I hesitate to even call this a newsletter. A lot of my writing would probably be considered memoir, or creative nonfiction, more generally. Some pieces would more likely be categorized as essays. Some I call pieces because I’m not sure what else to call them, but maybe I should call them art. And I’ve even dabbled in fiction and advice.
Like many other people, the pandemic got me thinking about what’s important in my life. I started asking myself questions, such as How do I define success? and What is normal, anyway? Writing about them didn’t exactly give me the answers, but it helped me process what I was going through, which is one of the things I value most about writing.
A couple of years before that, in June 2018, my daughter Em was born. It was supposed to be the happiest day of my life, but instead, it was the hardest. She wasn’t breathing when she was born and developed cerebral palsy due to the lack of blood and oxygen to her brain. Her doctor saved her life. And we spent the next month in intensive care, where she nearly died but it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced, until we were finally able to come home.
But the fun—as in, often more like memorable and not really fun at all—didn’t stop there. A surgery or two. A feeding tube situation at the airport. A rough holiday when Em’s body wasn’t cooperating. A repeat EEG test, or six (I think). C O V I D, of course. So many syringes. And the challenges of raising a child who’s nonverbal.
I barely felt prepared to be a typical father. And now here I was thrust into the role of disability dad with countless specialty devices strewn about my house. Since Em was born, I’ve gone from struggling with self-harm, to breaking up with my therapist, to getting more in tune with my body, although I still pass out easily. Otherwise, I’m a pretty chill guy.
In the midst of all this, I lost my father in April 2021. He was an actual hero, who loved to tell us to hurry up and have fun. His passing wasn’t unexpected since he had been battling cancer for years. It wasn’t easy, of course. Dealing with the strange ways grief shows up has been a challenge. And yet, in the days after his death, I was able to write what ended up becoming my most popular piece to date—something I’m quite proud of, especially considering the circumstances.
While family is number one for me, as it should be, it’s not everything.
Music has played a huge role in my life. I was in a band called Pressure 4-5. We were a bunch of guys who met in a college town and ended up signing a major label record deal. Things were going great—we recorded our album in a nice L.A. studio, we filmed a video at Universal Studios, and we hit the road on tour. But then our single hit radio just two days before 9/11, which effectively stymied our promotion.
Ever since my band days, work has been an ever-changing thing for me. I’ve been a pro poker player, an early-stage startup employee, dabbled in the crypto/web3 space, and now I’m in a sabbaticalish period.
I also briefly worked as a golf instructor, something I somehow haven’t written about yet. I’m a huge golf nerd. Yet I haven’t played much over the past couple of years (although I’m scheduled to play during the afternoon on the day this is published). Despite not playing as much lately, golf sure seems to show up in my writing often.
Not everything I write is tied to some aspect of my identity, though. Sometimes I just need to process something and get the thoughts out of my head and onto the page. And so I write about things such as home projects, divorce, customer service, time, dogs, exercise, FOMO, living in the suburbs, context switching, travel, not caring so much, small talk, a book review, meeting my wife Allison for the first time, and even couches.
Writing about writing is a siren song many writers have trouble tuning out. But after you write this many words and grow a decent-sized audience, in spite of not having a clearly defined niche, you start to form opinions about the act of writing.
I’ve written about how writing in lowercase can unlock your creativity.
I’ve written about non-obvious lessons learned from writing this newsletter.
I’ve written about journaling for a lot of days in a row.
I’ve written about how to write consistently.
I’ve written about the problem with creative writing.
I’ve written about audience growth.
And I’ve written about not wanting to write.
There are some pieces I wrote that I won’t be linking to. Because I cringe a bit when I read the prose or the subject matter isn’t all that interesting to me anymore. But I’m still glad I wrote them. And they’ll live on in my archive, because they’re all part of my evolution as a creative writer.
All I can do is keep writing and striving to get better at my craft. And I’ll keep showing up every single week.
I hope you stick with me too.
If you liked this one, could you please let me know by giving the heart button a tap?