Well friends, I did it. I quietly launched The Forest yesterday.
Two months ago, this was merely an intriguing idea I had while scrolling twitter one afternoon. Today, it’s a cool, tangible thing that exists, and that people can give me money for. Pretty rad! That feeling of creating something out of thin air, and releasing it to your homies, is still so, so rewarding for me. Hasn’t gotten old after 8 years of playing the internet business game.
I won’t lie though, the last two months of building have been fucking rough. This project triggered more perfectionism and self-doubt and Resistance than anything I’ve done in years. I’ve got a vivid, vibrant vision in my head for what I want The Forest to be. I believe it can (and eventually will) play a crucial role in re-enchanting the lives of creatives and entrepreneurs, and lay the groundwork for a more beautiful internet. At the same time, I’m acutely aware that I’m not yet skilled enough to make my full vision a reality. As Ira Glass says, there’s a frustrating gap between my taste and my current abilities, and my awareness of said gap has been creating all sorts of emotional mayhem that I've been wallowing in for two months.
All of which is to say, this first version of The Forest feels uncomfortably incomplete and imperfect. It bugs me. But at the same time, I know I'll be working on this for at least the next 3-5 years, and that I will slowly iterate it towards the vision I see so clearly in my head. It doesn’t have to be magical and transformative today. It just has to exist, so that I can keep showing up and planting new seeds in there. Yesterday’s launch wasn’t so much a finish line as it was a new beginning.
Speaking of which, I had a huge realization this week. The Forest isn’t just another paid product on the back end of my business. It's the core work of Ungated. It's the thing I want to spend the vast majority of my time on. So that's what I'm gonna do. In two weeks, after a nice lil vacation, I’ll be starting back up with daily writing and publishing. But this won’t be “content marketing” or “newsletters” or whatever. I will be actively writing and publishing into The Forest each day. This writing will live on the private Obsidian Publish website where the "choose your own adventure" aspect of The Forest experience lives. But I'll also be publishing everything publicly to the Ungated website. My plan is for about 50% of that writing to be freely available, while the rest will be behind the paywall. In other words, I’m completely erasing the border between product and marketing. The writing I yearn to do fills both roles.
This is part of why I’m leaving Substack soon. The Forest is not a subscription product, but a one-time purchase that gets homies lifetime access to my best writing on these topics. Substack's ideological fervor to push everything and everyone towards paid subscriptions just doesn't work for what I'm trying to build. Coming here was a worthwhile experiment. I'm glad I broke through my cynicism and gave it a shot. But truthfully, I don’t trust this platform or enjoy it. Nor do I think it's a sound, stable business. Perhaps I'll write a longer post about why, but regardless, sometime in the next few weeks, all of my new writing will happen over on the Ungated website. If you’re subscribed here, you will automatically be moved over.
Anyhow, that's enough from me for today. In the meantime, you are cordially invited to begin wandering through The Forest.
"In other words, I’m completely erasing the border between product and marketing. The writing I yearn to do fills both roles." 🔥🔥✨
Incredible and inspiring, Rob. Proud to be a paying member and supporter, but also just in awe of going from idea to launch in 2 months. Cheers.