On newsletters

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Here’s a tip: Try to keep your imminent death out of mind or else you’ll never get any blogging done.

Because people have asked: here are 3 lessons I’ve learned from doing a weekly newsletter.

1. Send out a newsletter you’d actually read.

This should be obvious. Check your inbox and you’ll discover it isn’t.

Lots of people start newsletters because it’s one more box to tick on their Content Checklist™. Please don’t be one of these people.

I mean, sure, you can start a newsletter for crass self-promotional reasons, but if you want people to actually care, you’ve got to put a little love in it. It’s hard for people to love things that are made without love.

My favorite newsletters are what blogs used to be: Places for interesting people to share the things they’re interested in.

Oh, and before you hit send, consult The “So What?” Test.

2. Pick a repeatable format.

Everything good takes time to take off. If you’re going to stick with it, it helps to make your process as simple as possible.

Dig through my archives and you’ll find that my weekly emails mostly follow the same template. Every Thursday afternoon, I make a copy of last week’s newsletter, plug in new stuff, and schedule it to send out on Friday.

Having a repeatable format also has the pleasant side effect of consistency. People like to know what they’re in for — otherwise, they tend to hit “mark as spam.”

3. Turn off unsubscribe notifications.

Every time I send out a newsletter, at least 50 people unsubscribe immediately. That’s just the way it goes.

Analytics can get depressing — why not arrange the numbers so you’re only getting good news? Makes things a lot more fun.

MailChimp has a box where people can type in their reasons for unsubscribing. I recommend ignoring these reports.

“I don’t mind women leaving,” Richard Pryor once joked, “but they always want to tell you why!”

Later, scrubs! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

You can subscribe to my newsletter here.

Fitting it together

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“This is an age of divorce. Things that belong together have been taken apart. And you can’t put it all back together again. What you do is the only thing that you can do: you take two things that ought to be together and you put them back together. Two things, not all things! That’s the way the work has to go. You make connections in your work… That’s what we do, we people who make things. If it’s a stool or a film or a poem or an essay or a novel or a musical composition, it’s all about that. Finding how it fits together and fitting it together.”
Wendell Berry

3 reasons why you should show your work

A few weeks ago I gave my friend Chase Jarvis 3 reasons why all workers — not just “creatives”! — should be showing their work:

  1. Documenting your process helps your progress.
    Keeping track of what you’ve done helps you better see where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re headed. It’s also a great way to hold yourself accountable — if you dedicate yourself to sharing a tiny bit of your process every day, you’re forced to actually do the work you should be doing.
     
  2. Sharing your process reaps the benefits of self-promotion without the icky feelings.
    People are often just as interested in how you work as much as the work itself. By sharing your process, you invite people to not only get to know your work, but get to know you — and that can lead to new clients, new projects, and all sorts of other opportunities.
     
  3. Building an audience for what you do creates a valuable feedback loop.
    Christopher Hitchens said the best thing about putting out a book is that it’s a “free education that goes on for a lifetime.” As you gain fans and followers by sharing your work, they will, in turn, share with you. Even when the feedback is bad, it can lead you down new paths.

That’s a short version of the why. The book will teach you how.