They say all you need to be a writer, is to write. They say, if you write every day, you’re a writer. They say that even one sentence a day is forward movement, in whatever it is you write.
But, they never caveat that do, they. Because obviously, if your dayjob isn’t in a creative field, you can’t really count anything work-related. To be honest, all communications that aren’t explicitly left-brained are probably excepted as well, so that long letter you wrote to your great aunt probably doesn’t count either.
And I’m really not sure a single sentence counts. So that tweet, no matter how much you worked at it to make it perfect, doesn’t count either. Not unless you get some serious return from it. Not just serious, but useful. It’s so easy to confuse the two.
Journals then, do they count? Those private little mental meanderings, the soul-baring freewrites? Maybe, if they count as development, if there’s some useful kernel that can be the seed of a creative sapling. But let’s face it, if all you have is a seed, then all the development effort is still ahead of you.
What about those wonderful newsletters that people are writing now on a weekly basis, do they count? They may be glorified journals or very personal blogposts, but they are meant for distribution to a public. They’re not articles, per se, so they don’t count as journalistic, surely?
Unless we refer back to our good friend Gonzo.
As I’ve alluded to previously, if you can’t truly be objective in journalism, then the truly subjective is no less worthy of our attention. And while the personal blog gradually vanishes into the same abyss that Tumblr is descending into, long preceeded by LiveJournal, it’s in the newsletter that this format has found a new foothold.
First among modern-day tools to send tiny letters to a mass email audience was, appropriately, TinyLetter. It, however, exists as a subsidiary of mass-mailing industry leader MailChimp, and the word is that TinyLetter’s days are numbered. While MailChimp proper is always an option, for most it’s too big a hammer.
The other big players allow paid options for subscriptions; they are Substack and Patreon. Now I must confess I had a few reservations about paid subscriptions to newsletters, indoctrinated as I was in the idea of free internet content. But it didn’t take long to come around, to realise that great creatives absolutely deserve to be paid for their writings, for access to their innermost thoughts, to their very brains. What’s £1 or so per month to me when, as I well know, writing takes time, and investment, and brainspace. And our finest minds deserve to be paid for sharing their fine minds with us.
So whose newsletters do I currently subscribe to? Here’s a list:
- Kieron Gillen – Writer of comics and other wondrous things, who brought us Phonogram and DIE
- Warren Ellis – Futurist, writer of comics and novels and… Castlevania?
- Jason Arnopp – Writer, who brought us the terrifying The Last Days Of Jack Sparks
- Ivy Jelisavac – Writer, director, filmmaker, who brought us Relationshit
- Nicole Cliffe – Writer, mother, Canadian, who reads Reddit so I don’t have to
- Sara Benincasa – Writer, who brought us the wonderful book ‘Real Artists Have Day Jobs‘
- Conversations with Van Gogh – A newsletter about art and creativity and Van Gogh, and Hanna Aine-Smith‘s forthcoming EdFringe show.
I think that’s all of them, as of right now, though it’s a roster that’ll surely change with time.
I mean, let’s face it, this was pretty inevitable right? That I’d launch my own newsletter? What I’ve done is used MailChimp to create three streams depending on subscription options:
- Just articles, the morning after they’re published
- Just newsletters, which will be more personal in nature
Let’s count this as an experiment for now, as I have a habit of getting excited about new things, and then letting attrition wear them away. But for now, subscribe away!
Update 25th April 2021: The newsletter, Notes From The Engine Room is now being distributed by Buttowndown, rather than Mailchimp.
I’ve begun to rediscover my love of a good newsletter, and its specific, hot-take free ‘zineness’ – which I do think is something different tonally than a blog.
Yes, the Zine! What a great time that was. I think newsletters are taking up the place that Zines once inhabited.