dill & fennel


One year of newsletter

Way back in February of 2019, I sent my first newsletter—a repost of a blog post about learning Japanese, then petered out for a bit. In July, I began sending weekly link emails, which I managed to keep up through the end of the year. It’s been quite a fun Sunday activity, so I thought I’d chat a bit about what the experience of weekly link writing was like.

This year I got really stoked about Robin Sloan’s Year of the Meteor newsletter, which was full of incredible links that led me to read quite a bit, and even change my deodorant brand. Robin consistently finds interesting and strange things all over the web, and I thought, perhaps I could do the same. I struggle to find writing topics at times, but I still journal daily, and try to keep up a writing practice during the fallow uninspired periods. A weekly newsletter seemed like an excellent idea, but I tend to write less, and not more.

A brief digression

I’ve found that writers are usually in one of two camps: the underwriters, and the overwriters. As a member of the former camp, I can crank out 1-2000 words in no time, but asking me to go beyond that is a torture, whereas my overwriting friends tend to need an editor to get down to 2000. Because of this the idea of writing a novel, or even a longish short story is really hard to consider—but short creative nonfiction? Hell yes.

Having realized I wasn’t able to creatively write every week without a good prompt, I settled on looking around the web through the week, and sending my baubles to you, the reader, on Sundays. I settled on Sunday because it felt like a good time to have coffee and enjoy a little surfing around. Perhaps you do this reading on another day, but for me, Sundays are for coffee and words.

The links I share come from all over the place. Sometimes I reshare things I found in another newsletter, like Dense Discovery, and other times, they come from my long list of RSS feeds (feel free to request my OPML file). I read quite a bit every day, both on and offline, so it really isn’t hard to find a few tidbits to share.

The satisfaction of analytics

I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how many readers I’ve amassed (spoiler, not many), but I do love that I can see that folks generally are reading the emails I send out. There’s a small sense of accomplishment when I know that someone has found something neat because I shared it. I really do love a recommendation, and it seems like some of you do as well.

Platforms

This year began on Substack, which seems like a decent platform, and has attracted more than a few friends as users. As someone who isn’t really planning to find success or payment via a newsletter, my main goals were something easy to use, and ideally something I could send content to directly from iAWriter, my markdown editor of choice.

With that in mind, I was eager to switch to ButtonDown after reading about it via Robin Sloan. I love how both the roadmap and costs are fully public, and the developer responds really quickly via email. This small, sustainable app is something I’m really keen on supporting, as I love sustainable apps much more than venture-funded privacy-less hockey-stick comapnies. Plus using Working Copy and Shortcuts, I managed to build on top of their really easy to use API, and now have a one-button send draft to ButtonDown

Next year

My plan currently is to just keep on keeping on with this weekly links newsletter, and aspire to continuing monthly blog posts about longer topics. If you have things you’d love to see, or things you want to chat about, you know how to reach me.

Have a fantastic new year, and I’ll see you next Sunday!