Have you ever set an overly ambitious goal at the beginning of the year only to falter a few months in?
Yeah, me neither. : )
Hi, my name’s Blake, and I was once the consistent author of the Substack newsletter called “Better Writing with Blake Atwood.”
Since launching my newsletter in late December, I hit my writing deadline every week for nearly . . . three months.
Then I let a week slide.
An excellent family vacation followed.
And then work took over.
And then excuses took over.
So here we are.
And I need your help.
Some of my hesitance to keep releasing this newsletter is my lack of knowing what might help you best.
So here’s my struggle: What do you want to read about?
Before reading anything below, consider taking just a minute or two to hit reply and let me know (before I cloud your opinion with a few suggestions.)
You can also leave a public comment on this article:
When I first launched this newsletter, I thought I’d be sharing more technical writing and editing tips, but I found myself gravitating toward more encouraging content—at least I hope it’s been encouraging.
I also enjoy curating content that helps writers write better, and I enjoy similar compilation emails, like Ben’s Bites on AI apps. I’ve included a sample of what I’d curate below.
But maybe there’s something you’re struggling with as a writer that I could speak to in some way.
Maybe you have more questions about getting published or self-publishing.
Or how to better edit yourself.
Or needing weekly encouragement just to keep pursuing this craft at which we’re all apprentices.
Or maybe I’m overthinking it, you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read so far, and I just need to chill and trust my instincts.
Either way, let me know.
Hit reply or drop a comment.
✍️ Good words
An example of what a compilation email from me could contain
“I refuse to hide how important my career is to me. In the domestic framework I’ve set up and continue to fight for, my writing and my daughter are both tied for first.” —Courtney Maum, “Can you be a good mom and a great writer?”
I wrestled with my take while reading this. However, while I’m a parent, I’m not a mom, and I’m very willing to bet that mom writers sacrifice more of their writing time than dad writers do. Still, whether it’s parenting or another essential part of life, carving out the space to write is a necessity, and knowing where to draw those boundaries is an often arduous decision.
“[Brandon] Sanderson sleeps until one in the afternoon most weekdays, writes from two to six in the evening, takes a long break to spend time with his family, then writes for another block between 10 p.m. and two in the morning. After that, he’s free to spend two hours doing whatever he likes before going to bed.” —Adam Morgan, “Welcome to Brandon Sanderson’s Fantasy Empire”
I’m always fascinated by writers’ schedules. Also, this article is a great primer on Sanderson, whom I’ve yet to read but respect for his prodigious output.
“Erasmus was the ultimate scholar. He very often said that what little money he had would be used to buy books, and only when he had enough of them would he buy clothes. ‘I consider as lovers of books not those who keep their books hidden in their store-chests and never handle them, but those who, by nightly as well as daily use thumb them, batter them, wear them out, who fill out all the margins with annotations of many kinds, and who prefer the marks of a fault they have erased to a neat copy full of fault.’” —The Cultural Tutor, Areopagus Volume XLII
As a recent convert to consistently highlighting my physical books, I agree. Batter your books to better your brain.
“It's simple economics; the audience you're writing for no longer exists in sufficient numbers to justify making your story.” —Julian Simpson, “On Naming Characters,” discussing why Middle-Aged White Guys (MAWGs) aren’t getting picked up by traditional publishers.
A fascinating read for a number of reasons. And while it’s MAWG-specific, there’s gold to be gleaned no matter what you write. How often do you consider whether the audience you’re writing for still exists?
“Each of us forever remains a work in progress—always evolving, ever changing. We’re all rough drafts of the person we’re still becoming.” —Gautam Baid, The Joys of Compounding, via the Alex & Books Newsletter
The line echoes possibly my favorite writing quote, via Hemingway: “We’re all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
And if we’re all rough drafts working on our respective rough drafts, is the world just rough drafts all the way down?
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Randomly discovered your newsletter (from the 10 tips to beat writers' block post) and I have to say, the writing experience on Substack feels fragmented, and still has a lot to desire – and without bringing an existing subscriber base of 100ks, community engagement is difficult. I think this is for a few reasons:
1- There is no instant-feedback loop on Substack. "Like" is the only metric by which one could measure whether something resonates or not, and people receiving emails don't have a habit of going out of their way to "Like" a post off-email app, especially if the platform requires them to authenticate for the Nth time ...
2- This leaves Substack core-users, using the app and different platform features, as the primary target for growing Subtacks. Basically, providing something for just-starting-out Substack writers themselves.
I think there is an enormous market for a writing expert like yourself to support these emerging writers by fostering a community focused on "the art of writing". I believe writing can graduate from a craft to something people enjoy doing (and playing) as a group, especially during a time where writing is facing the AI existential threat – community writing might surface to the forefront.
Substack might, in fact, become the platform for these emerging creators – and as such any other platform it'll have a pyramid-like structure where the value is captured by the top 1% that are providing the most platform-value for the bottom 99%.
You're doing great! Follow your sensibilities! I don't really know how your ideas will actualize until you present them, and so far I've enjoyed discovering what you leave in my inbox. The compilation quotes were fascinating, the writing tips have been helpful, and the encouragement has been encouraging. Feel free to find your rhythm with whatever motivates you to keep coming back to the keyboard.