I missed the six year anniversary of this newsletter. According to the archive, it began June 18th, 2015. That was when I signed up for a TinyLetter account and turned off Instagram——my last social media account. Of course, a compelling argument can be made that a weekly newsletter is social media as well. Then again, so is a postcard; I have to draw a line somewhere for the sake of semantics and/or sanity.
Besides not being big on annual celebrations, a reason I forgot about this milemarker is that I was writing newsletters long before the summer of 2015. I have no neat, organized archive of the first six or seven years of letters because I sent them haphazardly from my Gmail account whenever the spirit moved me. When I deGoogled myself two years ago, those missives evaporated along with many thousand others. I copied paragraphs here and there into word documents, but didn’t feel the entire run merited saving. Those early efforts weren’t the methodical and increasingly important part of my weekly work this thing has become.
What got me going with the form was the artist Tony Fitzpatrick. He insisted that artists must regularly put their work before collectors’ eyes (god, how I hate that word collectors. Not the idea, just the word. Makes me think of the kind of person who pulls legs off flies) and a newsletter is one of the many ways he did that. Relationships in the art racket are fickle so it’s no surprise that ours fizzled, but some lessons and methods of his stuck. So, credit where credit is due.
Six years is a healthy chunk of time. It’s a year longer than my longest romantic entanglement (which ended, incidentally, half a year before the formal newsletter’s run began). I didn’t know at the time how integral a part of the creative process it would become. Because I mostly organize my own days, setting projects aside as money gigs come in, it’s been nice to have a weekly constant, a rolling due date.
TinyLetter is a free service and pretty no-frills. I couldn’t, for instance, schedule the release of a letter. So I’d get up as early as I could Monday mornings after bartending Sunday nights and press ‘send’. As the years passed, I used the letter increasingly as a first draft/dry run testing ground for bits of whatever book I was working on. I still shilled whatever painting/review/podcast went live that week, but the greatest value of the whole thing was letting half-finished stuff out into the sunshine to see if it could breathe on its own.
I’ve always chafed at the commerce side of my job, but don’t for a moment believe I don’t deserve to get by on what I do, rather than making ends meet with side-hustles. I tried Patreon a few months and couldn’t wrap my head around what was expected of me. That’s how I ended up on Substack. It’s a structure I can understand: you give me money and I send you an extra letter. Send more money and I send you art and books. It’s been working okay.
Newsletters have become big business. Substack has recruited a bunch of famous people and paid them serious cash to share their insights. A friend quit the platform over some of the prominent personalities the company endorses by having on their roster. It took too much work for me to migrate and reformat my five year archive over from TinyLetter to start over again. If you have a paid subscription, you can read entries going back to June 2015. It’s only this week that I finally finished tweaking descriptions and settings on some of the older letters.
It would be nice to have a few more subscribers, but I don’t know how to get them aside from continuing to do my best composing these letters and hoping you all pass them on to others. Digging through the archive has made me feel like my newsletter is at least some minor type of accomplishment. I think I only missed one week this whole time.
Thanks so much for reading.