In 2014, my second book, Boogeyman Dawn, about to come out, I got a newsletter from Elana Bell, which welcomed me into an intimate learning about her practice as a poet and sound healer. I thought of the work of the newsletter as being not just about marketing; rather the primary goal could be in (re)establishing connection with a beloved audience, closing the distances between. I discovered Mailchimp as a platform soon after and worked to establish a mailing list and write my first e-campaign. Years later I attended a workshop with Eve L. Ewing, a brilliant writer, activist, scholar, and cultural organizer, who also shared her in-depth knowledge of doing the work of promoting one’s work. One of her strategies was around the use of the newsletter to cultivate that connection with an audience and using questioning (and promotions) to encourage authentic dialogue and sustained interest that comes from it.
But keeping a newsletter going has always been hard for me. But why?
I work by lists. My to-do lists have to-do lists, but oftentimes, I find my priorities shift to those things that prioritize my academic work or my work in connection with literary community organizing or, as a mother and partner, my family. The newsletter has been pushed down and pushed down for a while. I didn’t realize how long until I went back to my Mailchimp account to write a new one.
2 years. More than that, since I last wrote a newsletter. It was before my son was born, though I’ve had projects come out since then, started a nonprofit, traveled on my sabbatical, gotten full professor, taught and celebrated and grieved and wrote. All these things … but other than those on Facebook, few would know. It was being in the Anam Cara accountability workshop that pushed me to establish getting the newsletter done as one of my goals (the blog was another one, of course). And I’m good about staying accountability to myself … once I’ve made a to-do list item public. Here’s the latest newsletter.
So, my big piece of advice in this little blog is not about the platform for your newsletter. There are a lot out there; most folks I know use Mailchimp to handle theirs. It’s also not about what to put in your newsletter. I can say that the practice of focusing on offering/sharing joy and promoting that joy is core to who I am and is also in alignment with the practices of some of my poet role models. My big piece of advice is about knowing how to motivate yourself. Whatever your goal is, a great help in making it come to pass is knowing how you best work. Do you need affirmations? Do you need to feel accountable to your community? Is a whiteboard reminder enough to get you moving? Or writing on your hand in pen or Post-its in a hallway on the way to the bathroom? Is it better for you to make a vision board so that you can walk towards those visual goals however opportunity presents?
The big advice is this: Know you. Be clear about what you want, then walk the path to get there.
For me, I said that I wanted to work on blogs, a newsletter, some poems, a chapter of my novel, and a braided essay. I have an accountability partner, weekly check-ins, public accountability on my social media, and I use Stickies on my computer (instead of Post-Its that I always use). I make it happen in the way I know works best for me, and I’m writing about that process, too.
My newsletter ultimately did include a little promotion and the check-ins from some of my beloved community with whom I’ve been disconnected for a while has been BEAUTIFUL. I’ve learned so much about what they are up to these days, what they value, how they incorporate joy into their lives. Joy belongs to and can be shared by all of us.
What do you want to do? Who are you as a creator and doer in the world? How can you connect with those who love you, love your work, and want to build with you from wherever they and you are?