San Francisco, California

Email is the Magic Key

I got to reading this excellent post called How to Make a Book the other day and it’s a collection of advice from writers and novelists about how to get started with a book of your own:

A book can be inspired by nearly anything: a seemingly stray thought you can’t shake, a lyric, an overheard conversation, another book. Whatever it is, turn it over again and again and again in your mind. Watch it. Listen to it. Be skeptical of it. Let it bother you. Most importantly, take notes.

I particularly liked Robin Sloan’s advice in this post where he writes a tiny love letter to email:

Of all the followings you can accrue—on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and platforms yet to be invented—one is more important than the rest by an order of magnitude. It’s the group of people who have given you their old-fashioned email addresses and agreed that they would, from time to time, like to hear from you. Even if no one quite loves their inbox, everyone has one. Across generations and geography, through digital fads and fascinations, email is the common denominator, the magic key.

Email lists grow slowly, but their growth is sturdier than social networks. It’s exciting to see the sharp little bursts of attention on the social networks when something you write takes off. But it’s easy come, easy go; as quickly as attention finds you, it moves on, eager for the next thing. Email lists are sturdier and stickier. There is a real sense, you’ll find, of building them one person at a time.

It’s weird to think that it’s 2018 and I spend pretty much my entire weekend writing email, what with Adventures and the CSS-Tricks newsletter, and so I have to concur with the other Robin on their value and utility here.

Although! Both of these groups have a sizable audience now yet there’s something a little detached from writing them that I still find unnerving. I think perhaps because there’s no immediate buzz of the likes/faves/hearts/retweets and there’s no casino-like thrill after you hit the publish button. After an email goes out there’s often nothing but radio silence from the other side and then I begin to worry for half a second whether anybody is reading them at all. I probably just have to remember that every social network has been training me as a writer, for the better part of a decade now, to be dependent on those likes and faves and retweets for my emotional well-being. There’s too much of my self-esteem locked up in social networks and not everything I write ought to stir people off their seats or bring them to tears.

Anyway, Robin’s advice about email reminded me of Chris Coyier’s ever-so-excellent micro-blog called Email is good where he collects all of this thoughts about why email is a lovely, wondrous, and utterly frustrating thing. Chris writes:

Email is a big deal. Yet almost everyone I know struggles with it.

That’s what this site is all about. Let’s talk about email. Let’s figure out what’s hard about it and where the struggles are, so that all the great parts of email shine even brighter. Success in today’s world, in almost any way you want to define that, is going to involve you being good at email. So let’s get good at email.

Hear, hear.