I hope your days are filled with the craft you love

Last week I ran a workshop to help writers share their work via email newsletters. The response was far greater than I expected, with hundreds of people registering. (Thank you to all who supported this event! ) Early in the presentation, I outlined why I feel so excited about writers being able to share with readers via newsletters and other means. I noticed the chat come alive, and received a lot of enthusiastic feedback.

But a lot of writers, artists and creators I speak with are apprehensive about the amount of work that may be involved in sharing. They want to spend as much time as possible writing, so they worry about the time, energy, and focus that may go to anything event vaguely considered “marketing.”

I totally understand and appreciate this.

Why would I ever encourage a writer to spend time sharing what they create? Well, this week I was given a reminder; this is how we used to share our writing:

Vintage letterpress type

This is a sample of vintage letterpress type from a print shop that is still in operation. On the right are metal letters and words, which would then be used to print the paper on the left. The printmaker said this would have taken someone 45 minutes to set up, moving between dozens of different cabinets to find all of the correct elements. Let’s take a closer look:

Vintage letterpress type

Then this would have been run through a large machine to make prints on paper:

Vintage printing press

Around the shop were dozens of drawers filled with thousands of letters and words. Each would be a specific font and size. There were even drawers full of spaces — for the space between words — in different sizes.

Vintage letterpress type

And of course, for each font and size, you will need multiple versions of each letter in order to print each page. So you have to have a stock of maybe 20 F’s in a certain font and size just to print a specific page.

The print shop is a wonderland of wood and metal:

Vintage print shop

I visited the shop twice this week, and especially on the second visit, the smell was potent. The printmaker seemed to be either cleaning one of the machines, or inking it at the time.

The 45 minutes it would have taken to lay out that one flyer, did not include the time it would have taken to write or edit it. It also doesn’t solve the distribution problem, delivering the final print to dozens or hundreds of people, likely via paid postage, or horseback.

That “publish” button that we are confronted with on email newsletters and social media? That is akin to horseback delivery from 100+ years ago. It’s funny how much the act of publishing and distribution from back then would be define by smells, be it ink, or manure.

Some people still use old-fashioned tools to create. One artist I follow, Addie Best, creates her own prints:


She illustrates these and then carves them into a block using linocut carving:

Addie Best

Then she prints them through her own printing press:

Addie Best

She individually packages up each sold print and brings them to the post office. This is one batch of 170 orders that she prepared:

Addie Best

And through all of this, she earns a living as an artist. Could she illustrate digitally, then upload the final file to a printer in another state to print and mail for her? Yep. But that isn’t how she does it, at least not right now. Her process is her decision, just as your process is your own.

So often, we can feel overwhelmed by trends, that what we are told we have to follow in order to write, publish, and share our work. But every part of that process is for you to choose the path that works for you. Each option provides different opportunities, and different boundaries. As I’ve said many times in the past, I feel that art thrives on boundaries, so boundaries are good things in this case.

Today, there is so much that is scary about the possibilities for how we create and how we share. The other day, Jane Friedman shared that Amazon and Goodreads were becoming littered with books written using AI, but then adding her name to the cover to give them credibility.

Her post received a lot of attention, and she shared many follow ups on Twitter. I encourage you to follow her work, be it on Twitter, her newsletters, or elsewhere.

Of course, many writers are apprehensive about what the future holds, and this can stifle one’s willingness to write, to publish, to share. We are in an odd place right now because of AI’s potential impact on all creative work. For some, there is a feeling of shock and awe at what AI is capable of. I was watching an interview with Björn Ulvaeus from the band ABBA, who got a sneak peak at AI tools still in development. One of his conclusions is that AI may become the best songwriting partner you ever have. But of course, there are so many risks in the process as well.

Individuals and corporations have no idea what the limits are with AI created writing and art yet, so even the smallest step seems to be pushing boundaries in intentional and unintentional ways. In every moment of this, we are all discovering what the ethics involved are. I see so much talk about how difficult it is to withhold permission from having AI being trained on your creative work.

In some ways, people feel that AI is opening up creativity, making it more accessible to more people. In other ways, we are beginning to see a tidal wave of mediocre copies of other people’s writing and artwork flood the marketplace.

I am reminded of the 1983 film, WarGames. In it, the world is put at risk when national defense is automated by a computer. As the movie progresses, the sheer pace of the possibility of world destruction is amplified exponentially, as we watch a computer simulate thousands of ways it can happen within moments.

For writers and creators, that is how the world may feel now with AI. That it could take you months to create something, and AI can create thousands of paltry ripoffs of it in moments.

At the end of the movie, the computer concludes: “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.”

How do you navigate this moment as a writer or creator? I believe that always starts with embracing the craft that you love.

The craft of writing.
The craft of publishing
The craft of sharing.

You can also make this process small and meaningful.

My visit to the vintage print shop reminded me that while we live in a world that threatens to disrupt how we create, publish, and share, we also live in a world full of incredible access and possibilities for how we create, publish, and share. I hope your days are filled with the craft that you love.

Thank you.


How to get good at growing your audience

So many writers and creators tell me about the challenges they have in sharing their work and growing their audience. Today I want to talk about how to get good at this and overcome the most common challenges people face. Okay, let’s dig into today’s topic of getting good at growing your audience…

Feel Confident That Your Voice Matters

I have to start with this, because it comes up so often with writers and is foundational to the idea of sharing your work:

Your voice is unique.
Your voice is valuable.
Your voice deserves to be heard.
Your voice will connect with someone.
Your voice matters.

When it comes to the concept of sharing your writing, so many people are confronted with inner narratives that they have had their whole lives. These are myriad, and tend to go very deep. Some examples:

  • “It’s not polite to talk about yourself.”
  • “If my work was good enough, shouldn’t other people be the ones talking about it, not me?”
  • “I don’t really have anything to say, outside of my book. Who would want to hear from me anyway?”

I simply want to encourage you to give yourself permission to share. Your voice does matter, and sharing your writing can inspire, educate, entertain, and help someone feel a connection to the themes you write about.

Sometimes these inner narratives are framed as a logical assessment of the marketplace:

  • “Oh, the market is too crowded right now. Why would I jump in as the millionth person talking about this?”
  • “I don’t have the right credentials. When I have time to go back to school and get that degree, then people will care.”
  • “Honestly, I don’t think now is the right time. There are so many more important things going on.”

While these things may be logical and someone can try to produce charts and graphs proving them, I don’t find them to be compelling evidence to silence the creative work inside of you. Creating and sharing is important, and it is where the process of growing your audience begins.

Simplify: Focus on the Basics

Writers are inundated with all they are told they “must do” to develop their author platform, share their writing, grow their audience, and launch their books. This often has people spinning their wheels trying to learn too many things at once, and in the process, inadvertently half-baking it all.

Instead, I encourage you to focus on 1 or 2 activities for how you share and connect with readers, and double down on them. To me, your platform as a writer is based on 2 things: communication and trust. This is different from how it is often talked about, which tends to center more on things like how many followers you have. So the question you have to ask is: “Do I want a wide audience of people who will barely engage with my writing, if ever? Or do I want an audience of people who will truly appreciate my writing, have it influence their lives, and who will gladly share it with others?”

Getting better at self-expression and communication helps you take bigger concepts like “author platform,” and bring them down to specific tasks to work on. Could you:

  • Write a better newsletter subject line?
  • Craft a better pitch to become a guest on a podcast?
  • Reach out to a colleague in a way that would make their day?
  • Create a social media post that your ideal audience just immediately engages with?

The other day I was watching a series of interviews with one of the most successful comic book creators of all time, Todd McFarlane. His bold visual style ushered in a new era for comics and their creators. When talking about getting good at drawing, he focused on one element at a time: getting good at drawing forearms, spending weeks just focusing on them. Then he would draw just hands for awhile, pages of them, and so on. From there he would explore different ways of posing or composing a page layout. One step at a time, he focused on the basics with an intensity. This empowered him to embrace new ideas that changed the industry.

The other side of this — getting better at connecting with people — is not about “putting on your marketing hat.” It is learning how to connect with people who love the same themes that you tend to write about. It is about helping others feel seen and appreciated. It is about learning to celebrate this work, and create experiences that help others feel included and part of something.

When we look at communication and connection as a craft, suddenly a path forms for getting better at it. And in the process, you build the skills and experiences you need to grow your audience and ensure your writing reaches more people.

Focus On the People, Not the Algorithm

What can you forget about in this process? The algorithm. What’s that? It’s the complicated way that social media (and other sites) determine what to share, and how to customize what each of us sees.

For example: you and I could follow the same 100 people on Instagram, but after a few months, we could find that the individual updates that Instagram shows each of us are different. Why? Well, perhaps you engaged more with certain people and I engaged more with others. So Instagram’s algorithm will note this and customize our feeds accordingly. Or perhaps I had done a bunch of searches about vintage typewriters, whereas you did searches on planting an organic vegetable garden. This too, is information that the algorithm will use to customize what each of us sees that is unique. Often, these networks are optimizing what we see based on our actual behavior.

Does this sound scary? It can be, and there have been copious amounts of articles and documentaries considering this. Can it also be useful? I have found that to be the case. For instance, Spotify is the app I use to listen to music every day, and their algorithm recommends new music to me all the time. The result: every week I discover music from artists that I really love, but never would have found without them being recommended to me.

Does this mean that you should obsess about how to feed the algorithm so that it shows your content to more people, and thereby grow your audience? Not necessarily.

What matters most is you getting better at the basics of clear communication in a manner that truly engages people. In the end, that is all that the algorithms on social networks want because they want to see what people are engaging with, and then they amplify it.

But this is also what people want! They want to find more writing that speaks to them. They want more connection with great writing and those who share about themes that resonate deeply with them. And they want more connection to others who appreciate these things.

Focusing on communication and trust can be centered entirely on the person, not the algorithm.

Make Small Changes and Celebrate What You Learn

Become a student of the process around sharing better and connecting better. The nice thing about this is that it will benefit you regardless of any trends online or on social media.

Again and again, I find that people who learned to communicate and connect well in one place online, can later apply this to a different place online. For instance, a writer who created Twitter posts that truly engaged people are now skilled at creating Threads posts that engage people. I hear this often for video creators too — those who are doing incredibly well on TikTok or YouTube — plenty of them started years ago on other services such as Vine.

I encourage you to:

  • Take small actions each day or week to focus on the craft of communication and connection.
  • Challenge yourself to make improvements. For instance: consider 10 different ways to write a newsletter subject line. 10 different ways to write a podcast pitch. 10 ways to ask a question that might get replies on social media.
  • Experiment. I have often found that what works are the ideas you least expect to.
  • Track what you do. It’s so easy to create and share, yet get to the end of a week and feel as though you didn’t do as much as you hoped. I have had so many writers say to me, “Ugh, I didn’t do anything this week.” Then when I explore this further, I find out they took 20 distinct actions to share their work, but they simply didn’t recognize that they did so.
  • Track what you learn. When you take action, there are often little lessons along the way. Write these things down. Quickly you will learn that what feels right to you, what works, and most importantly: you will pull valuable lessons from things you found didn’t work as you hoped they would.
  • Celebrate milestones! The process of sharing, connecting, and growing one’s audience is in the service of something important. You should honor that work.

Develop Your Support System

Surround yourself with those who support your goals in creating and sharing. These aren’t always the people you live with, so you may have to make the effort to seek out colleagues and friends.

Ideally, these are people who push you to grow your craft and believe in yourself. I’ve written many times in the past about how Jennie Nash and I have a standing weekly call for this purpose. We each bring a goal or challenge to the call, and the time is split in half. When we get on the phone, one of us almost immediately says, “Do you want to go first?” and we dive in. This is not idle chit chat or vague status updates, it is work time. I deeply admire what she does and think she’s a genius. So when she gives me advice, I shut up and listen. (You can read the full story of how Jennie and I first connected here.)

If you want to get good at sharing your work, connecting with people, and developing your audience, I strongly encourage you to develop a support system of people you can talk to and collaborate with. These should be those who will challenge you, help you explore new ideas, and find a path that feels both meaningful and strategic.

How to find people like this? Consider connecting with those who resonate with you. Support their work first. Consider ways you can collaborate that attend to their goals as much as your own.

Nurture Your Creative Motivation

Your creative motivation is so precious. It is a finite resource and without it, all of this work to create and share and have a positive impact on people’s lives may seem overwhelming and out of reach.

I think so many writers, artists, and creators think back to a time when their craft was filled with hope and possibility. Over time, that feeling may slip away. I remind my writing clients of this all the time: your creative motivation is a prescious resource. Nurture it and integrate it into your daily life.

So much is changing in social media right now, which is still a primary way that writers can connect with others who share their passions. Personally, I am changing so much around what I advise to my writing clients, and am even tweaking my own systems for using social media.

Getting good at growing your audience centers on awareness of connecting what you write with those who may appreciate it, being willing to engage, understanding that the purpose is to communicate with others in a trusting manner, and remembering that this is a craft, one that you can improve upon each day or week.

If you are ever overwhelmed by the idea of sharing and connecting, I encourage you to start small. Just get better at understanding what you create and why. Get better at understanding why this resonates with people and where you see that happening. Get better at being present and connecting with others in small but meaningful ways. And get better at creating a process to show up to this work as a way of honoring your writing, not distracting you from it.

Thank you for being here withe me.



When did you start sharing your writing?

When did you start writing and creating? When did you begin sharing your work with others?

I’ve been thinking about my own earliest experiences in writing and publishing, and how it has informed my appreciation for the opportunities that writers have today to share their writing. I am so excited about three things regarding how you can reach your readers now:

  1. You can share your authentic voice without asking permission, or having it edited by others who don’t share your vision.
  2. You have access to those you admire and like-minded people, coupled with the ability to have meaningful conversations and connections around the themes you write about.
  3. You can distribute what you write with ease.

I grew up as the art kid. At age 5, my mom enrolled me in art classes in Mrs. Flannigan’s basement. Her walls featured these huge 20-foot-long murals, with art supplies spilling over on the shelves. Was it a dank, dark basement? Sure. Was it also absolutely magical? Yes!

In the years that followed, I explored illustration, painting, sculpture, photography, paper engineering, and so much else. Then, of course, came the writing. At first this was in service of the visual stories I was telling. But soon my life as a teenager was filled with writing poetry and prose.

Recently I announced a workshop I’m teaching on August 4th called Launch & Grow Your Email Newsletter on Substack. (Register here!) This had me considering my first newsletter, which I began publishing back in 1993 before the internet was a widely accepted medium for sharing what we create. It was in print. At the time, I called it a “zine,” and the primary focus was writing about alternative, indie, and Britpop music.

Here is a photo of me at the time, with the 2nd issue.

Dan Blank

It’s funny, this is a selfie before there were selfies, which I took because I was clearly so proud of what I created. It looks so simplistic now, but it was a huge effort at the time. For me to create and share this required:

  • Thousands of dollars in debt for printing costs.
  • Long nights at Kinkos (a copy shop open all night) to get this printed, because I was working minimum wage jobs during the day, as well as attending college classes.
  • Figuring out how to use desktop publishing software to layout the pages just as a magazine would.
  • Learning how to create and edit images/photos on my computer years before I could afford Adobe Photoshop.

But that isn’t even the half of it. What else was there? The writing, marketing, distribution and more.

The publication was started by me and my friend. We were fueled by our love of music and this idea that we wanted to share and connect with more people around that. I’m on the right:

Dan Blank

This whole venture started when I moved in with roommates during my 2nd year of college. One guy I knew already, but his friend was our other roommate who I didn’t really know. I quickly learned that he had a zine and one day I heard him talking on the phone to a record label. As a 19 year old, this blew me away. I asked him about it and he explained how the whole process worked.

I. Was. In.

Soon after, I tested the waters by calling the Arista Records publicity department. A band I really liked had a new album coming out in a few months, and I asked if I could get an early copy of it to review it. They said yes, and then something that nearly stopped my heart happened. The guy on the phone asked:

“Do you want to interview the band?”

This was unbelievable to me, that I would be able to have access to artists I admired so much. What followed was that the work on the zine eclipsed my schoolwork by a fairly wide margin, and I soon developed connections at every major record label. I could call someone at Elektra, Sony, Subpop, and have them pick up the phone. It was bonkers, having this kind of access in the early 90s.

I ended up with a mailbox full of free music each week — CDs, records, and tapes mailed to my friend and I, with the hopes that we would review them.

I also wrote feature articles and conducted interviews with bands. I secured interviews with Oasis, Weezer, Blur, They Might Be Giants, and so many others. I chatted with Noel Gallagher at the height of Oasis’s explosion, and with Rivers Cuomo of Weezer just as they were breaking. It was weird and incredible at the same time. Here is a photo I took of They Might Be Giants after I interviewed them in the record label offices:

They Might Be Giants

In the process, I took on a lot of roles, and I will note that these are the same roles that you take on when you create your newsletter:

  • Publisher – coordinating production, timing, etc.
  • Editor – determining editorial direction and features
  • Writer – conducting interviews and writing articles
  • Designer – creating images and laying out the issue in QuarkXPress, a professional layout program at the time, which I was surprised to learn still exists!
  • Publicity – calling and visiting record labels and record stores
  • Distribution
  • Finance – taking on debt, negotiating with printers
  • Photographer

I say this to writing clients all the time, but there is a real literacy here. There is so much you are learning about each of these skills when you create your own newsletter. This takes time. Here I am laying out an issue on my bed:

Dan Blank

This is my home office at the time, with the zine’s logo taped to the wall. I was so proud of the tech I had and how it helped me publish and distribute the writing I was doing:

zine tech

That small beige thing on the left of my desk in the laptop I used to create the issues, I would print out samples on my dot matrix printer, and that phone was my lifeline to record labels, record stores, and interviews. It’s funny to remember how much that phone moved around the room with me, plugged into an extra-long cord.

As I mentioned, this publication put me in serious debt. Each of those phone calls was long distance and cost money. I would get this long multi-paged phone bill each month, with each call adding up to hundreds of dollars. Printing each issue would cost between around $500 on the low end, and I think $2,500 on the high end. At the time, I was waiting tables, and earning minimum wage. It took years and years for me to pay off the credit card debt from this zine.

Of course, I never regretted it.

This experience taught me so much about what it means to share your voice authentically through your writing and creative work. It had me amazed at the ability to connect with those you admire and like-minded people. And it had me appreciate the value of distribution — being able to disseminate your writing to those who may appreciate it most.

At the time, distribution was mostly via the post office (more $$$) and my bike. I would get this zine into record stores by biking it around for miles and miles, dropping off issues at each. Today, we click “publish” or “post” or “send” with ease via newsletters, blogs, or social media. Back then, this was how I distributed my writing:


(This is the model I had, but I can’t find a photo of my actual bike)

Now I work from a private studio. The tech is different, but the mission is the same. I love writers and readers, and I think amazing things happen when you share your writing and it connects with those who will appreciate it most.

Dan Blank

I’ve sent my own weekly email newsletter for the past 18 years, sharing ideas that inspire me. I’ve helped thousands of writers do the same. Please consider joining me for my workshop on August 4th:

Launch & Grow Your Email Newsletter on Substack
Live event: Friday August 4th, 2023 at 12:30pm ET.
Full recording provided to all who register.
Register here.



Take the Creative Risk (podcast)

Today I want to remind you of something incredibly important: you get to choose. You get to choose if and how you create. You get to choose if and how you publish. You get to choose if and how you share. I want to share two stories of people taking a bold creative risk, and why these risks are so important. One story is from Dawn Downey (who you can find at dawndowneyblog.com), and the other is from the 1985 Live Aid concert.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking ‘play’ below, or in the following places:

You can watch the episode here:

Finally, I can share this…

I’m doing something new, and I’m really excited to share it with you today. If you have followed my work at all, you know that I have spent 13 years working full-time with writers, helping them to find meaningful ways to share their work that is effective in reaching readers and feels good to all involved. To live up to that goal, I’ve sent this weekly email newsletter out every week for the past 18 years, and have helped countless writers and creators develop and manage their own.

Today I’m releasing a brand new workshop called Launch & Grow Your Email Newsletter on Substack. Here are the quick details:

  • Live online event on Friday August 4th at 12:30pm ET
  • All registrants receive a video recording, so if you can’t make it live, no problem.
  • $49

Register for the workshop here.

I have been putting so much into this workshop and am really excited about it. Why newsletters? I feel newsletters are a huge opportunity for writers. They become the basis for developing an audience, encouraging book sales, finding new opportunities, and for honing their public voice in a way that feels authentic to who they are.

I am in the trenches with newsletters every day with my clients, and I can’t wait to share details in the workshop. Some of what we will cover:

  • Why email newsletters are a powerful tool for writers.
  • The reason readers love email newsletters, even if you dislike them.
  • When to start your newsletter.
  • Why I recommend Substack for most writers, and an introduction to it.
  • How to define a clear purpose for your newsletter.
  • How to create a title and description for your newsletter.
  • How often to send a newsletter.
  • What to share in a newsletter, and the most common content types to consider.
  • My system for creating newsletter content that gives you an endless amount of content aligned to the purpose of your newsletter.
  • How to reduce the amount of time it takes to create each newsletter.
  • How to increase open rates and engagement.
  • How to become consistent with your newsletter without the stress.
  • How to get more readers and subscribers, even if you are starting from zero.
  • The biggest mistakes people make with newsletters.
  • The biggest factors in newsletter success.

This workshop will be packed with useful information all in one place, and all coming from hands-on experience. I will host a live Q&A at the end of the workshop to answer your questions.

You can register here.


I’m offering a very limited way to engage directly with me via two additional packages. This is for people who want more feedback regarding their current newsletter strategy, or as they develop a brand new one. You can see more on those two packages here.

I know how powerful it can be to get feedback and guidance, and to collaborate as you develop or optimize your newsletter. I’ve never offered something like this before — a way to get direct feedback on something this specific. Both of these packages are very limited (only 10 and 5 spots, respectively), so if you are considering them, I encourage you to register quickly.

And one final thing…

I have run hundreds of workshops over the years, but I feel this one is different. Why? It is the start of a new ecosystem I’m developing to support writers and creators. More than a year of planning has gone into this. You can expect more in this series, because my goal is to help more writers find effective and meaningful strategies to share their work, and feel awesome about the process.

Thank you for being here with me, and for all of your support over the years. This is work I do because I truly admire those who write and create, and because I see amazing things happen when their work reaches their readers and audience. It is an honor (and a pleasure!) to be a part of that process.

Please check out the workshop: Launch & Grow Your Email Newsletter on Substack.