When I first launched my website The Phoenix Desertsong, it was intended to become a compendium of curious essays and reflections. It’s actually become much more than that, a launching pad for anything I feel is worthy of putting out into the world. But, when I learned of Substack through watching a YouTube video featuring an interview with a prominent member of the newsletter platform, I decided to try it out for myself.
At first, I decided to start my own Substack newsletter. Sadly, it didn’t gain any traction after six months, and finally I let it go, deciding instead to divert my time and energy into building Tom and I’s joint website, Obscure Curiosities.
When I first joined Substack, I was subscribed to dozens of newsletters. But, I soon found myself greatly overwhelmed by a constant stream of emails that ended up simply piling up. I recognized the need to narrow my bandwidth when it comes to what hits my inbox.
So, I filtered my subscriptions down to those who I felt not only had something to say to me, but something unique to offer. As I’m writing this, I’m currently subscribed to just seven of the wonderful writers on this platform. A few more would’ve made this list, but unfortunately, some of them jumped ship and are today inactive.
This is no disrespect for the thousands of writers I am still to meet in this growing newsletter writing world. I decided to just keep those that offer something unique and insightful to myself in particular.
What follows are the names and associated links of those brave souls unafraid to speak their minds over the past year through their consistent Substack newsletter editions. All these folks gave me inspiration to keep writing even in my darkest days.
Ted Gioia of the Honest Broker – His was my gateway subscription to Substack, whose unique insights into musicology have reshaped my relationship with music. But what I enjoy most about his Substack is that Ted also isn’t afraid to make insightful commentaries on the state of media and culture in general. Big thanks to Rick Beato for interviewing him on his YouTube channel, as without that interview, I likely never would’ve found Substack at all.
Heath Racela of Willoughby Hills (formerly Quarantine Creatives) – Heath’s variety and insights his study of American small-town history among other things has inspired me to no end as of late. He also got me to rethink my own relationship with pop culture, processed foods, and many other things.
Chris LaTray of An Irritable Metis – Chris is a brilliant poet whose colorful prose is always a must read for me. His one sentence journal concept is one I’ve considered adopting, if only to learn to better distill the days down to their most basic yet unique elements. As someone with Native American ancestry myself, albeit a ways back in the bloodline at this point, it’s good to see that Native culture is alive and well in Montana.
Mike Sowden of Everything is Amazing – Mike’s letter series is a delightful romp into topics that I never would’ve considered. I don’t recall who suggested this feed to me, but I’m glad they did. This feed is yet another reason why I continued to stay plugged into this platform, as I never know what’s coming next.
Jami Attenburg of Craft Talk – One of my most recent Substack subscriptions, hers was suggested by Mike Sowden in one of his letters. She covers a lot of interesting writing-related topics and always gives me something to think about with her reflections each week.
Joe Posnanski of JoeBlogs – Joe is a sportswriter I’ve read for years, and I continue to enjoy much of his work. He’s working on a book I plan to purchase some time in 2023 about important moments in baseball history, a subject to which I’m always partial. I’m not really into the football articles, as the NFL no longer holds interest to me, but I enjoy his remarks on the sport whenever they come across my inbox.
Valorie Clark of Collected Rejections – Last but certainly not least, I need to give a heartfelt shout-out to Valorie, who may have had the most impact on my writing in 2022. Not only does she maintain several Substack threads, but she had a very rough ending to 2022 with the passing of her father. Her brief foray into daily writer’s notebook posts, with her 30-Day Writers Notebook challenge, actually led me to start my own Writers Notebook files.
Many thanks to all of these publications and their authors, as they have been a major inspirational force at a crossroads in my life as a writer. Without their regular newsletters, I may have given up writing online altogether due to a lack of direction or unifying purpose. I can’t thank these inspirational people enough for keeping me on at least some sort of writing track.
My biggest piece of advice for Substack, and subscribing to newsletters in general, is to only subscribe to those voices that speak to you most. Otherwise, you’ll just end up getting overwhelmed. I also recommend saving any newsletters you can’t get to in a holding folder in your email account and archiving any that really inspire you in one way or another. I’ll be referring back to quite a few Substack letters from my archive in future articles, in fact.
What newsletters do you subscribe to and enjoy?