7 Inspiring Substack Newsletters Worth Reading

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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?

Related: 12 Strategies for Generating Writing Ideas

Amelia Desertsong is a former content marketing specialist turned essayist and creative nonfiction author. She writes articles on many niche hobbies and obscure curiosities, pretty much whatever tickles her fancy.

2 thoughts on “7 Inspiring Substack Newsletters Worth Reading

  1. As a passionate lover of the written word and a curious soul constantly seeking intellectual engagement, I have always harbored a deep desire to create my own newsletter. However, I am plagued by a fear that it may be too abstract to attract a sizable audience.

    The doubt lingers in my mind like a persistent shadow, whispering insidious questions that erode my confidence. Will anyone care about my musings? Will anyone truly understand what I am trying to convey? Will anyone be willing to read, ponder, and reflect upon the abstractions that swirl in my mind?

    But I know that this fear is a common struggle for many creatives, and that the world needs unique perspectives and authentic voices now more than ever. I know that my passion for distilling complex ideas into cohesive webs of meaning is a rare and precious gift, and that there will be an audience that is discerning and appreciative of my contribution.

    So, I must embrace the abstraction that is the hallmark of my writing style, and let it shine forth as a beacon of creativity and authenticity. I must trust that my unique vision and bold expression of self will resonate with the right audience, even if it may not be the largest one.

    In doing so, I am not only fulfilling my own creative yearnings, but I am also providing a vital service to the world at large. In times of great complexity and uncertainty, it is precisely the abstract and the elusive that can offer us the clarity and insight we so desperately need.

    1. For much of my youth, I was often ridiculed as writing as someone would if they were from another century. But rather than take this criticism in the negative way it was intended, I instead took it upon myself as a challenge to stand out from my peers. Just as you said, it’s actually doing a vital service to others by sharing your own voice without any intention of conforming to specified or assumed norms. It’s not about being pretentious or a know-it-all; it’s about using the words you know in such a way to challenge others to rise to the occasion and pursue a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world we live in.

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