In a few months I’ll have been writing my newsletter for a year (!), so I thought I’d share a look at how the Junk Drawer sausage is made, with hopes that it might inspire more people to start their own publications (I’ll read ’em) or at the very least continue widening/deepening their information diets. Let’s take a look…
I documented some of this in a past post, but for cooking up newsletter issues, I use an iPhone 11 Pro, an iPad (some model from a few years ago) and an HP Chromebook (again, some model from a few years ago, it doesn’t really matter). I’ll read, browse and collect stuff on the iOS devices, then write on the Chromebook, usually while wearing headphones (I’ve somehow now added even more pairs to the mix 🤦♂️).
📰 News/Link Sources:
In terms of “mainstream” publications, I read The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker and Apple News+ (which, in addition to offering a zillion magazines, also contains stories from The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Times).
For more independent stuff (or links from around the web), I rely on Twitter, Reddit, Medium, Google News, Slate, Tumblr and a decent-sized set of sites that I follow via RSS (I know, I know, just call me The Crypt-Keeper).
📺 Movie/TV Sources:
I cut the cable cord long ago, but I’ve offset this with a full-fledged streaming service addiction. My weekly picks typically come from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, HBO Max or Disney+ (once in a while I’ll briefly activate services like Showtime, Starz, Epix, Peacock, etc. for specific shows).
I use a bunch of software and services to streamline the process of collecting, tracking and writing:
- To track progress, get details about and view availability for movies and shows, I use Television Time, TodoMovies, IMDb and JustWatch.
- To create the newsletter (and related blog posts) I use Substack, WordPress, Unsplash, Emojipedia and Google Sheets.
I read and watch a good deal of stuff, so while I’m always saving interesting things with the software/services mentioned above, I’ll start making proper drafts for the upcoming week’s three issues in Substack on Tuesday or Wednesday.
“Weekend Watches” is the simplest, and I’ll usually knock it out first, tracking my selections in a Google sheet (so I don’t accidentally repeat myself).
I’ll then start working on the Wednesday and Sunday issues at the same time, pulling in stuff I’ve saved from TikTok, Instapaper and Google Keep, often also browsing YouTube for additional video inspiration.
I typically (but not always) run new feature articles from my main site in the Sunday issue, so I’ll spend some time finding a good (and still relevant) piece from the archives to include in the Wednesday issue.
I tend to save the tweets for last (since things in 2020 move so rapidly), erring on the side of more evergreen stuff on Wednesdays and timelier stuff on Sundays. This often means that the Wednesday issue is baked and scheduled (always for an automatic 6am Pacific release) a day or two before the Sunday issue.
Once issues go out, I love looking at Substack’s analytics to see which things resonate more than others, if certain subject lines boost open rates, etc. Then I crack my knuckles and start it up all over again. 💪