Do you remember how you landed on the idea of doing Everything Changes? What appealed to you about having a new theme every week?
Seeing lots of writers doing interesting newsletters, I wanted to do something myself, but only if I could think of a concept that would contribute something new. I also knew that I wanted to do a newsletter that experimented with email as a form and the boundaries of what it can do. I come from the world of political campaigns, and I wanted to do something with TinyLetter that would let me try lots of stuff that we don’t really get to do in the political world (understandably, because the number one goal in political email programs is raising money). Then I figured that making it change each week by definition would help me check all those boxes.
Do you plan out themes in advance, or more on the fly?
It varies week to week. Some weeks I know what I’m going to do, and start planning for it, several days in advance. Others, I come up with an idea the morning I decide to send that week’s newsletter. Some of the ideas I’ve liked best have actually come up with no planning.
The time I spend on it also varies. The week I made a Thought Clock, it was several hours of putting all the replies in a spreadsheet and sorting everything properly. Other weeks, it can be just an hour. I try to spend more time on the newsletter during weeks when I have less going on in my day job and my life, and only spend less time on it when I really can’t afford to do more. I want to make sure it’s consistently good and also, I hope, raise the bar over time.
How did the Awl folks approach you about doing the newsletter for them, and what made you say yes?
John Herrman emailed me out of the blue and asked if doing Everything Changes under the Awl banner would be something I would remotely be interested in. We knew each other a bit because I’m a giant superfan of the Awl and had started a bot based on tags of Awl stories. Herrman asked me to come down to their office and meet with them, and they were pretty clear about wanting me to maintain creative control. I was excited to have a chance to work with them, so it seemed like a really easy decision to make.
I asked them if they wanted to see the first newsletter before it went out, or be surprised, and they said, “Surprise us!” So they’re part of the audience like everyone else. They just asked that I periodically mention that the Awl is a website that exists, and there are links to the site and social networks in the newsletter template, etc. We haven’t talked about when it’ll end. Hopefully with some operatic drama and explosions.