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Giving the gift of reading (to make your writing better)

Posted by Sarah Mitchell on 20th December , 2022 in The Write Fit
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Without doubt, my all-time favourite gift is a book. There’s something so completely indulgent about parking off in a quiet spot and getting lost in a story.

When people ask me how to become a better writer, I tell them to branch out in their reading habits. Read a wide variety of authors and genres, and tap into fiction and non-fiction. Pick up a book of poetry. Struggle through the ancient philosophers. Don’t be too proud to indulge in an old-fashioned bodice ripper. Dive into children’s books (admit it, you’ve read Harry Potter) and ask everybody for recommendations. Book lovers don’t hesitate to tell you what they think you should read.

In the spirit of the season, I want to share a diverse stack of newsletters I regularly devour. I read them as much for the content as I do for the writing style. They are in no particular order but have all made several rounds of hard culling of my inbox.

SparkToro blog newsletter – Rand Fishkin shares every bit of his considerable knowledge about marketing and data. He’s not afraid to venture into personal stories. His annual Best Damn Food & Drink Gift Guide is wonderful.

The Velocity B2B Content Marketing Blog – I initially subscribed because Doug Kessler is funny and smart. I’ve stayed because his whole team is the same. They ask you to “Opt in to our crap” but there’s nothing crappy about any of it.

Data Chronicles – Michele Linn is an expert on conducting and publishing original research. Her newsletter provides ideas, advice and examples for how to conduct your own surveys and tell stories with data. Michele’s incredibly helpful newsletter gives readers all the encouragement they need to publish their own research.

Matt Yardley’s Journal – Matt has recently gone quiet on social media and is moving his fascinating observations and wonderful images to an online journal. He’s the best damned safari guide ever and a talented wildlife photographer. If you ever plan to go to Africa, check in and see if Matt has a tour organised. You won’t regret it.

The Ad Contrarian – Regular readers of The Write Fit know Dan and I love this guy. Bob Hoffman is a self-described blogweasel on a mission to take down the digital advertising industry. He skewers the tech bro billionaires with precision. You’ll be smarter for reading his outrageous, laugh-out-loud newsletter.

Total Annarchy – I don’t have to say much more about Ann Handley’s newsletter except to say it’s the gold standard for newsletters. It’s a pure joy to read and it’s loaded with writing advice.

{grow} – Mark Schaefer focuses on marketing, strategy and humanity. His newsletter is always a thoughtful read. Mark is on a mission to provide as much education to his community as possible. He goes out of his way to be helpful and returns email questions with detailed answers.

Barefoot Investor – Scott Pape describes himself as a country bloke from Australia who helps people take control of their money. He’s a marvelous writer and communicator. His financial advice is rock-solid and focused on helping people get out of debt, keep out of debt and build wealth – and it’s incredibly entertaining. Every week he answers three letters from readers.

The Extraordinary Newsletter – If you want to inject more creativity in your work, Carla Johnson will show you how. She writes about marketing, innovation, travel and life with such enthusiasm and sparkle you’ll keep coming back for more. I do.

The Random Newsletter – Joe Pulizzi picked an appropriate name for his personal newsletter. It’s dedicated to personal observations about all aspects of his life including family, friends, travel, goal setting, exercise, trends and a lot more. The ‘Godfather of Content Marketing’ is an open book; it’s always an interesting read.

Almost Timely  – Chris Penn takes sharing to a whole new level. His jam-packed newsletter is on the brainy side while being completely accessible to those who don’t know Google like the back of our hand. Every issue is loaded with links to everything he’s reading, which makes it even more valuable. You can also watch the newsletter on YouTube or listen to it, as well.

Thursday Love – Sherene Strahan is a West Australian writer and former journalist who gives writing ideas, inspiration and encouragement to help you keep your audience coming back for more.

Marketoonist – Tom Fishburne writes a weekly newsletter anchored around an original cartoon. He’s proof it’s possible to convey information in few words while poking fun at the constantly changing world of marketing. He started in 2002, emailing his cartoons to a few marketing colleagues. Now we all get the benefit of his wit and wisdom.

Learning from the masters

This baker’s dozen keeps me informed and entertained. (And thank you for sticking with me this far.) The styles are different but they’re great writers and I regularly study their technique while reading.

I’d love to hear what makes the cut in your inbox. Let me know what I’m missing. And if you have any book recommendations, we’d love to hear those, too.

In the meantime, have a terrific holiday season. Dan and I will be back with The Write Fit in the new year.

Sarah Mitchell
20 December 2022


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