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“Just start writing”

read + write
hey there.
This week, we’ve got a little of everything. Some writing advice from Amanda Mull, staff writer at The Atlantic. A word from Cameron Scheetz, the writer of The RuPaul’s Drag Race Official Newsletter. We also, from time to time, want to highlight some of our writers who work at Twitter. This week we have Rembert Browne
read + recommendations
Each week, a writer will join us to answer some questions about what they like to read.
Our first guest is Twitter’s own Rembert Browne. Formerly at Grantland and New York, he’s written for TIME, The FADER, The New York Times, The Ringer, Image, Bon Appetit, and others. 
What are some things you’ve bookmarked and are excited to read?
I can’t wait to read Alexis Okeowo’s profile of poet Warsan Shire in The New Yorker. Also, I caught a glimpse in the Sunday New York Times that Jon Caramanica wrote about Will, Jada, Willow, and Jaden, so I want to read that, soon. There’s also this blog that someone Retweeted, “Top 10 Rap Albums You May Have Missed in 2021” that I need to read ASAP because I’m sure I missed at least half of them. There was this piece a few months ago in Vanity Fair by Delia Cai on the newsletter economy that I read very fast. Too fast. So I need to pick that up again and take my time. And finally, I’ve been stuck on chapter 19 of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire since late 2020. 
What’s the thing you read when you want to remember how to write?
James Baldwin wrote a profile of Martin Luther King, Jr. for Harper’s Magazine in 1961. I read it in high school and it changed my life. Read it in college and it changed my life again. And then a decade later, it became a primary source for me as I was writing about Colin Kaepernick. Anyway, it’s one of the greatest writer-subject pairings that’s ever happened. And James did his thing.
You’re at the newsstand and have decided you’re leaving with four magazines. What are you picking up? (from any era, be as oddly specific as possible). 
Going to answer a slightly different question. And this might change tomorrow. But if given full access to four magazine catalogs, I think I’d pick: Jet, Interview, VIBE, and GQ
What’s the thing you read when you need to feel something?
I have a bunch. But a recent-ish piece that really took me on a ride was “Dancing Through New York in a Summer of Joy and Grief” by Carina del Valle Schorske. The words weaved perfectly with shots by photographer Maridelis Morales Rosado and I genuinely never wanted it to end. 
What newsletters have you continued to happily subscribe to?
There’s only one newsletter that I find out about on my Twitter timeline before I even notice it in my email inbox: Hung Up by Hunter Harris. She’s an extremely good writer, which comes through clearly, but I wasn’t prepared for how good the subject lines would be. Like “I Like It When Some Famous People Lie, Actually” and “The Steve Harvey Color Wheel” and “VP of Bennifer Affairs” and “Rihanna is Pregnant. Rihanna is Pregnant!” and “Barcade is a UNESCO World Heritage Site Now.” 
newsletter time
Every other week, we’ll include a new Revue newsletter (new = under 60 days or five or fewer issues). 
RuPaul's Drag Race
We asked Cameron to offer some advice and encouragement to anyone thinking about starting a newsletter, in 280 characters or less:
Just like a drag queen’s first time on stage, no one expects a newsletter to be fully formed right from Issue #1. Find what works for you, what feels natural, and listen to what excites your audience. Even the fiercest queens/newsletter writers know: There’s always room to grow.
write + inspiration
Each week, a writer will join us to answer some questions and give their perspective on writing.
Our second guest is Amanda Mull, a staff writer at The Atlantic. So far this year, she’s written about NFTs and celebrities, Omicron and jobs, and the act of forming new habits. 
What’s a piece of writing advice that’s held true for you?
Kill your darlings. Not as a hard-and-fast rule, but a guideline to double check yourself. If you feel inordinately proud of your own cleverness, there’s a real chance you’re being too cute.
What’s the thing you read when you want to remember how to write?
I know this is the most obvious cliché, but Joan Didion. Pick an essay. She’s just an incredible writer, on a sentence level. She’s so good that zillions of young liberals seem to have never really picked up on the fact that she was a conservative. She’s so good that she makes it genuinely pleasurable to read things I vehemently disagree with on an ideological level. Hard to be a better prose stylist than that.
What’s a writing strategy you’ve developed that’s worked for you?
Just start writing. It doesn’t have to be perfect from the jump, just get the thought in your head down on the paper, and then the next one. Explain it to the reader like you’re explaining it to yourself, even if it sounds dumb, even if you rewrite it later, even if it just ends up being a really verbose outline of the eventual thing. Editing — or even completely rewriting — is a million times easier than writing something for the first time, so do whatever you can do to pull yourself to the other side of that draft.
What do you do with all the writing ideas that pop into your head? Where do they go?
I generate a lot of story ideas, and they are sort of… everywhere. They are in my Notes app, they are in my day planner next to my laptop, they are in a series of notebooks next to my day planner. The really good ones, I Slack to Paul, my editor, whenever they pop into my head. He will usually tell me to put them in a Google Doc we have for my story ideas, I think with the understanding that I am probably not going to do that. But then they are in Slack history, and they are in Paul’s head.
Do you actively think about ways to grow your audience? If so, how? If not, why?
No. I write because I want to explore things that I think are interesting or important, and if I’m right and I make my case then hopefully the people who read it will trust me the next time I ask them to read something, and maybe they will share it with someone else. Even during my years of freelancing, when I had a regular day job to pay my bills, my attitude was always that writing takes a lot out of me, mentally and emotionally, and it’s only worth it if I’m able to do it on my terms. So if there’s an audience for it, great. If not, I was pretty good at selling appliances, and people are always needing new appliances.
What’s your one tip (that doesn’t get discussed) for a writer trying to improve in 2022?
There is enormous value in listening to and understanding how people talk. The worst writing feels written — in the words themselves, you can feel the agony of the work’s creation. Good writing feels like someone is talking to you from the page. There’s a confidence to it, an ease that comes from understanding how real people communicate with each other, how their sentences round out, how they move between ideas.
Is there a thing you’ve written and have actually enjoyed going back and reading?
I got really obsessed with the boat that got stuck in the Suez Canal last year. Work let me write a blog about why I loved the big boat, which was really sort of about how thrilling I find it when the netherworld of global logistics accidentally makes itself visible to the people who aren’t supposed to notice it. For some reason, I ended up rereading it about a month ago, and not only do I think it’s actually a pretty good quick-and-dirty overview of how containerization changed the world, it’s also got one or two genuinely good jokes in it.
#TwitterTime
Each week, in addition to hearing from writers, we’ll also give an update about what we’re doing for readers and writers at Twitter.
In October, we made it possible for people to subscribe to newsletters directly from Tweets — and if their email address is connected with Twitter, all it takes it one click. 
This feature is available for Revue newsletters on web for now, and our team is actively working on bringing it to iOS and Android. In the meantime, here are some tips for making the most of this feature:
  • Incentivize readers to share your issues on Twitter.
  • Share your profile page in a Space you’re hosting.
  • End your threads with a link to your profile page.
wrap up
Feels like we’re getting into the swing of things here.
We really appreciate all your feedback — keep it coming on @revue, or use #readpluswrite to reach us. Are we asking our guests the right questions? Let us know. 
See you next time,
Anna
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