by Natasha Tynes | Mar 2, 2023 | Writing
Most of my content creation these days is writing newsletters to clients. As newsletters are becoming business models on their own, more and more brands are investing in them. The good news is that businesses are constantly looking for experienced writers to create them.
I love writing newsletters because they combine creative writing, curation, and research.
Here are some of the lessons I learned from writing newsletters to clients:
- The most important KPI is the open rate: The open rate is a measure of how many people opened your newsletter out of the total number of recipients. It’s crucial because if people don’t open your newsletter, you are wasting your time. A good KPI is anything over 40%.
- Pay attention to the Email title: The subject line is the first thing recipients see, determining whether they will open your newsletter.
It should be short, witty, and relevant to the content. Adding an emoji can also help make it stand out in a crowded inbox.
- Write a fun intro: The opening paragraph sets the tone for the entire newsletter. It should grab the reader’s attention and make them want to keep reading. A fun intro can include a personal anecdote, a joke, or a surprising fact.
- Include humor: Humor is a great way to connect with your audience and make your newsletter more enjoyable. It can also make your brand more relatable and memorable.
- Add value, then promote your products: While promoting your products is essential, you should first provide value to your readers. This can be in the form of useful information, industry insights, or helpful tips. By providing value, you build trust with your audience and increase the likelihood that they will take action on your promotional messages.
- Pay attention to visuals: Add engaging images and infographics, and experiment with different media formats like audio and video.
- Send it at the same time, same day: Consistency is vital when it comes to newsletters. By sending your newsletter at the same time and day each week or month, you train your audience to expect it, and they are more likely to engage with it.
Writing newsletters is a fun and rewarding experience I highly recommend to any writer or content creator. If you are a freelance writer, try to expand your writing formats beyond an article or a blog post and include newsletters in your portfolio.
by Natasha Tynes | Nov 19, 2022 | Books, Immigrant life
Remembering the very first book you have ever read might be impossible.
Not for me. I do remember.
I remember the first book I read.
The very first book I read in English, a language that is not mine.
The book was Super Fudge by Judy Blume.
A second-hand copy was brought to me by my father, who found it while scouting one of the street markets in Zarqa, Jordan.
That was back in my home country of Jordan in the late ’80s, and finding a book in English was rare.
My dad was very proud of his found treasure and insisted that I should read it to improve my English.
“This is a rare book,” he told me. “I’m sure it was left by some expatriate. You can’t advance in life if you don’t know English.”
I hesitated a first.
It was a book in English, an impossible mountain to climb, thought my 11-year self. Eventually, I conquered my fear and devoured every single page of the book.
Ambivalence and appreciation
More than thirty years later, I found the same book at a Free Little Library in our suburban Maryland neighborhood. I immediately grabbed it, ran home, and showed it to my kids while telling them the story behind it.
They briefly looked at it and then put it aside. To them, there was nothing special about this book.
They were surrounded by hundreds of books in the land of abundance.
My kids’ ambivalence didn’t diminish the special bond I had with this book.
Thank you, SuperFudge, for teaching me that having little has its perks.
That having a modest upbringing makes you develop a special appreciation for many things that people take for granted, like books.
by Natasha Tynes | Sep 12, 2022 | Fiction
In 2018, my short story Ustaz Ali won third prize at the prestigious F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival. Today I decided to “pick myself,” as Seth Godin says, cut the gatekeepers, and publish the story on Gumroad.
The story is set at a Catholic School in Amman, Jordan, in the late eighties.
Two friends, one Muslim and one Christian find themselves growing apart when one decides to wear the Hijab, while the other rebels against norms and traditions amid complex political and religious circumstances.
It’s a tale about friendship and the subtle societal differences that push us apart against our will.
You can get it here.
I hope you enjoy it and thank you in advance for your support.
by Natasha Tynes | Jun 30, 2022 | Books, Productivity
I have been procrastinating in writing this article for a while. No one to blame but me. Inertia takes the best of me sometimes. Today I have finally decided to go ahead and eat that live frog and finally do what I preach.
After reading the classic productivity book Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy (I know, I know, I’m late to the party), I get why it has sold more than 500,000 copies.
It’s a short book that gives you practical advice on how to be more productive during the day and not use the cliche term, work smarter, not harder.
The central theme of the book revolves around the idea of finishing your most important, dreaded task first thing so that you can achieve a higher ROI and get momentum to continue with your other tasks (with a lower ROI).
The idea of “eating that frog” comes from Mark Twain, who once said: “If the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.”
Brian Tracy says:
“Your frog is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate n if you don’t do something about it. It’s also the one task that can have the greatest positive impact on your life and results at the moment.”
Keeping that fundamental concept in mind, here are the top five takeaways I got from Eat that frog:
- Plan every day in advance: This definitely one of the top productivity tips I personally believe in. Part of my night routine now is to look at my calendar for the next day and make sure I block at least some time for deep work to “eat my frog” of the day and eat it really well.
- Apply the 80/20 Rule to everything: This is also called the “Pareto principle,” named after its founder, the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who noticed that 20 percent of your activities will account for 80 percent of your results.
What does that mean?
Here is how Brian Tracy explains it:
“Often one item on the list of ten tasks that you have to do can be worth more than all the other nine items put together. This task is invariably the frog that you should eat first.”
- Identify your key constraint: It took me a while to understand the importance of identifying that was causing me to procrastinate on some tasks was friction. I live in a small house with a total of five people, there is not enough space to have a dedicated room for an office or a studio.
Every time I had to film a YouTube video I had to move my desk (which is in my room) around, set the lights, the microphone, and all that jazz. It’s a lot of work before I actually do the work.
The minute I placed my desk permanently in one location (that gives me enough lighting) and invested in a selfie mirror that you can just place on your desk, I didn’t have to move furniture around anymore, and I just get to filming. This made filming videos much more enjoyable and reduced my procrastination time.
- Slice and dice the task: Diving a big task into small ones is a must and make it less stressful. For example, I’m ghostwriting a memoir now and it’s a big project with a tight deadline. Instead of adding to my To-do list: “Work on the memoir” I add subtasks within that project.
The subtasks include:
– Creating a timeline in Scrivener.
– Listening to the first recording on Otter.
– Taking notes from the first recording and adding them to the relevant chapters in Scrivener.
– Editing the chapters that were created after the first recording.
You can’t eat your meat or your frog all at once. You will choke. Dividing it into small pieces will make it more malleable
- Single hand every task: I was mistakenly a firm believer in multitasking. I would foolishly tell myself, I’m a mom I can multitask for sure. I will get more things done.
Later I realized that yes, while you can change a diaper while you are on the phone, and cook a meal while responding to text messages when it comes to the live frog, you have to get into deep work, you have to get in a state of flow, and this state won’t be achieved with multitasking.
Now when I work on my frog of the day, I put my phone on focus mode, listen to focus music (Currently listening to Hans Zimmer music) and place a TimeTimer on my desk to keep me on track. My productivity and the quality of the work that I produce have tripled when I do deep work and when I single task instead of multi-task.
So, are you planning to eat a live frog today? I encourage you to do so!
by Natasha Tynes | Apr 11, 2022 | Writing
David Perell never forgets a story. This prolific online writer captures and records, and then writes his viral essays. The first time I heard about the concept of writing from abundance was from Perell on a podcast in which he talked about how he would have all of these ideas for stories when he lived in New York City, and he would immediately capture them on his phone before he forgot them.
The idea of immediate capture resonated with me, and I decided to implement it in my writing strategy, but you know, life got in the way; I got lazy, lost motivation, and never did anything about it.
That changed when I received a scholarship to David Perell’s sought-after online writing cohort, Write of Passage.
Writing from abundance was a key concept during the cohort. It’s based on the idea that you never start writing from scratch. Instead, you start from a foundation of abundant notes that you gather over days and years, capturing everything you hear, read or consume that you feel worthy of capturing.
While contemplating the writing from abundance methodology, I couldn’t help but think of the story of the poet Ruth Stone which I first heard about in the book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.
Ruth Stone used to run back home when an idea popped up in her mind for a poem. Sometimes she caught it; sometimes she would catch only the tail; sometimes she missed it altogether. If only Ruth Stone had an info capture system, she wouldn’t have had to run at all!
My abundance writing system
I started my abundance writing system from the very first week of the Write of Passage course, and I’m still refining it as I go. It’s not an exact science, and I have customized it based on my needs.
My info capture system is a mix of systems ( Notion, Evernote, Apple Notes). The jury is still out on which one I prefer; I rely on Evernote for notes and note tagging, Notion for workflow, and Apple Notes for quick, fleeting notes.
I don’t know if someday I will find a platform that will solve all my problems, but here are the current building blocks of my game-changing writing system.
- Writing from conversations: Writing from conversations is a concept I hadn’t heard of before taking Write of Passage. It’s capturing and recording conversations that you deem worthy of archiving. How often do we sit with someone and have a mind-boggling inspiring conversation and never write it down? How many opportunities did we miss?
- Otter: This is such an important tool in writing and capturing ideas that I’m kicking myself for not using it earlier. It’s a voice note-taking system and transcription app all in one. As soon as an idea strikes, whether I’m walking the dog, washing the dishes, or folding laundry, I stop what I’m doing and speak out my idea. Otter transcribes it to text I immediately drop in my capture system.
- Tagging notes from Readwise: I have been using Readwise to capture ideas from Kindle books for a while. But I have refined this system by tagging the info and capturing them in Evernote. This way, let’s say I’m writing an essay on creativity, I can just look for the tag “creativity” and get all the info that I have gathered over time.
- Journaling: I have been journaling on and off for a while, but after implementing the writing from abundance concept, journaling is becoming almost a daily habit. I’m using the app Day One Journal to record my thoughts, summarize the day, and make sure I capture my daily doings. I also tag my thoughts to make sure I incorporate them in future essays when needed.
In his book, The War of Art, Steven Pressfield writes:
“Hitler wanted to be an artist. He applied to the Academy of Fine Arts and later to the school of Architecture. Ever seen one of his paintings? Neither have I. Resistance beat him. Call it an overstatement, but I’ll say it anyway… It was easier for Hitler to start World War II than it was for him to face a blank square of canvas.”
Facing a black page is daunting, and Pressfield argues that starting a war is easier than facing the dreaded blank Google Doc. That’s where writing from abundance comes as it solves that issue.
When I open my info capture system, I get ideas for essays, feature ideas I want to pitch to editors, tweets, and nuanced arguments I want to include in my newsletter.
I copy those captured ideas that I want to expand on and paste them into a Google document. Gone are the days of the dreaded blank page.
Having abundant info reduces the friction of sitting down to write. And as Pressfield says: “It’s not the writing part that is hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.”
So fellow writers, listen up; writing from abundance is indeed a game-changer. Do it, do it now. And remember, it’s better to write than to start a war.