Refreshing the Newsletter, But What For?

Well, this is a bit awkward

Well, this is a bit awkward…

Hello again. It has been over a month since you received an email from me. I’m sorry about that.

I wish I could say that there was a good reason for the lack of emails. Or that I had some big new project to share that was taking all my time. The truth is much more boring than that - which is that I stopped enjoying putting together the newsletter and was debating shutting it down.

However, after a lot of back and forth in my head, I couldn’t bring myself to do that. I missed parts of the newsletter - the keyword parts being something that I will discuss below - and over the last month a few things have suggested that restructuring is better than folding.

Before I get started writing articles again, I want to walk through a few things and re-introduce the newsletter in a modified form that should hopefully be more meaningful and interesting for both you and me. That should also help you determine if you are still interested in staying subscribed.

Quick Answer

I’m not sure I want to read this all to figure this out - what is changing?

  1. The curated links emails are being retired - I was not enjoying them.
    1. No, I like those, don’t stop sending them” - click here if you don’t like this idea; that will give me a sense of how many people might have a problem with no longer getting that kind of email.
    2. Alternatively, check out my Twitter for occasional quotes & links, which happen more real-time on my end and are thus easier for me, in addition to topics such as fountain pens, US-Chinese politics, Pokemon, COVID, finance, and more non-spammy tweets.
    3. I will also toss interesting links at the bottom of the article emails.
  2. The Sunday articles are now the only emails I plan to send out, with a focus more on meaningful stories with takeaways and less on life-advice-esque quick summaries.
    1. I’m personally not in a position to share life advice, and I didn’t enjoy pretending like I was - but hopefully the stories I share do provide something tangible to take away and use in your life.
    2. Expect more like James Stockdale and his time in a Vietnamese prison, the murder of Omie Wise and its influence on bluegrass music, and the short biography of Frederick Taylor Gates.

Longer Answer

So, why did you decide to start writing again after stopping for over a month?

During the last month, a few things happened that suggest to me the newsletter is actually something that at least a few people find valuable. I’m not actually sure I have ever really done something valuable before - so this caught me off guard.

Over the last six months or so, while I was able to see subscriber counts increasing, it all felt very impersonal. However, a couple more relatable items happened:

  1. One subscriber asked me why I had stopped sending out the emails - he missed receiving them.
  2. Another told me that he was working through whether or not to make a career change and that the Frederick Taylor Gates article had added to his decision-making process. He also discussed the article with a family member.
  3. Someone told me that they like my writing style.

To top that off, even without any new emails, my total subscriber count increased by 8%. Now - this is still a small newsletter so that is nothing impressive, but it suggests people are finding what has already been written to be, in at least some small ways, useful.

So, a few people seem to care - but why do you care?

That is a good question, and I think it is not one I have directly answered before.

Why did I start writing this newsletter?

Well, I tend to be able to get interested in almost anything - and this has resulted in a habit of reading various things. This has the side effect of also meaning that I forget an awful lot of things.

One of the main reasons I started writing was, selfishly, to help me remember what I read. Sure - taking time to write something means I will read less over time - but the best way to remember something is to share it with others. I would rather remember fewer things more completely than remember nothing about many things.

A second reason is that reading, in and of itself, doesn’t really do much. Sure, you make yourself a “more educated” individual and there is some benefit to that - but if you are just sitting in a Lazy Boy with a lot of facts in your head you are not really contributing anything to anyone else. No one really is going to care whether you are around or not.

Call me idealistic, but I like to think I might be able to do something that contributes in some way. Sharing ideas and stories that others might not come across otherwise is a step, maybe small, but nevertheless, a step in the right direction. At least a few people have suggested it might be.

Finally, writing is difficult for me. I would like to get better at it, and I am unsure of a way to improve at something that doesn’t involve doing a whole lot more of that thing.

However, you have to enjoy the process along the way. Otherwise, you will inevitably fail to show up day-in-and-day-out, and without consistency, you might as well not be doing it.

So why did you stop enjoying writing the newsletter?

As I mentioned above, writing is difficult for me - and thus it takes a long time. I never intended for the curated emails to be the main part of this newsletter. However, because those emails let me keep my status quo (reading without writing) without needing to make significant improvements in something I find difficult (writing, as I merely share links and quotes in the curated emails), it was easy to send the curated emails and difficult to send the articles.

Over time, I started to feel like I had “done my duty” with a simple curated email, and I would push off putting in the time needed to prepare my own writing. This always felt like cheating to me, but my brain let me do it anyway.

What made that worse is that I felt like the curated emails are very “spammy,” for lack of a better word. They feel like the goal is to garner clicks with minimal effort / value-added to your subscriber base. I don’t like that feeling.

Finally, it also seems like my subscriber base prefers the articles - I think 80%+ of all subscribers subscribed after reading a longer-form article as opposed to the curated emails. To steal a term from the economists in the room, I was ignoring a fairly obvious market signal on what people found valuable.

So what are you going to do going forward?

Fortunately, this seems to point to a potentially mutually beneficial go-forward arrangement: I can drop the curated emails and focus on what I believe to be the original reason you subscribed to this newsletter - the articles.

And that is what I intend to do - on Sundays, just like before.

I appreciate your support to date and look forward to getting your feedback on this plan.

Another Small Change

I have seen a few other newsletters do this. From the perspective of the writer, there are multiple reasons to do it - and for me, it is mainly about accountability.

So what is it?

You can now choose, for no benefit whatsoever in the form of additional content or exclusive access to anything, to become a paying subscriber.

I’m not kidding. You get nothing extra! But that also means, there is no obligation / expectation that you ever become a paying subscriber! Especially now, when I am just restarting things 👍

To confirm, there is not now a paywall - everything is 100% open to free subscribers. Paying subscribers get 0% incremental content.

I enjoy writing the articles, as I discussed above. However, it is hard and takes time out of an already busy day (I’m convinced someone has been taking hours out of my day as a joke). If you enjoy the articles and want to hold me accountable over time, you can become a paying subscriber any time by clicking on the subscribe buttons in the email.

If you are just here for the ride and occasionally check the emails - I appreciate your interest and hope you stick around. It means a lot to have people interested in receiving articles from me, and I am incredibly grateful that you have chosen to be one of those people.

I hope that all works for you. Thank you again for subscribing and I look forward to sharing something new with you this Sunday.

Take care and have a great rest of the week,

— EJ

But What For? Writing about anything, as long as it’s interesting

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Writing about anything, But What For? Because anything can be interesting.

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