2021 Review: Behind the scenes
A peek into the workings of Musings & Perspectives.
In March, I started Musings & Perspectives as a personal project to improve my writing, thinking, and learning.
After ten months, I’d like to say that I’ve improved those skills, and learned many others along the way. Writing this newsletter has enabled me to enhance my mental models and communication ability, meet incredible people, and participate in new, unconventional projects.
100,000 views, 50,000 words, 34 articles later, Musings & Perspectives is now at 1,834 subscribers.
The most viewed articles:
The most shared articles:
The articles that resulted in the most subscribes:
Behind the scenes, I’ve spent ~300 hours writing this year, accumulated hundreds of pages of notes, and racked up countless drafts of unpublished articles.
It’s been a rigorous, yet rewarding journey.
As we approach the end of the year, I’d to answer some of the common questions I get and reveal the process that goes into the writing.
What is your writing process, and how do you make time for it?
The most frequently asked question is, "How do you find the time or energy to write?"
Starting with the writing process: an idea strikes me when I'm actively absorbing information—reading an article, listening to a podcast, having a conversation with someone—or when I'm completely alone in solitude—on a stroll, in the shower, or biking.
I then scribble down a rough framework in bullet form, outlining the What, Why, and How. Over the course of a week, I expand on the framework by adding anecdotes and evidence, as well as rephrasing statements to simplify the message.
Lastly, I edit and format. To accentuate specific points and ensure readability, I use subheadings, bold text, and italics. Prior to publishing, I go through a final draft four to five times and preview it with a friend.
On average, I spend six hours a week writing. I distribute this over three to four days—usually two hours over the weekdays and four on the weekends. I strictly delineate work and non-work responsibilities (i.e. I’ll never work on non-work stuff during my nine-to-five), so it’s typically weekday evenings and weekend mornings that I dedicate to writing.
Saturday and Sunday mornings are my most productive and creative times. These are my most valuable moments, and there’s no getting around it: I’ve had to cut back on my Friday and Saturday night activities, either by going home earlier or reducing the drinking. My friends were confused for a while, I’ll admit. But now they’re supportive—which I’m grateful for.
What’s been the most challenging aspect of writing this newsletter?
Every time someone unsubscribes, I get an email, and the most discouraging sensation is when you ship an article and someone instantly unsubscribes. That, to me, is direct feedback that the article was low-value. It’s not uncommon to receive up to eight unsubscribes after writing an article, which may be frustrating, but over time I’ve gotten used to it and take it less personally.
It's difficult to overcome writer's block. Sometimes I don't feel inspired, lose focus, or can't find the right words. But overcoming these difficulties (and occasionally brute-forcing my way through them) has taught me new mental models for writing and productivity.
For example, if I'm stuck for ideas, I'll read, listen to, or watch something. If I can't concentrate or write correctly, I've determined that I'm usually in a poor state of mind and need to optimize my habits
Growing and marketing the newsletter vs. writing it. I didn't have a large reader base when I initially started, so I spent half of my time promoting the newsletter.
Not surprisingly, I’m banned from a bunch of subreddits for over-promoting, although it yielded good results (~200 subscribers). I’ve also done newsletter swaps, guest posts, Slack and Facebook groups promotions, and plugs on my socials (Linkedin, Twitter, Instagram). While these growth activities used to be energizing, I’d much rather spend my time on writing content vs. marketing, and as a result, growth has slowed.
My goal now is to rely solely on word-of-mouth and referrals, and ship content that’s compelling enough for others to want to share it. So if you’re enjoying the read, please tell a friend about it. 🙂
What’s been the most rewarding?
On occasion, someone will reach out to me with a ‘thank you’ when a specific article has helped them make an important decision, inspired them to accomplish something challenging, or given them a new perspective. Humbly, I can’t emphasize enough how gratifying this feels.
I love getting email responses, whether it’s direct feedback, a build on an idea, or an anecdote of how a framework has changed someone’s way of thinking. I think of Musings & Perspectives as a community of growth-focused individuals, rather than a publication. Every article is a two-way conversation—you can always respond to each piece.
Writing this newsletter has also benefited my work. On various occasions, I’ve had my newsletter shared at work to provide a new angle or reframe a problem. I’m grateful for those at Meta who continue to support my journey. (Thank you Rob, Taylor, Jason, Alex, Chris, Christin, Dario, Mary!)
Finally, I’ve developed new relationships, and deepened existing ones with incredible folks through partnerships and collaborative work.
I write from the heart, as cheesy as it may sound. These are ideas that I’m truly excited about. And I do my best to capture them in written form, so that others can experience them the way I did when I was first introduced to them.
Musings & Perspectives, although demanding, has been an incredibly fulfilling project. What initially started off as a 6-month commitment may evolve into a lifelong practice.
I intend to continue writing through 2022, and in addition, to explore these themes:
Experimenting with new short-form formats. Twitter and TikTok are platforms that I’d like to lean into.
Continuing to build community online and in-person via events. Recently, I hosted a 200+ person event with readers from this newsletter and other business and tech folks. That was a terrific experience.
Finally, I’d like to say thank you.
Thank you for taking the time to read, the continued support, and the feedback that has not only improved Musings & Perspectives, but also helped me grow as a person.
I’m excited to continue this journey with you all.
Onward to 2022!