As I approach the end of my paid tenure here at Medium, I wanted to write something around the success of my newsletter Where’s Your Ed At. This isn’t to toot my own horn — it’s already a success, I do not need the validation there — but to try and impart what lessons I’ve learned from taking it from around 400 subscribers at the end of 2020, to 4556 subscribers at the end of 2021, to today’s total of 14,510 — after I set what I considered a fairly stupid goal of 10,000 halfway through the year.
I want this to be helpful, but I also don’t want to write a 3 or 5 or 10 point list. They’re boring to write, and they attempt to condense knowledge into bite-sized pieces that oftentimes don’t speak to the solution to the grander problem you’re facing.
But I’ll start with a simple piece of advice that I am paraphrasing from my friend Matt: if you want to hit home runs, learn to hit as many singles as possible.
This sounds trite, but the more stuff you create, the better you’ll learn what resonates and what doesn’t. This doesn’t mean that you should shovel out crap as hard and as fast as possible, but that you shouldn’t constantly be trying to engineer “big numbers,” because doing so does a few things:
- It comes off as desperate. Your readers can tell, too.
- It stresses you out, constantly making you focus on what you “should” be doing versus actually doing something. You will fail to put out stuff as regularly because you are worried it won’t be “a winner.” There are no concepts of “winners” here — there are only things you write.
- It’s taking a natural process and mechanizing it. While there are routines and things that “work” (say, not putting out a piece on a Friday, or learning what subjects your readers just…don’t read), the moment that you start treating writing like growth hacking it becomes both hard to read and harder to write.
Early on in my newsletter — when I was writing to an audience of about 400 people that barely opened it — I focused on getting stuff out there more for myself than anyone else. I enjoy writing — it is therapeutic to take my relatively errant thoughts and turn them into something thoughtful and constructive — and I wanted to get my thoughts on the page, seeing the very slow incremental subscriptions as proof that, at the very least, I was not entirely speaking into the void.