I had an in-person conference last week, the first in years for most of us. There, I ran into a colleague on the street. After the customary, "how have you been? I haven't seen you in forever", she asked me, "are you still writing that newsletter? I think it's really important." Why did she say this?
Her comments caught me entirely off guard. I'm not sure what I said in the rest of the conversation, but it has lived rent-free in my head for several days. First, newsletter? Seriously? I never really thought of these articles in this way. As I've shared before: writing is thinking, and connecting with you all provides some motivation to continue. But in the information economy world of solo–prenuers, a newsletter is a bit like a podcast: everybody has one, no one quite knows what they're for, but they're important. Outside of this world, both podcasts and newsletters are met with the same view: everybody has one, no one quite knows what they're for, but they certainly are not important. So this is what surprised me so profoundly: she said, "it's really important." But why?
The purpose of writing most newsletters is to share what you know; the point of reading newsletters is usually to learn. Want to learn marketing? Subscribe to a marketing newsletter. Want to learn business or growth? Plenty of options. Perhaps the importance she was referring to comes from me providing an easy mechanism to teach and for others to learn? Or maybe I have it backward.
The primary reason I write this is to think, reflect, and learn myself. In an over-subscribed, busy life, we rarely take opportunities to think. Does anybody put think on their to-do list? Unlikely. And if we try to protect time on our calendars, it is quickly taken over by more urgent tasks. So by writing this newsletter, I'm committing to thinking and reflecting in an era where that activity is rare but needed more than ever.
In a way, this project is similar to a journaling project. For many people, journaling is a way to process ideas and unload mental baggage. I have tried journaling several times over the years, but nothing ever stuck. I've attempted to use journaling prompts, as well as freeform, and found I was either too constrained or not constrained enough. But in this space, I share ideas I'm thinking about, usually in a broad and unprocessed way. [Ed. Note: But that's what you all are here for, right?]
If someone told me, "I just found a way to protect time for thinking," I would say, "congratulations; that is really important." If someone said to me, "I just started journaling," I would say, "excellent; that is really important." When I said I am still doing this newsletter, she said, "I think it's great; it is really important." Systems and environments that enable you to do the things you want to do, work on the projects you want to work on, and build the relationships you want to build are key to long-term success. This is not just another newsletter, but rather it is a system that allows me time to think; and that's why it is important.