awarm.spacenewsletter | fast | slow

Looking Back Part 1

Update on the end of year plans for this newsletter: Next week will be last for the year and I'll start back up some time in January, perhaps the first week of.

Today I'll reflect on the practice of writing this thing for the last 50 weeks, and I'll close out next week by looking back at all the things I actually wrote about.

I really bounced around all over the place with this experiment, so it'll be a fun time trying to extract some sense from it. I tried essay style writing, technical explanations, accountability posting, writing updates. This made for a maybe not so great subscriber experience (sorry!), but I think it was a great way to feel out how I want this to work.

Primarily though, across all these things, the newsletter functioned as a log, a record of what I was doing and thinking over the year. This year especially, the value of that alone makes the writing worth it.

Out of all of the different things I tried a couple stand out to me. The grab-bag style is really interesting, where I just list out ideas and links to things that were interesting to me throughout the week. It's essentially a forcing function for my attention. You have to to notice the things that you're reading and thinking about, that are actually important, if you want to have any hope of pulling together enough interesting atoms for a functional structure.

It builds up an archive of references which then are a perfect material for the other format I really enjoyed: longer form essay style writing. These were some of the most fun to write and probably the newsletter editions I'm most proud of now. But, my writing process was pretty poorly set up to produce them. Well I say writing process, but really it's more of a lack thereof.

I wrote and published all my newsletters within one day, right before going to bed, and usually staying up too late. This is nice, it's a forcing function, but it means I was chronically disattisfied with my output. This wasn't too big a deal in the newsletters where I was just collecting interesting ideas and links, but as I went on and was trying to more deeply explore specific ideas, it became pretty disheartening.

It's interesting, that shift towards trying to write more well put-together cohesive pieces happened quite unintentionally, and maybe caused more pain than pleasure. Earlier in the year I would just go through my saved links and articles of the week and use those as inspiration if nothing struck, but as we went on I felt more pressure to write something related to my current projects, and tying into the things I'd written previously.

This shift co-incided somewhat with me actually improving as a writer, or at least becoming more aware of my writing. I think I may have conflated quality writing with a writing about just one "big thing".

What about you?

One place I think this newsletter fell short entirely is in meaningfully engaging with it's (albiet small) audience. This is more than an individual writing practice, it's publication that, ostensibly, some people read. I've been doing a lot of thinking on how to best leverage the shape of the writing for my goals, but I suspect there's just as much to be gained from the shape of the interactions with the audience, y'all.

That being said, the interactions I have had with folks who read this newsletter have been incredibly positive. If you sent an email in reply to something in here, it geniunely made my day.

Why write one of these things?

As I hope it's coming across, I had a great time with season one of this thing. Highly recommend writing a newsletter if you want to kickstart a writing practice, or be more online in someway.

I think there's a way to put together a nice small set of self-reinforncing writing practices, and a publication is an extremely useful tool to be used, both for it's power as a forcing function, and as a way to engage with other people.

Beyond that I'm having a hard time, because I'm realizing that there's all sorts of writing I really enjoyed, but they just shouldn't all be smushed into the same place or publication. I want to be able to write technical explanations of the things I'm coding, and random thoughts on the things I'm reading and finding interesting. Over my hiatus I'll be mulling over how to achieve this reasonably, or whether it makes sense to constrain the newsletter and find other venues for everything else. We shall see!

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