Relaxing the newsletter schedule
Welcome back after the break.
I’m slightly reneging on my promises in that I said that I would be resuming with a paid piece today, but I’m instead putting out a free one. I don’t imagine anyone is terribly upset by this though.
We recently (May 11th) passed the one year anniversary of this newsletter. Over that year, I’ve written a newsletter once a week for most weeks, and averaged a bit more than once a week when one takes into account the recent addition of the paid letters. I’m glad I’ve done that, but I think it’s time to switch away from the regular schedule of the newsletter, because I’m starting to find it constraining, and switch to a more free form schedule where I just publish as and when I feel like (which I hope will be reasonably often).
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about this piece on The Costs of Reliability, by Sarah Constantin:
A question that used to puzzle me is “Why can people be so much better at doing a thing for fun, or to help their friends and family, than they are at doing the exact same thing as a job?”
I’ve seen it in myself and I’ve seen it in others. People can be hugely more productive, creative, intelligent, and efficient on just-for-fun stuff than they are at work.
Maybe it’s something around coercion? But it happens to people even when they choose their work and have no direct supervisor, as when a prolific hobbyist writer suddenly gets writer’s block as soon as he goes pro.
I think it has a very mundane explanation; it’s always more expensive to have to meet a specific commitment than merely to do something valuable.
If I feel like writing sometimes and not other times, then if writing is my hobby I’ll write when I feel like it, and my output per hour of writing will be fairly high. Even within “writing”, if my interests vary, and I write about whatever I feel like, I can take full advantage of every writing hour. By contrast, if I’ve committed to write a specific piece by a specific deadline, I have to do it whether or not I’m in the mood for it, and that means I’ll probably be less efficient, spend more time dithering, and I’ll demand more external compensation in exchange for my inconvenience.
I’m not planning on demanding more external compensation for it (though I guess I in some ways am given the addition of the paid newsletter issues), but otherwise this tracks fairly well. Producing two newsletter issues a week reliably is a lot higher cost than doing on average two newsletter issues a week, and part of that is because it turns writing into a thing that I have to do whether I feel like it or not.
One particularly irritating knock on consequence of that is that it ends up blocking out other writing entirely, and there’s other writing I need and want to be doing. The relatively high cost of reliably producing the newsletter isn’t measured in currency, but in writing capacity. As one of my current goals is to in some sense “be a writer”, that seems bad, so I’m going to stop doing it.
So for the next little while at least I’m going to write, and some of it will be here on the newsletter, and some of that will be in the free section and some of it will be in the paid section. Details will emerge as the whim takes me, but I hope to get at least one issue out per week, and I intend to make about half of what I write here paid subscriber only.
Is this going to work? Maybe! I have a track record in the past of going “Well I’ve demonstrated that I can do the thing, so I no longer need the structure that let me do that” and falling flat on my face. This may happen.
If it does, I’ll revert back to the more structured form. I’ve set a calendar reminder for August 1st, at which point I will review how July was for writing. If I’m happy with it, I’ll keep the new free form schedule. If I’m not, I’ll decide on a new structured schedule (which may be the old structured schedule).