Writing is Connecting
I’ve been reflecting a lot recently on why I started this newsletter / blog, with an eye towards figuring out how it evolves in 2021. I attempted to explain the spark when I kicked it off (back in April) and when I reached my original milestone (100 subscribers). But somewhere along the way, I either changed my intent or discovered another path, and it’s a byproduct of what writing has allowed me to do: connect.
It seems obvious in hindsight, but creating on the internet is how many people connect to community. And writing is just one instance of creation. Sharing lessons, iterating on ideas, and learning together on a global scale with a good bit of serendipity mixed in - there’s really no other experience like it.
Let me elaborate on the serendipity bit…
A few months into writing, someone I met in a professional capacity mentioned off-hand that they’d read my posts when they looked me up on LinkedIn (my primary broadcast channel). I mentioned it was a side hustle, a creative outlet. She mentioned her side hustle, her creative outlet: a podcast. Would I be interested in recording an episode sometime? Sure.
That conversation brought me to a realization - my writing had led to a clarity of thought, a formulation of opinions, some real points of view, and I was more confident in sharing them. In fact, some of my ideas were languishing as draft posts precisely because they required a longer-form, expository format. I reached out cold on LinkedIn to the hosts of product podcasts that I actually listened to on a regular basis, and was quickly scheduled for recordings, using this newsletter as my primary proof of credibility.
3 podcasts in 3 months. The reach from those episodes went way beyond my original 100 subscriber plateau.
The random-ness doesn’t stop there.
Each podcast then spawned a slew of Twitter and LinkedIn discussions as it was shared and re-shared. Every time I figured the notifications had peaked, there would be a new wave. And every wave brought with it affirmation that there was an audience for my writing, a community for me.
I was offered a speaking slot at a virtual / digital conference; I took it, used my draft writing to create the content, and then redirected the attendees to my newsletter for more (that basically got me from 100 -> 200 subscribers in short order).
I slowly realized that I had evergreen content - I didn’t need the recency-biased Twitter and LinkedIn algorithms to get me eyeballs and subscribers - I could “build once, sell twice”.
Someone took the time to visually transcribe my podcast discussion on Twitter’s DM strategy and turned it into an asset that sparked hours of interesting debate. I commented in a writer’s group about the need for better idea / draft management capabilities as part of the publishing flow, and was pinged by a startup to participate in their UX research. I’ve been asked to review a book on product-led CX. I’m doing a webinar later this month, and it took one back and forth in email to lock down the topic, because I already had the newsletter (both published articles and work-in-progress outlines) for the producers to choose from.
I only published 20 times in 2020, and it generated a ton of reach. I’m curious to see where else and how else I might find community if I publish weekly in 2021, or experiment with formatting, or try different writing styles, or test different distribution platforms.
Writing has opened doors, yes, but maybe I’m just more ready for doors to open because I’m in creation (vs consumption) mode. That sense of panic I would get when I had to do a talk or presentation or Q&A or panel or AMA, especially ad-hoc, is no longer there, because I feel like I’m always sharpening my thoughts. I think of myself less as a writer and more as a creator, whose foundation and fallback is writing, but who’s open to expressing ideas in whatever medium best conveys. And most importantly, I see a community developing with me, and that is extremely fulfilling.
So while I may have started this just to think things through and transition from consumption to creation, I’m going to continue it in 2021 as a way to connect.
I’d love to hear from readers about their own experiences with finding community - please chime in via comments👇. And if you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing.
further reading / references
a visualization of the aforementioned strategy teardown (topic is Twitter DMs)
breakout session on Bootstrapping a PM Team at Mind the Product digital con
a reminder that opportunities don’t visit caves, so you have to figure things out in public
childish drawing / interpretation