2016: My Year In Writing, And Goals For 2017

Since (finally) graduating from college in March and spending much of April on a couch recuperating, I spent the latter three quarters of 2016 doing a lot of writing, both for money (from Mattermark and other clients) and for pleasure (i.e. in my personal blog, in The Missive and my newsletter).

A look back at 2016


Here’s a rundown of some of the statistics:
  • 73 articles and posts in 7 different publications (including my two blogs)
  • 31 editions of my weekly(ish) newsletter, which I launched in May.
  • 113,704 words published publicly… which doesn’t include the embarrassing number of half-done drafts I’ve got stowed away or the words cut by my long-suffering editors.

Here are some of my general observations from this year:
  • The most rewarding thing I do is maintaining my newsletter. Since May, the subscriber base has grown organically by 10x to nearly 170 subscribers and my open rate has only improved, averaging some 57-62% every week. It’s frankly astonishing to me that so many people find my work consistently worth reading.
  • I am fairly good at writing and research, but rather than viewing it as a career in itself, in the long run, I want it to be a “secret weapon” I can use in a different career. (I’ve had my eye on Seed-stage VC for a couple years now.)
  • Writing and research seems like a viable way to generate some passive income, but I haven’t yet experimented with this.
Writing Goals for 2017:
  • Continue to grow my newsletter’s subscriber base. An ambitious goal would be 1,000 subscribers by the end of the year.
  • Experiment with generating income from my writing. I see a couple of options here:
    • Developing and selling access to “starter guides” or other information products like the ones I made about venture capital (for Mattermark) and deep learning (for Deepgram)
    • Inviting donations or charging a membership fee for this or another newsletter.
  • Regularly survey my newsletter subscribers about topics that interest them, and get to know my subscribers better.
  • Explore the possibility of writing something long.

Concluding Thoughts

In sum, 2016 was likely the most prolific year of all my time spent writing things on the internet. That being said, I’ve reached an inflection point.

On the one hand, I genuinely love learning and explaining things, but on the other I have to contend with the facts that

  1. The way I’ve been approaching writing is not going to be financially sustainable in the long run.
  2. I want to spend some more time finding, working with and advising entrepreneurs building the technologies I like to write about.

Thankfully, I have an outlet for that latter bit through my work with the Python Software Foundation as co-Chair of Startup Row at PyCon, but I’m eager to build that into something bigger alongside my partners in that project.

Now that I have some metrics to compare myself against, my ultimate goal for 2017 is not necessarily to write more or less, but to write better, more valuable things, and to reach more people. If you’ve made it to the end of this navel-gazing post, you’re the type of person I’m counting on for feedback and support over the next year. It ought to be a fun year.


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