Observations After 40 Weekly Letters

As the year closes, I thought to indulge some observations about writing these weekly Moontower emails.

On Process

  • Started in March. 40 weeks in a row
  • Between the weekly email and my website I’ve written 100k words or the equivalent of a 400-page book (there’s an iceberg of notes under that)
  • The email takes about 7 to 8 hours per week 2 of them have taken upwards of 12.
  • About 1/3rd of that time would have been spent doing it anyway as I have been taking lots of notes over the years. The extra step of making it public, while intensive was still incremental, which is why I thought it would be a fun idea in the first place.
  • I started with about 20 weeks worth of ideas in the queue. After writing 40 of these, I now have about 50 in the queue. There’s a lesson about feedback loops in there somewhere. I often don’t consult the queue and just tackle something that I noticed that week.  Usually, the topic occurs to me in a way that unifies some subset of my notes.
  • The time to do this has come away from watching TV and movies, some Friday night activities, some workouts and strolls, and some sleep. Everything has a cost.

On Benefits

  • The coolest benefit has been what one friend emailed me to say he’s enjoyed the “friendship renaissance”. We have many phases in life. A number of people from my days in NYC who I have fell out of touch with now regularly email with me. Sometimes sparked by a Moontower topic. But there’s another effect that I can relate to since I get a lot of letters myself. Reading somebody every week breeds familiarity as well as an implied (or in Moontower’s case, an explicit) invitation to chat. We all know great, thoughtful people who we just fall out of touch with. The letter was a beacon to invite them back into my life even if I didn’t realize that fully when I started this.
  • I have gotten to meet many people both digitally and IRL. There’s a lot of cross-pollination with Twitter conversations so it’s hard to directly attribute, but this year has to, on average, I’ve met 1 in-person per week. And there are more connections online that I have regular chats with. I think the thought of that idea would have exhausted me in the past. Not that I’m shy, just not a social butterfly. But the meetings have been invigorating since they are rooted in a spirit of mutual open-mindedness and helpfulness. I suspect this might not even seem like something remarkable to many of you but for the few to which that may resonate, it’s worth mentioning.
  • It has been a forcing function to get me to write. Something that I have been wanting to do for a long time but required a form of accountability to get started. Your attention is so so appreciated. I’d be privileged if I could help one of you as much you’ve collectively helped me.

On Growth

  • I sent a welcome email to about 110 friends and family when I started in March. 40 people signed up for the first letter. Today, 375 people receive the email. This is an objectively tiny number but it punches so far above its weight. You are a smart, curious group of readers.
  • The growth is partially from word of mouth but mostly from something I’ve written that gets boosted by a highly-followed person. The most popular letters have been the ones in which I explain something technical from my own non-academic point of view.
  • On average, 2 people sign up per day even though it’s super spikey (about a month ago the readership grew by over 30% in a week).

On the Future

  • You can expect more of the same. I see myself as a curator and gatherer who basically takes you with me on my own learning journey. If Moontower had a theme it’s that the world is messy and by sharpening our thinking we can not only get better but be more empathetic. I’d say my pet peeve is the rampant discourse which acts otherwise. Discourse that at its best is flat and stupid, but more often, willfully manipulative.
  • You probably noticed I added the Money Angle section. This was natural since investment topics overlap with my professional domain and I thought it was useful to separate it a) for the benefit of those who find this via #fintwit and b) to spare those of you who might find those topics “too much”.
  • I’ll continue to look to you for input as how I can be helpful or more lucid. I don’t have any proper training or qualification. And while my very first letter addressed pushing past “imposter syndrome”, my opinions about how I present material is pretty loosely held. So don’t feel like you can offend me with criticism.

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