Two years of This Might Resonate

Emily Bazalgette
7 min readMay 6, 2023

I write a monthly newsletter, This Might Resonate (TMR), full of earnest inspiration for people seeking unusual ideas and deeper understanding. The first edition was 31st January 2021. Below, I take stock of the past two year’s worth of writing to consolidate what I’ve learned.

I started TMR with some assumptions and hopes:

  • A fortnightly cadence is achievable and sustainable long-term
  • Writing a fortnightly newsletter will encourage me to practice writing regularly
  • I will write for myself, about the things that I’m interested in, and the newsletter will find its audience. I won’t try to identify an audience and write for them
  • I will gain about 200 subscribers in Year 1
  • I don’t know what the newsletter is about, or really why I’m writing it, I’m just going to try it and see what happens
  • TMR will be a pro-Black newsletter.

Below, I take each assumption or hope and reflect on what I’ve learned from publishing for two years.

Fortnightly cadence

It turns out it’s very easy to write a newsletter every two weeks when:

  • You launch it during a national lockdown
  • You’re living alone in small coastal village in Devon for three months where the most exciting event was that time a dead seal washed up on the secret beach
  • You’re single
  • Your health is temporarily good (I have a chronic illness).

It turns out it’s much harder to write a newsletter every two weeks when:

  • You’re allowed to see friends
  • You’re living in London
  • You have acquired a partner
  • Your health is consistently very bad.

For the first year of TMR, I published roughly every three weeks, not two, and then took an extended break for 14 months (publishing nothing in the second year). A free newsletter doesn’t have any obligation to stick to a publishing schedule, and I am all for cutting my chronically ill self some slack, but 14 months was too long a break. The reason for the hiatus: I was waiting for my life to reach a stage of “calm” that meant I could focus on writing and publishing. But, as someone who has been chronically ill for 7 years, I’m realising that perma-chaos is my new normal. If I wait for the perfect conditions, and an empty to-do list, I’ll never write again. I think a monthly cadence is (mostly) achievable.

Practicing writing regularly

“Your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you” — Ira Glass on the Taste Gap

My intention was to write a blog post for every edition of TMR, as a way of improving my writing. In the first year, I published 17 editions and wrote a blog post for 9 of them, so roughly 50% of editions. It takes me a long time to write a newsletter containing a blog post — about 8 hours. It’s hard to carve out a whole day every month.

I am also a perfectionist about my writing and feel a responsibility when I land in 700 people’s inboxes to have something of worth to say, elegantly expressed. I compare myself to the blog post-style newsletters I love and feel disappointed about the quality of mine (see the Taste Gap above). But then I remember that I’m comparing myself to professional writers. I am not a professional writer. I am someone who did an English Literature degree and then spent 12 years writing PowerPoint decks. My writing is not as good, and that’s to be expected.

Writing for myself

My advertising and design training taught me that with any product, service piece of communication or content, you should first define your audience and their desires or needs. I decided not to take this approach with This Might Resonate (I’m in good company, ian leslie of The Ruffian takes the same approach). Writing undertaken as a creative endeavour is fundamentally different. My aim is not to persuade or help users achieve a goal. My aim is to entertain and connect. This requires authenticity, vulnerability, courage and truth: being myself in order to find resonance with others.

I write for people like me. People who love newsletters and curation, who enjoy spending some time on a Sunday reading the internet. People who appreciate a newsletter that’s more British in outlook than most of the offerings out there. People who possibly work in design and tech but are a little bored of reading about it, and feel themselves itching for lateral thinking. People who are curious about themselves and others and feel like there is more to learn and understand.

Audience size

I thought about 200 people would sign-up, but I had about 200 within the first week of launch, which surprised me greatly. Subscriber growth then naturally slowed — I now have 700 subscribers.

A graph of subscriber growth, showing sharp growth initially, tailing off to a slow incline over time
Subscriber growth chart, via Substack analytics

TMR has subscribers in 32 countries (shoutout to my 1 subscriber in Japan). It blows my mind that jottings from my kitchen table in Hackney can reach that far.

A world map, in grey, coloured orange for the locations of newsletter readers. Mostly the US and Western Europe.
Subscriber locations map, via Substack analytics

Discovering the “why” along the way

I didn’t know why I was writing TMR, other than that people suggested I should. I’ve discovered the “why” through doing. For me, it’s about the joy and pain of writing, the pride at delivering a consistent product (when that happens…). And it’s about connection. Sharing little things you notice, and the pleasure of that resonating with other people. It’s also about possessing a corner of the internet to be a more rounded, complicated person.

During my 14-month hiatus, I realised that TMR is good for my emotional and spiritual health. The newsletter is a jolt of creativity, an assertion of visibility (what the newsletter really says is: “I believe I have good taste and here are my recommendations”). It’s a small thread connecting me to versions of myself that might have existed if I’d never got sick, who might be producing this kind of content more intensively, more professionally, at scale. I want to keep this thread intact. Maybe one day I can weave something more expansive with it.

A pro-Black newsletter

I wanted to go beyond diversity and make This Might Resonate a proudly pro-Black newsletter. My definition of pro-Black in the context of a newsletter is to include a piece of writing by or about a Black creator in every edition of This Might Resonate, and to ensure that I frequently include content by Black creators that isn’t about race.

For my first five editions, I tracked the (assumed) gender and race/ethnicity of the authors I included. After five editions, I was confident that my reading and curation was diverse enough, so I don’t track anymore. It’s a joyful commitment that requires attention but is in no way onerous. Don’t listen to anyone who says this stuff is hard.

Unexpected lessons learned

Visibility has unexpected results

From people asking me how to start their own newsletter, to subscribers becoming consulting or coaching clients, to speaking opportunities, TMR has delivered results that I couldn’t have predicted. I will try to remember this the next time I’m worried about making myself visible (I talk about professional visibility more in this interview by Lauren Currie).

Authenticity over virtue signalling

I try to write and include what’s true, not what will make me look good. Sometimes there are links that I’m tempted to include to virtue signal how progressive I am, or to pretend I care about a certain issue. What I actually care about is brilliant writing and unusual stories.

A newsletter is rejection-acceptance training

I don’t often get unsubscribes, but every one feels like a knife to the heart, because it’s a personal newsletter. I need to remember that I unsubscribe from newsletters all the time for reasons of inbox sanity, never in judgment.

What’s next? Questions I’m holding

  • Should I make more of an effort to gain subscribers? Does a subscriber count matter to me? If so, why? What would more subscribers give me? What if I stayed at 700 subscribers forever? How does that make me feel?
  • What if this is remains a hobby with no outcomes whatsoever?
  • How can I make space/ increase accountability for writing the blog part of the newsletter, and reduce my perfectionism around writing?
  • Should I take advantage of Substack’s new community features to explore a community around the newsletter? TMR is so eclectic, it’s hard to imagine what would bring people together… I also hold complicated feelings about facilitating community which is likely playing a role in my reluctance to consider this
  • Should I include an option to pay? I think it would be an interesting experiment, and definitely brings up some icky money stuff I have going on. I think people might pay for original, good writing, but my assumption is they wouldn’t for simple curated links.

For more newsletter reflections, see like Patricia Mou’s lessons learned from 25 editions of her newsletter:

If you liked my reflections, subscribe to This Might Resonate.

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Emily Bazalgette

Regenerative organisational desiger. Coach. #ChronicIllness advocate. Creator of GriefSick: https://griefsick.substack.com/. Website: https://www.emrosebaz.com/