100 words: Lessons from writing consistently

Michael E. Smith
Apr 5, 2017 · 3 min read

On January 2nd, we sent out our first email to a small list of subscribers. That email launched us on a year long journey of sending a 100 word email 3x per week. The content revolves around parenting, faith, and observations of daily life.

The “we” mentioned here consists of my wife and myself.

The purpose was to get us both writing and reflecting on a regular basis. We so quickly allow life to fly by that we seldom stop to reflect on what lessons we can glean from the everyday. Plus, with Facebook being an onslaught of nonsense and vitriol, this was a way to cut through the noise and speak directly to people in their inbox.

The reason for limiting each email to 100 words was to help ourselves become better editors and allow the emails to be read in less than a minute.

Here are the lessons we’ve learned after 3 months of sending:

  1. One-hundred words is short! No really, it is very limiting. Every word must have purpose, so contractions have become our friend. There are many times where we wish we could write 500–1,000 words on a topic, but the constraint forces us to focus!
  2. Building an email list is hard. We currently have 41. Yep, that’s it, even after 3 months (4 months if you count the pre-launch month). Hopefully we will come up with more ways to provide value and trust so that number will grow. You could even sign up at the bottom of this post ;).
  3. Email is powerful. We know who opens and what they click on. And we can tell when a message resonated with our subscribers too because we have a “like” button in the email.
  4. Subject lines & CTA buttons matter! The more interesting the subject line, the more opens we get. And, the juicier the CTA, the more clicks.
  5. Posting consistently is a challenge, even when you’re partnered up. We use a spreadsheet calendar to track everything. That sheet is where we collect ideas for upcoming emails and archive past emails. But when the idea well runs dry it’s tough to generate new ideas on the spot. The more busy life gets the harder it is to notice the lessons around us. After all, that is part of why we’re doing this.
  6. Not every email we send will be incredible! This may be the hardest lesson for me. I always want my words to make an impact; help people to think about a topic in a different way (even if we don’t agree). But some days, and some emails, will just fall flat — and that’s ok. After all, the best inventors failed more times then they were successful.

So what’s next? Continue showing up, keep growing the email list, and keep allowing life to teach us.

You can sign up to be a part of the 100 words community below.

Michael E. Smith

Written by

Brand Design Team Lead @AWeber. Kids book illustrator @dadsigner. #altMBA alumni.