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How to take a break from writing your newsletter

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Hi there,
I’m here to tell you you deserve a break. 
As newsletter writers, we tend to tell ourselves that we have to keep the shop open at all times, that our readers need that consistency. But burnout is a real thing, and sometimes you just need space to breathe. It’s good for your brain, and it’s good for your readers, too. All it takes is a little extra communication.
In this issue, I’ll break down some best practices so that you can put your feet up knowing your newsletter and your audience will be there safe and sound when you’re ready to get back to work. 
Keep your readers in the loop
This is the golden rule.
For most writers, one announcement is enough to warn readers you’re taking a week or two off. If they wake up one day wondering why you’re not in their inbox, they can check the last email from you to see if you announced a break. 
If you can, try to be clear about when you’ll be back. If you can’t pick a date, a ballpark works just fine. I love this example from Hunter Harris, writer of Hung Up — she announced last December she’d be taking some time off her newsletter (which has a paid option) until the New Year:
Okay, that’s it! This is the last Hung Up of the year. I’m taking the next week-ish off, and I will be back in January. […]
If you really need me — and I mean really need me, like something you know I’d love, like in the event a certain movie star has put on his good cargo pants to shoot his shot or The Pelican Brief is on TNT — you know where to find me. Thank you for reading! See u next year.
And on a similar note, here’s how Caroline Criado Perez announced a break for her newsletter Invisible Women while she took a trip to the US:
I’m afraid you are going COLD TURKEY on this newsletter for the next few weeks as I’m reliably informed they don’t have the internet in America. (OK, I’m taking a holiday).
Both of these examples are relaxed, and announce the short break in the same tone as the rest of the newsletter.
Not sure when you’ll be ready to return? It’s still best to communicate that up-front, and let subscribers know when they can expect to learn more.
What about paid newsletters?
If you run a paid newsletter, you may feel an added sense of responsibility toward your readers. They’re paying for your writing, after all. But being paid for your work shouldn’t preclude taking time to rest and recharge. 
Both Hunter Harris and Caroline Criado Perez from the examples above send out extra content to their paying subscribers, and paused that as well when they took a break.
Ben Thompson, writer of Stratechery, sets a fantastic example for how to handle breaks in paid content. He has a posting schedule where he outlines the public holidays on which no issue will be sent to his subscribers. Stratechery is, in effect, his full-time job, so he also designates a specific number of holidays and “personal days” which he can take off due to sickness or other unforeseen circumstances:
Stratechery does not publish on most U.S. and Taiwanese public holidays as defined by relevant public stock markets, for a combined one week in the summer, and the December holiday season. In addition, I have allocated myself up to eight personal days off in the event I am unable to publish (whether due to sickness, travel, family emergencies, etc.). I will also take up to 12 days of vacation.
When he needs to take a personal day, or plans a holiday, he updates the schedule to make sure his readers always have the latest information. Communication is key.
Another option: Pre-prepare issues for when you’re away
Taking a break could also be an opportunity to try something new with your newsletter, outside of your regular format. Non-time-sensitive content can be prepared up-front, freeing you up to take a break later.
For example, in a former job, I used to send newsletters recommending the best newspaper and magazine articles from the past week. When I took time off over the New Year break, I would pre-prepare and schedule issues that looked at the best articles over the past year instead.
Readers loved them, so I included a spot in my regular issues for an excellent, older article they might have missed. My overall engagement metrics went up, and I was a happy camper.
Even if you don’t plan to change your regular newsletter, time off can be a fun way to explore new ideas.
Over the Thanksgiving break this year, Ann Friedman changed up her regular format to share her own favorite newsletters. It was a fantastic issue that provided a new kind of value for her readers (finding other quality newsletters), as well as giving a boost to other writers whose subscriber lists grew thanks to her recommendation.  
Wrapping up
Our ethos is that newsletter writers deserve breaks too. The main thing is to communicate with your readers, and let them know what to expect.
I hope the above examples have helped a little — and I’d love to hear how you’re managing your time off, or if you plan to make any changes in how you do so in the future.
I’ll see you next week,
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Anna from Twitter
Anna from Twitter @revue

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