It’s thrilling. It’s exhilarating. It’s the best feeling in the world. Finally, the unseen hours of copious scripting, multiple takes, editing culminate into this final product that I excitingly get to share with my virtual world. The cursor moves to the upload button. My overworked and outstretched finger crashes towards to mouse button but before the satisfying click… I snap back to the real world, away from my daydream.
I imagine my best self to be able to produce content effortlessly and routinely. But, as with anything, our ideal is far from reality. Barriers created by our minds sadly stop us from achieving our grand dreams. It did for me. And in this post, I want to my struggles and how I attempt to traverse those mental mountains.
For the average content consumer, little thought goes into the production of the material. It’s click, read/watch, click something else. An aspiring YouTube or creator would yell at you otherwise.
Creation has so many moving parts.
What gear to use? How shall I script? The time spent editing.
This never-ending list overwhelms us into not posting videos. The saturation in possibility creates procrastination. And we know that procrastination stands in the way of becoming our best selves. So we instead make decisions by impulse and excuse: I’ll do it tomorrow. I’ll start when I get my new camera, or when I’m less tired.
Note that there is a line between wholly burnt out and not being disciplined.
Simplification and prioritisation work the best in this case of “analysis by paralysis”.
In our minds, we think a YouTube video or piece of writing is a heavy lift. But, it doesn’t have to be.
We need to think:
Get a video out there:
- Make the video good enough
- Improve for the next time
When it comes to a video:
- Bullet point a script
- Use the camera phone and hit record
Furthermore, to break down editing:
Assemble the A-cut B-roll Music Titles (this is optional) Sound effects (this is optional)
When it comes to writing:
- Bullet point ideas
- Fill in bullet points and write without hitting delete
We need to break it down to its most minor actionable step. Then focus on what gives us the most return for our effort. There is no point focus on things that take hours and only give us marginal returns.
Battling the internal critical
In our minds, there is a duality of dialogue. Within ourselves, we have both the good and the bad. We hold our deepest darkest secrets and shame. All this goes on, usually out of sight from the public eye.
It’s the opposite for those around us. We never see their negative dialogue — most of the time. Most of the time, what we see is a positive project of themselves.
Depending on how we speak to ourselves, the visibility of our negative thoughts and negative perception of ourselves and the lack of negative perception of others births the internal critic.
And nearly everyone is their own worst critic.
This internal critic is detrimental in two ways. First, it kills the creative process. It’s hard to even get words on paper. You sit down. The negativity arises, and then you click off to do something else — procrastination.
Second, it stops you at the completed project stage. We get stuck on the small details that don’t matter to another person.
It’s OK to have standards and be in appreciation of what you have crafted. But realise when that internal critic has sounded out its ugly song. Sometimes you are agonising over something small and unnoticeable. Go ahead and publish. You have your permission. (Most of) Your Friends do NOT care
Realising your friends don’t care is both depressing and liberating. Depressing. Your soul is in the work — nothing but silence from your friends and family, or maybe, an obligatory admiration.
Unfortunately, they don’t care (well, most of them don’t). But it is also fortunate that they don’t too. And that’s liberating.
A lot of what we do is dictated by our peers. After all, you are the five people you spend your time with the most. So much of what we don’t do but want to do is dictated by the fear of judgement and rejection we think we will receive from our peer group. This fear paralyses us. What will they think? But we’ve established that they aren’t as invested as you.
Now, you have the freedom to express your craft. Heck! Even use your friends and family as the inspiration for your work. Do something lovely? Claim it as your own. Do something nasty? First, be nice about it. Second but give a humourous caricatured rant about it in front of your true audience. I’m sure your friend won’t mind (or even know).
That’s another permission to hit publish. Slowly, your audience of genuine fans will build up. And for the lovely friends who do care, they can act as another source of your inspiration.
A Fixed Mindset
I liked to think YouTube is like a crush you had. No matter how hard you try, they ain’t gonna love you back.
I also thought that some people had “it” and some people didn’t. They had that persona to attract an audience in front of a camera. We live in a fixed destination.
When I was in high school, I was obsessed with getting good grades. One of the subjects that I struggled with was English. To get better at a subject, I would study that subject more. It worked with Mathematics.
Would the same apply to essay writing? So I wrote more essays. I would practice essays and hand them to my teacher for assessment.
The amount of work I put in was disproportionate to my peers, yet my peers did better. Then, I had the first bitter truth of my youth: some people have the skill to write good essays, and some don’t. Though it was never said, it was implied: I wasn’t one of them.
The realisation crushed my spirit.
Thankfully, this feeling did fade away when my self-worth shifted away from grades and good essay writing.
A decade later and this past gremlin resurfaces. Are you born with it, or is it made?
Yes, we all have our talents. But, of course, we are better at some things and not others. But talent matters less in a world where we are rewarded for our diversity, our eccentricities, and our combined skills.
In this world, there is no segregation of the haves and have nots. In this world, we all have “it”. The truth is finding “it”. Through trial, failure, and maybe delusional chasing, we find our persona on the camera; we discover “it”.
We aren’t fixed in our ways by birth. Instead, we grow into the mould we desire.
Comparison is the Thief of Joy
We like to compare our current situation with someone else’s highlights, especially those who have “it”.
For those who inspire us, we rarely see their low points. We witness a distilled view of their achievement. We are happy for them. But when we look at ourselves we are bitterly disappointed.
Our disappointments aren’t filtered from us. We make the mistake of comparing our reality with someone else’s shiny mirror.
Jealous, envy and downplaying others achievements is easy to do. It’s even easy to give up altogether.
But how should we look through life? There is scarcity and then there is abundance. When life is scarce, we see others success as a loss for our own. The game is zero summed. Scarcity, you could say, is necessary for competition — survival of the fittest and progression of a species. But the pool to pick from for a potential audience is huge. It is abundant. There is plenty for everyone. Just because someone else is successful, means you can also be successful, by your own definition, too.
Now, it’s time to sit down, create, and constantly improve from who you were before.
It’s different to what you expected
I had a naive approach to YouTube and writing. If I had a good message, I would be successful.
Now, this is partly true. But we have to remember that YouTube is an entertainment platform first. If we’re based solely on content, then YouTube would be filled with black and white documentaries.
In YouTube, equally as important as the content of the video, is the thumbnail and the title. If a video has excellent content but a bad thumbnail and title, then nobody will click on it and therefore it will remain unwatched. This is the indirect approach we need to take to get our message out there.
After learning this, I thought we all had to make clickbait titles and thumbnails. Instead of having a grand message, it was all about creating false excitement — so I thought.
What we are doing is marketing our videos.
Marketing is evil if it is exploited. But marketing is also useful for customers to know what they are buying and to enable producers to sell to the right audience. Marketing is really a tool.
Humans aren’t rational thinkers. We need messages to speak to our feelings. This is why Shakespeare wrote plays and not essays about the human condition. He had to speak to our imagination so we could feel his themes and now his creations are remembered for centuries.
Rather than thinking, we are creating clickbait. We are creating click-worthy material. We are helping viewers find the right content. Even if we over sensationalise the video, viewers will realise the content does not match up with the thumbnail and title and will click away, hurting the video’s analytics.
So, don’t be discouraged if you aren’t as saintly as your first approach. Sometimes our black and white thinking isn’t always right (i.e. if it’s not good, it’s bad) rather think in shades of grey (i.e. a good thumbnail will make my videos more enticing, helping and not fooling the viewer).
Our ideal self is to produce content that makes us proud and to do so consistently. Usually, this stays as a dream because we have certain mental barriers in place.
If we do find ourselves in a rut we need to:
- We need to prioritise and break down the process if we are overthinking it.
- Silence our internal critic, because our own negative thoughts stop us from creating and publishing.
- Realising our friend may not care is good because we can post without judgement.
- Adopting a growth mindset prevents us from falling into the trap of thinking we have to be born with “it”.
- Comparing ourselves to our former selves rather than others’ highlight reels keeps us motivated.
- Finally, the techniques we use aren’t there to fool people but are to serve the purpose of helping viewers connect with our content.
Thank you for reading this article. I’m hoping this helps you out on your creative journey.