Making Content for Yourself
Kate Lindsay wrote a piece on Embedded about making content for yourself and how it is more authentic than most content out there today.
In it, she spoke about scrolling on TikTok and finding several videos where she was among the first person to watch a video posted.
What I thought was profound was instead of Kate immediately dismissing the videos due to them being unpopular, she zoomed out on her focus and went a different way with it. Instead of vilifying someone for making something literally no one was watching, she instead found a shimmering light in what others might see as darkness.
[T]he more I’ve been writing about how social media has changed over the past few years—the transition from social media to performance media—the more I’ve become convinced that content created for essentially no one is a more authentic snapshot of the human experience than anything that ends up boosted by TikTok onto For You Pages.
Not only do I agree with the sentiment here, but it is also something that I am trying to do here with Clicked. Having something that you make for yourself, regardless if others enjoy it, is an admirable goal. Admittedly it isn’t always easy.
As a recovering defeatist, it is hard to qualify your work as something that is worth other people’s time (and money). Too often, I have had a thought or an idea for something I wanted to make but didn’t because I deemed it as shit. Whether that was making designs for stickers and clothing to sell, a newsletter, a YouTube channel, a screenplay, or anything creative for that matter, I couldn’t deem any of them as fulfilling to others. I worried about how everyone else might react to it. So instead of even trying, I decided that it was just pointless because no one would care, so why bother exerting that energy when nothing would come of it? This is emphatically a bad take for anyone that is even a little creative.
In fact, a lot of those kinds of thoughts are just bad in general, with or without a creative project attached. It’s like saying that there is no need to care for your teeth because you don’t smile. Sure, you can hide your teeth, but they are vital to your well-being, and not caring for them can cause some serious problems beyond just a cavity if you ignore them for long enough.
Greg Morris recently wrote about his writing as well, and his words often cut me like a sharp blade. Hell, sometimes I feel like he is talking directly to me even though I know he isn’t.
Many of the people I follow seem to struggle with either wanting to write more and not having a subject, or pigeonhole themselves to a point they feel trapped. The truth is, I often start typing away intending to publish something without even a topic in mind. The tactile feedback from my keyboard is enough to keep my happy for a little while.
I don’t have ‘a thing’. There isn’t one area that motivates me to write about it, there is just me. I think that is the reason that my posts meander around some topics, but rarely stay still. There’s some tech, some personal things, some really random posts, but mostly it is just what is going on in my head.
A lesson to be learned here is just make something you want, fuck everyone else and worry about what you want to make. If someone else likes what you put out into the world, then that’s wonderful, but it isn’t the main goal. As the great Steven Pressfield says, “[w]e must do our work for its own sake, not for fortune or attention or applause.”
How to ignore the naysayers in your head
There is a reason every creator you love has said something along the lines of “make something for yourself, not for others.” They aren’t just saying this to gain points for being motivational; it is because literally no one but you will give a shit when you start, so you might as well make something that you can hang your hat on. Otherwise, you won’t have anyone admiring what you made.
If you know someone that is in a rut creatively, never tell them to “just make something.” That’s like telling a depressed person to “just be happy.” It’s insulting and unhelpful at best and damaging at worst. Instead, try to be more granular and actively listen to them when talking to you about a problem they are having. Be the springboard they need, or at least allow them to talk to you about it for a bit. Even as little as 10 minutes can help someone feel less stuck with their creativity. What you might see as a simple conversation might mean the world to the other person dealing with negative thoughts in their head all the time.
I have noticed that finding others that allow me to elaborate my hangups to them is a fast and easy way for me to untangle my thoughts. That untangling then gave me clearance to taxi onto the proverbial runway. To peek behind the curtain a little more, this is also why I am writing this post.
If you don’t have someone to be a springboard with, try writing out the problems and thoughts you are having when in your creative rut and see if you are able to see a pattern.
For instance, if you find yourself always talking about other people and what they might think of your work, you might want to ask yourself why you want to make something in the first place. If you think that none of your ideas are good enough to be consumed, you can still make it and decide not to share it. Dan Harmon’s advice for writer’s block has been a huge help for me which is, “prove you are a bad writer. You are trying to prove you are a good writer; that is what’s blocking you.”
In short, dig deeper into what is causing these negative feelings and thoughts toward your work, and see what might be causing it. Similarly, if you know someone in a creative rut, be the olive branch they might need and allow them to share their ideas and work with you.