With us recently passing the 1-year anniversary of when I shared my first YouTube video with the world, I’ve been thinking more and more about my creativity, my motivations, my long-term goals and short-term plans. So many things have changed since November 2016, in such unexpected and fundamental ways, and throughout it all I have struggled more and more to create.
This ranges from when I tried but did not complete Video Every Day in May, to my attempts at full-time job finding, to when I tried to stick to a consistent YouTube schedule, to when I failed at NaNoWriMo. The year has been one of great ambition, of great plans for the future, but of less realization than I would’ve liked. Ultimately, I think I still did okay, and that I have laid the groundworks for a much greater creative output in 2018.
For the past six months especially, I have felt unhinged. Some of you might recognize this feeling. Whenever there is a time of great change in my life, I find myself gradually withdrawing until I end up in a strange, stagnant state, unable to create and unable to motivate myself to create.
That’s when you need a little outside inspiration.
Last night I attended a Vlogging 101 Workshop hosted by the Edinburgh Blogger Conference. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I booked my ticket, but felt that this might be an excellent chance to meet some locals who are interested in YouTube and, what do we call it? Oh yes. Network.
In the end I enjoyed myself greatly and ended up learning more than I expected. I finally understood the correct “External Linking Protocol” for YouTube video descriptions, which has previously baffled me greatly. I also felt reaffirmed that, while my channel has so far not achieved the significant growth I maybe hoped for when I started, I am still doing things right, I am on the right track and everything great is still to come. I was encouraged to think about my target audience, who they actually are vs. who I want them to be, and how I might create videos targeted at them.
Sometimes you are privy to a great experience, and that is acting on instinct and later finding out that your instinct was completely accurate. A big point was made that we should worry less about constantly attracting a new audience, and rather make sure to take care of our existing audience. One of the ways for this is to reply to every comment, to strike up a conversation and to encourage engagement as much as possible. I do that, and while I still slip up occasionally, at least with comments I feel that I am on top of my game.
We also discussed things like the 7 second rule (the first 7 seconds of your video are crucial for drawing in your viewer) and the importance of a great thumbnail, both of which are areas I still need help in. I need to make a point to plan for my thumbnails more, since I frequently find myself unable to find a nice still shot of my face in my video or the picture I choose for a thumbnail is not majorly relevant to the video’s content.
When some questions were asked about how to feel more comfortable on camera or how to greet your audience enthusiastically, I enjoyed cringing along with WeeScottishLass, obviously in remembrance of those first few videos, which will always feel dreadful looking back. It made me realize just what a discovery process this past year on YouTube has been and how much I still have to learn.
Most importantly, it inspired me to continue. That was what I had hoped this workshop would achieve, and it delivered!
Since I made my “THIS IS THE PLAN” video in August, I have felt indescribably tied to what I discussed in that video. It felt like I had to stick to the plan, like I had to follow the order of that plan before I could start anything new. And so since August, I have been trying and failing to edit what was initially supposed to be 4-5 videos, then turned into 1 video, then expanded into 2 videos, and is now an uncertain 2.5 videos.
However, last night made me realize the futility of trying to do something I am not passionate about. These videos that I had wanted to bring out over the summer used to fill me with joy, with excitement, because they chronicle events I loved partaking in, and capture an intricate mood I still hope to communicate one day.
At the moment though, they bring me no joy. Whenever I think of all the editing work I still have to do, my stomach feels queasy, my brain shudders and my whole body cringes at the wave of guilt I experience. I have created a huge mental block in my brain, and I think only time and a little space will chip away at that block.
In the meantime, I want to create guilt-free again! Last night I was on the bus home and felt giddy at the prospect of making a video again! I want to explore other ideas that I have written down but forgotten about in the last few months, I want to just concentrate on having fun, on making videos I love, and on discovering my voice online.
This inspirational event has taken place at a good time, since I finally moved into my new flat this past weekend. I have all of my things back! My DVD’s! My books! Never underestimate the importance of knowing where your books are. Also, just as a side: don’t move into a third floor flat willy-nilly. Be aware that it will entail hours of lugging boxes up the stairs, of balancing lamp posts and picture frames and result in you limping for several days because your calves have decided to revolt. However, the pay-off is a lovely view and a great place to enjoy a cup of tea, so it’s not all bad ;)
So now that I have gushed appropriately about my new flat and this awesome event, it is time to leave you with some final thoughts.
Find your tether. What I mean by that is, find the conditions of your success. Think about phases where you have been consistently successful and happy with what you create, and note what conditions produce your best work. It is always possible to create, but I believe your best work can only be accomplished under your personal best conditions.
For me, as I have learnt, my tether includes a certain amount of stability. It includes a place I can be alone in, my own bathroom (yes, I am serious), a room with a view (heh), control over my belongings and a probably greater-than-average amount of freedom. It includes me not living with my mother, a certain discipline in cutting off sources of entertainment when necessary, and a f*cking amazing cup of tea. Twining’s Lady Grey - you keep me going!
So here’s to my continued journey on YouTube, my expansion into other platforms (hopefully not into larger dress sizes) and to finding our tethers!