Yesterday Note to Self’s Manoush Zomorodi posed the question, “What happens to the videos no one watches?”
Why is it so hard for creators to break through the noise? Why are there so many raw products of creation out there that go completely unnoticed?
It is very hard, and very lonely, to be a creator. All we want, as artists, is to make things. I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel right when I’m not creating something. I am energized by transforming ideas into things, which is why I spend a little time each morning creating posts for you. There are two halves of creating that make it a fulfilling experience: creating to keep ourselves sane, and creating to share something we believe is truly valuable with an audience.
But … what if you don’t have an audience? What if you’re doing all this work, and no one is watching? Even if you love it – and if you’re working as hard as you are, let’s hope you do – this is still discouraging.
I’ve spent a lot of the past year struggling with this belief that I’m going to be stuck in this stage of creation forever. It has made writing very difficult. I am human: there will always be that small part of me that hopes someday someone will at least acknowledge that I’m doing this thing and I’m working hard. Even if someone doesn’t like what you do, a “good job” every once in awhile just feels good.
But maybe this really hard place, this really lonely and discouraging state of throwing your work out there hoping someone will catch it, isn’t so bad. Maybe it’s actually one of the best times of our lives.
When no one is watching you, there is no one around to judge you for figuring out what you are supposed to be doing. I have a YouTube channel. It is super boring and lacks an audience, and that’s totally okay with me. I don’t mind. The channel is slowly transitioning into something new, and I think the only reason I am able to do that is because there isn’t anyone out there going, “Hey, what are you doing? This isn’t what you normally do.”
Take this blog, for example. Changes are coming here, too, but they’re going to take time. I can’t just one day throw a whole bunch of new things at you, because people don’t like that. They like to know change is coming and they like to get little bits and pieces of it one at a time before a complete transformation. Because you’re out there, reading (thank you for that, I mean it), I’m not as free to experiment as I might normally be. Technically, I can do whatever I want. But I put my audience first, because I respect and appreciate you. If no one was reading, that would be different.
As a creator – a writer, a vlogger, a musician, whatever you are – you have to try a lot of different things to figure out what you do and don’t like doing. You have to find a balance between doing what you are good at and doing what you love. That can take time. We have to go through this awful period of creating for an invisible audience. Because eventually, we’ll figure out what we’re supposed to be doing, and we’ll keep doing it. It will catch on, we’ll be confident enough to promote it and ask people to come along for the ride, and an audience will show up. No matter the size. They will appear. And they will most likely stick around.
Not being paid attention to is one of the hardest things about being a creator. But be patient. Dare to experiment. Create what you like to create, and don’t worry about whether or not other people will like it. Sometimes, just the fact that you are passionate about something draws people to you. Enthusiasm can go a long way. Build up your confidence while no one’s watching, so when they do, you can give them something worth the wait.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.
Image courtesy of Hank Green.