Lessons to Learn

By Papa Akuffo for Curate Magazine Issue 1: Comebacks

Just over a year ago it became clear that Abb-d and I’s experiment in putting our opinions online had run it’s course — sometimes you just know when it’s time to reset and last year it was time.

We started All Things Appealing to learn something new. And that is exactly what we did. Back then ‘digital’ was the buzz word being attached to the future of anything creative — music, film, art, finger painting, anything. It was the latest wave of computers changing the way we did things (see: web 2.0, Peer to peer sharing, Nintendo Wii, etc.), but if you asked most people what it actually meant you would get slate-like blank.

ATA Beginnings Because we were feeling curious, Abb-d and I decided that the best way to really ‘get it’ was to launch a digital something of our own and see what happened. We launched ATA as an exercise sharing what we loved in scattergun fashion — aesthetically pleasing stuff? yep! AV pleasures? Of course! Unhealthy but excellent food? Standard! We weren’t going to change lives but we did learn about building a little community of people that like the same things as us.

Four years later — we’re both working in ‘digital’, and no longer just learning, but doing. And doing a lot, — meaning work was starting to get in the way. We wanted to make ATA great but we only had time to sustain it. So we put it on a hiatus which quickly became permanent. But with some actual experience behind us we knew we could do better. And here we are — with a new name, and a new approach.

But now we are starting again, we need to have a word with ourselves. Lots of lessons were learned over the past four years and if we want to return and be better there are few things we’ll need to remember:

There’s only so much interest people will have in something that’s already being discussed elsewhere.


Either be timely or timeless

When we started we were firmly focused on being on trend or even slightly ahead of it. We wanted to pick out the bestnew creative output that we found and spread the good word. That was fun but if you are not first on the scene your content’s sell by date is going to be short. There’s only so much interest people will have in something that’s already being discussed elsewhere. Also it turns out there are whole businesses that specialise in this, who knew (hi it’s nice that, and assorted peers).

…if we followed what everyone else does we would neverfeel like we are creating something we’re proud of.

We could compete there but we didn’t set out to recreatesomething that already exists. We said this time round wewanted to create something people would always wantcheck out. So we’re opting out of the race. We should aimto create stories and articles that will always be interesting –not just for the next two weeks.


It’s going to take longer than you think to create something good

Some people can take an idea, and seemingly by magic make something impressiveand amazing. Well, sorry fam, that’s not you. What you need is a little more time getit right. If you think it will take two hours to ‘bash out’ — give yourself four and a dayto edit it. Once your initial excitement has died down you’ll see whatever you havecreated for what it is — good or bad. The same applies to this curate project — it’sgoing to take time to get it right — we are going to try something, fail at some thingsand then iterate and learn. If we don’t do that we won’t win.

But, sometimes, experience and smarts means everything clicks and in the time ittakes to do your washing, your idea has gone from your mind to the page — so youknow, cross your fingers.

Great work and being tired go together like orange juice and milk.


Listen to everyone else, then do what your gut says

When we started to do this we were definitely following some well known sources of ‘cool’ stuffand using them to guide what we were creating andhow we created it. But somewhere along the line werealised that to be really interesting to the outsideworld we needed to create more that was originaland our own. We should still learn from the best.

Great work and being tired go together like orange juice and milk.

But if we followed what everyone else does we would never feel like we are creating something to be proud of. We know what we want to achieve and we should always aim for that no matter what. The thing that inspired us to start again was to create something that felt unique to us. We should stick to that (You can call that our vague mission statement).


You can’t do everything, so stop trying

This applies to both my life and professional projects. You can’t do everything you want, when you want, how you want — not without foreclosing on every relationship and friendship you have.

Between cleaning, working, family, friends, cleaning, and clickbait, time is like a Harper Lee novel — a precious rarity that may end in brutal disappointment. We have to spend our time doing something we actually love doing. So that means if that ‘fun’ task is a becoming a chore, we always ask ourselves why we should be doing it in the first place. Whats left when we start resenting the fun stuff?


Not making a decision is usually a crap decision

Whenever we (mostly me) dithered on what we were going to do with All Things Appealing it suffered — we either lost momentum or slipped out of our readers conscience. Excuse the ham-fisted metaphor but if assumption is the mother of all f*** ups then indecision is the grandparent that says things you know make them a bad person. Ignoring it is not going to make things better.

Not making a decision usually ends up awkward for everyone involved, people will be angry at you, you’ll be angry at yourself, things go off the rails. Take some responsibility, even if you fail you’ll still learn something, grow to be a better person, and save the world one decision at a time (ahem).


Get some sleep

Finally, a simple but effective lesson to remember. Great work and being tired go together like orange juice and milk.

When our brains are rested they obviously work like any particularly fine swiss swatch of the limited variety. When they are not, it’s closer to the aftermath of a party with a free bar — messy and non-productive.

If we are going to be great we should at least make it easier for ourselves. If get some sleep and we will feel ready to conquer the world, or in our case a small but excellent corner of the Internet.

By Papa Akuffo
For Curate Magazine Issue 1: Comebacks

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