“I don’t even know where to start…” — A friend
I was on FaceTime the other day when my friend said that to me. This friend is recently unemployed because of the world circumstances and has begun to look into content creation as something he can do in his free time. This friend loves to write but struggles to know what to write. For my friend, he found himself looking at a blank piece of paper with endless possibilities and was paralyzed by that.
For me, it used to be the same way. I started writing on Medium in 2016, was blogging on sites like Wordpress as early as 2011, but it wasn’t until 2019 when I would discover my voice as a writer and what I wanted to write. I remember a moment in 2017, where I sat in a coffee shop after not blogging for months with a blank document open on my computer, struggling to know what to write. I arrived at that coffee shop at eleven, left at six with nothing written.
For many people, I believe that is the struggle right now. Many people want to write or create videos or start a podcast; however, they have no idea where to start. They find there minds racing at the endless possibilities or struggling to come up with an idea and end up just wasting eight hours staring at a computer screen.
One of my favorite creators on the internet is Gary Vee, and if you have ever heard of Gary, you know that he will tell you that you should be making 100 pieces of content every day.
That is an easy thing for you to say when you found out what kind of content you want to be creating. Yet, for the person who hasn’t found out what they want to create this is terrible advice. The first step for anyone right now who is wanting to become some form of content creator isn’t to just start creating, but it is discovering what you want to create.
It’s discovering your personal narrative.
Harnessing Your Personal Narrative
At the heart of every person is a story, whether they know it or not. The story at the center of a person’s heart is often the driving force for everything they do. One thing that I believe is happening right now amid this season is that many people are learning just how discontent they are with certain aspects of their lives.
Amid this discontent, people have begun to ask themselves questions about what they want out of life and what they want their stories to look like. Some people are discovering for the first time that they have a story to tell. However, for some people, they are blinded by insecurity. They are insecure that they aren’t good enough to create content or that no one will listen to what they have to say. However, we are doing ourselves a disservice when we don’t share the story that is on our hearts. Each person has a story that is itching to get out. And that story is worth sharing, despite what other people might say or what your insecurity around sharing might be.
Each person has a story or a narrative and that narrative is worth sharing.
What do you want?
I sat across from a mentor of mine when I first heard that question. This question would challenge my perspective and lead to me discovering the driving force behind everything I do. He simply asked me, “what do you want?”. I know nothing groundbreaking about this question, but when you dig deep into it, you realize it can have a profound personal impact on your life.
For many of us, we have been trained to believe that aggressively going after what we want is a bad thing. And while sometimes it is, even a lousy want is still usually a motive for people. It drives their action or even inaction. If you want to make money and pay off debt, that could motivate you to work a second job. If you want to ask someone out but are scared of their response, that will motivate you to do nothing. Our wants drive us and are the things that motivate us.
This includes when we start creating content. When I first launched my podcast back in 2018, it was because I wanted to start a podcast. I had listened to podcasts for a few years, bought myself a Blue Yeti Microphone back in 2017, and pondered daily what it would be like to start a podcast. This lead to me finally starting my podcast simply because I loved podcasts and wanted one. What I wanted ended up driving me to the kind of content that would be meaningful for me to create. When I stopped letting insecurity motive me and let my dreams motivate me, I was able to move forward.
For you to move forward with content creation you need to find out what you want out of life and you must not let insecurity hold you back.
Behind Every Good Story? Motivation
At the heart of every story is a character’s motive. In Star Wars Luke’s first motive is to leave home and join the rebellion. Later on, his motive shifts into becoming a Jedi Knight. Then it shifts again towards training the next generation of Jedi and so on and so on.
What makes Star Wars a compelling story for many is they find themselves passionate about the motivation of the characters. Take any story you love, and you will find that the thing that draws you to a character every-time is their motivation. Learning what drives them and watching how they will achieve their goal.
You have a driving motive in your life. Maybe your current driving motive is earning more money, or perhaps it’s getting the attention of that person you like. Perhaps it’s climbing towards more recognition for what you are good at.
For every good and bad action in your life, there is a motive behind it that drives your reasoning and action.
Motivations shift over time.
We also learn that motivations shift over time. As life happens for young Skywalker, we see him learn and grow, and thus, his desires over time change as he ages and experiences life. The same is said for every person. As we grow over time, we find ourselves having different priorities, and then we did before. We find ourselves changing what we once wanted to go after and redirecting our course.
For example, when I was a child, my primary motivation was how can I spend more time playing video games. As a teenager, it was how can I make more money to have fun with my friends. When I became an adult, it was first graduating college, then getting an awesome internship, and then getting a great job. Now my motivation in life is to create meaningful content that resonates with people. These changes in motivation happened not because, as I experienced growth, my priorities and things that I held dear changed. The same is for you as you grow and go through life.
As life happens our motivations shift.
Find Your “Why?”
And while it’s easy to understand those two points, I can also tell you that I have interacted with numerous people who have a story on their hearts that they want to tell but struggle to be able to tell it compellingly. And a majority of the time, this happens is because they lack an understanding of their real motivation.
If you want to share your narrative and create content, then you need to answer the “why?” question. Take a look at any of your favorite content creators on the internet. What draws you to them? What brings massive amounts of people to various content creators is the fact that they create compelling and engaging content that they love to make.
In your pursuit of discovering your “why?”, here are three things that I have found that help me.
1.) Experimentation is key.
I started a YouTube channel recently. As of writing this, I am only a few videos in and am seeking to uncover what kind of content that I am going to be passionate about creating. The other day in my pursuit of learning what type of content I wanted to create, I wrote, shot, and edited a ten min video that I am never going to release. Why? Because I felt how inauthentic I was in the video. I watched it and hated it, not because it was bad per se, but because I wasn’t passionate about it. And you could tell in the video that I wasn’t excited about the content I had created.
When you are just starting, and even when you become more established, you have to be willing to experiment always. For example, I have hosted a podcast for two years called Coffee With Craft. And this podcast has gone through several changes and is even going through one right now as I work on an overall rebranding of my content for the fall. Experimentation is part of the process of discovering your motivation and allowing them to shift over time. The more you experiment and try different forms of content, the more you are going to find out what you love to create vs. what you hate creating.
2.) Ask for criticism.
The hardest part of the creative process is asking for and receiving criticism. When you create something near and dear to your heart, you don’t want people to “hate” on it. As creators, we can fall into this trap where we tie our self-worth or our entire identity into what we are creating. To allow our content to become even better, however, we have to separate ourselves from that and allow people to speak into it.
However, if you want to grow in your ability to create engaging content and to share your personal narrative, then you have to be open to criticism from trusted sources and even outside sources that can help you get better. I have quite a few people in my life who I embrace criticism from regularly. I will send these trusted sources projects early and get their opinions on them. They are the ones who help me make sure that I am staying true to myself and not just creating content that I enjoy making or content that will only get me clicks. Their help allows me to push forward at making engaging content.
3.) Learn to love failing.
I had a post of mine that I wrote for a publication on Medium that I usually publish in get rejected recently. This was the first time in a long time that I failed to get an article published in a publication. At first, I was frustrated with them and wanted to blame them.
Then I took a step back.
After I took a step back and analyzed their response for rejecting my publication, I learned that there were a few things in that post that I needed to work on and correct. It is currently sitting in my drafts as I flesh out the idea even more with hopes that I will be able to publish it with them soon.
When you are new to something, you learn to fail a lot and get back up and try again. It’s part of the process when you are creating. I first started publishing on Medium back in 2016. I didn’t begin publishing consistently until 2018, and in 2019 I began to earn money and begin to grow my following. I remember back in September of 2019, and I was only at 50 followers. By the end of the month, after working hard, I had grown to 170 and had my highest earning month on the platform ( a whole $50!). I remember being excited that I was growing as a writer and starting to build an audience. But, in those few months, there were a ton of wins, like being published in fantastic publications with large audiences, connecting with other writers and growing my network, and getting paid for my work.
Yet, in the process, I almost forgot what it was like to grind for what you want to achieve. Most of the time, people let a little success or one failure get in their heads, and that pushes them to become arrogant or insecure. The reality is we need to live in a happy medium where we love the failure just as much as we love success because both can push us to become a better content creator.
As you discover your “why?” I want you to share boldly. I want you to share about your failures, successes, the things you’ve loved creating, and the things you didn’t. What makes a story genuinely compelling for people outside of the motivation is an invitation. When we choose to share boldly, we allow others to be a participant in our story and interact with what we are creating. We, in turn, interact with them and engage them. We do this by replying to comments and DMs and answering questions or polls on Instagram. The occasional live show or IG Live where we interact with those that are commenting.
In this journey of discovering your motivation being honest about them will open up a new level of authenticity with our audiences that allows them to see our real intent behind creating content. Every content creator is creating for a purpose. For some, that purpose is money, fame, or just attention. For others, its share in a passion or just to have fun. For me, it’s all about creating meaningful conversations around the things that matter most in life.
What’s your “why?” for creating content?