Today I’d like to start a series of posts where I examine some of my pet peeves when it comes to content creation. These posts will attempt to deconstruct bad habits and common mistakes I see made, as well as provide decent reasoning for thinking them a problem.
As a disclaimer:
This article is not based off of anyone specific, nor is it meant to be passive-aggressive. This is more to help explain my methodology when it comes to making content, and pass on some of the stuff I’ve had to learn the hard way.
I’ve been guilty of every point I’m about to write about in the past; all I can say is that I’ve come to view them as mistakes.
Part 1: Stop fishing for pre-feedback
Fishing for pre-feedback occurs when you make a post about something you’d like to do in the future with the intention of seeing if “anyone would read/watch it.”
Here’s the thing: asking that question hobbles you in a number of way that outweighs the focus group testing that you think you’re doing.
For starters, it makes you look like you aren’t confident in your own product. No matter what your level of success it, your direction should be your own. You should know whether something is going to be received well or not – if it’s something that won’t be, but you want to do it anyway, response should not dictate whether you take the plunge.
Putting what you do in the hands of random people on Twitter means you are sacrificing your identity to those who can be fickle, misguided or selfish. In short, you need to be doing this for you as much as you’re doing this for them, because the passion you bring to your project bleeds into it. Something created with interest and drive will turn out better than content that isn’t.
It also causes a problem where it creates expectation in the finished product. As many of us know, starting something new is a process of compromise: we have a vision in our heads, but sometimes you need to be able to change things as needed.
For example, if I asked my Twitter following if anyone would like the concept for BetterDota, there’s a good chance that some people would respond positively. However, if I over-promised and wasn’t able to deliver, people would remember.
Originally, BetterDota was going to be a lot more ambitious, and only telling a select few people of my idea allowed me to gauge interest and tweak it when I realized that five videos a week would be a little too much work.
Sometimes, privacy is project planning is liberating, because if you’re going to mess up or drastically alter an idea, doing it without people noticing allows you to lose fear associated with trying new things. It allows you to eventually launch your product with confidence, knowing it’s something that you can handle because you’ve set the terms and experimented.
In short: do something because you want to do it, not because other people are hyped for it. When you eventually do make your idea public, having something tangible to present rather than just an idea creates a much better first impression. I can tell you from experience: having someone ask what happened to a project you hyped up and then abandoned sucks.
Lastly, and perhaps most dangerously, when you fish for pre-feedback you run the risk of satisfying your ego to the point where the work never gets started.
Many writing teachers I’ve had fight over the idea of whether telling an audience about an idea is a good thing or a bad thing: on one hand, you become committed/responsible once that idea is in public, but on the other, your ego can get stroked enough to kill the drive to actually follow through. It’s important to remember that your audience always remembers being lied to: they will likely only stand this a couple times before calling you out on it.
You also owe it to yourself to knuckle down, create, and then release. You owe it to yourself to be consistent, improve yourself, and earn that praise. It builds resilience, habit, and an organic audience.
While your self-worth should never be determined by the amount of views or follows you get, your brand and progress are built with shipped products, not ideas. Ideas count for nothing if they don’t get made.
Part of building a brand and respect as a creator is doing the leg work, having a vision, putting something out there to getting torn apart, and then doing — like DJ Khaled says so eloquently — another one.
Working in eSports is a grind, and as gamers, we know that experience well. There is a lot of work that will never be seen by a larger audience, and you will rarely get a pat on the back for the time spent learning, experimenting and failing.
However, I can assure you that failing fast and failing often allows you to truly get a feel for your identity and what sets you apart from other content creators. It keeps you from becoming a copy of someone whose success you envy, but will never achieve yourself. It keeps you from becoming a meme machine Facebook Page that rips peoples’ stuff off for hits.
It builds a pride and confidence that allows you to stop caring about what other people think, which is more than a high school platitude: it is probably the single most important quality to have in terms of maintaining motivation, drive and mental health.
The grind makes you stronger. Seeing an idea you had take off is one of the best feelings in the world.
However, half-assing it (or let’s be real, not trying at all) means you’re admitting that you don’t deserve that success in the first place.
Get out there, put your head down, and work.
Matt Demers has written about eSports since 2012. You’ll be able to find another instalment in this series soon — and yes, it will get made. Follow him on Twitter.