Making Connections

So the next obvious question is: as a content-creator, how do you create connections?

If you wanted to make friends, what would you do? Would you wall yourself off? Wear the same smelly clothes everyday? Show hostility towards everyone and everything? OR, would you put the best, most inviting version of yourself out there for all the world to see? Likely the second option, right?

Next: If I tell you some facts and figures, you wouldn’t care — and even if you did, you’d soon forget. But what really sticks, are stories. You need to weave narratives into the minds of your audience. If you analyze the content we consume, it’s mostly filler, simple stuff that takes up time — so it’s not the actual material that matters so much as the way it’s wrapped.

Third: Not any boring story will do, it must evoke emotion. Get the audience to feel and they’ll follow you on whatever yarn you unravel. No one really cares about the exact time you entered a building, they want to feel the urgency and apprehension of the moment your sweat-soaked hand touches the almost-menacing door-handle. Think roller-coaster, not museum-tour.

Now, if you can forgive a slight interruption, I was just pausing to think about how much I appreciate you for reading this. Someone recently asked me what I wanted for Christmas this year, and all I could think about was you: an audience of my very own. Yeah it’s corny, I know. But really, it warms my heart to think about your presence as my presents. Number four: appreciate your audience.

Five: You gotta want it. For example, I don’t want to make pie, my heart’s not into it — so if I do make pie and I’m faced with challenges along the way, I’m probably going to cut corners and not care too much about the final product. Whereas I do want to eat pie (apple or even toffee-pecan) — and I’ll easily eat a third or even half in a single sitting. So, is creating connections your focus? Are you terrified or thrilled by the aspect of connecting with your audience?

To sum it up: Welcome people into a well-kept space. Tell them stories that stir their emotions. Appreciate them, they’re not mere stepping-stones to fame and fortune — the connection IS the goal — content-creators are a dime-a-dozen, you need them more than they need you. The audience is your friend, and you have to go out of your way to make this one of the most important relationships in your life — be respectful and sincere.

Connect the Dots

In business, numbers matter — except when they don’t. I’ve watched nearly every episode of Shark Tank (I might’ve missed some from the first season). The investors will often say “numbers matter” and “You gotta know your numbers! Come on!” But in the next segment when another entrepreneur enters the tank, all of a sudden the Sharks change their tune: “Meh, numbers don’t matter, we’ll figure that stuff out as we go.” What’s the difference? If the investors feel a connection to the entrepreneur, they’ll bend and flex just to make the deal — whereas if the investors don’t feel a connection, they’ll come up with whatever excuses they can to turn the deal down.

It’s the same with writing: content is king, except when it isn’t. There’s thousands of things that can be written about and there’s an audience for each and every topic — so what? Well, text-books have plenty of content, yet people aren’t lining up to read them — it’s because they don’t create connections. It’s not the content, but the connection to the audience that counts. Popular writers cultivate long-standing connections with their readers. Readers don’t care about words, or else they’d have just as much fun reading a dictionary — what they crave are connections.

Likewise, I’ve seen hundreds of stand-up comedy sets, and it wasn’t the specific wording or jokes that mattered — it was a feeling of connection. Hearing jokes told by someone you don’t connect with, is like listening to a guy drone on about nonsense. Whereas if you really connect with a comedian, he can talk about anything and you’ll be entertained. If listening to jokes was what we wanted, we could watch an endless stream of comedians — yet we don’t, we pick a few favorites we connect with.

Similarly with videos on the Internet: why would anyone want to watch some random dude play a video-game for hours on end? The answer? They wouldn’t — but viewers DO want to hang out with a virtual-buddy that’s having a fun time. It’s not about the content, but the connection. It’s the same with songs and lyrics, a song is great only when we connect to it, otherwise it’s: “how can anyone listen to this garbage!”.

Therefore, the actual job of content-creators is to create connections — they just happen to use the medium of content (stories, jokes, videos, music, etc.) to do so. So if you sit there trying to create the best content possible but no one consumes it, it’s as if that content doesn’t even exist. You as a creator want and NEED to connect. To be fulfilled, an artist requires recognition, the feeling that some segment of the world understands and appreciates your work. And it all begins with what? Connection.

Wanted: Writer

Today, I declare myself a professional writer. Whew! That wasn’t so hard was it? But what’s it mean? It means I’ve selected a particular path — and the steps I take upon it, will one-by-one take me to a specific end. From a quick analysis, there seems to be three major components to complete along this path.

The first component is content. I can’t be a writer if there’s nothing to write, right? But the reason I chose this path is because I’ve already proven to myself I can generate a constant stream of content that I enjoy writing. Might it need some fit and finish? Sure, but the raw material is there.

The second component is connecting with an audience. I’ve so-far neglected this aspect big-time, so it’ll be my focus for now. My writing has primarily been a personal-diary approach, so I have to transition to a style that’s more inclusive of others. That’s my challenge, and I’m up for it. The third component is generating revenue. But really, an audience makes this part possible, so it’ll remain on the back-burner until step-two comes to fruition.

So how does one connect with an audience? By wishing it so. In my extensive analysis of content-creators, this seems to be the underlying mechanism, the common-thread they all share. The formula is easy: by performing a particular act (e.g. writing), I intend to attract an audience. It’s my intention that’s key. Previously, I didn’t want an audience, I wasn’t prepared to handle it — now it’s my wish.

“Come on, is it that easy?” THAT EASY!!? Why you little..!! Do you realize how much preparation I put into NOT being scared of an audience. Psh, “that easy”. And don’t forget I also had to prove to myself that I could create worthwhile content. It took over six years for me to accept it — over 1400 entries within this blog serve as the proof I required. Wishing and truly believing in your wish is not an easy thing to do. But wishes are where dreams begin.

Creating Connections

As mentioned previously, I’m in the process of turning my writing hobby into a career. Mind you, I don’t need to do this, I want to do this. I’m getting older and want the accoutrements of a career. After six years of writing this blog, I’ve proven my ability to generate a constant stream of content — so I’m all set in that regard. The missing ingredient, the part I’ve been avoiding, is connecting with an audience.

I’ve been writing to an audience of one: me. In essence, this has been a personal diary, entries were succinct and ideas were dense — everything tightly packed and difficult to digest unless you brought a whole lot of understanding to the table. So congratulations if you’re a regular reader — you’re an impressive individual. But from this point forward, I must broaden the appeal of my writing, stop the self-centered approach, and actually think about others while I write.

Hmm… deep breath. Aha, see! Right there! I found a weakness! It’s you. I default to fearing you. I suppose it IS tough to write while considering that people will read what I write or even worse: respond! Luckily, I’m up for the challenge. If that’s what it takes, then that’s what I’ll do. I no longer believe in a dangerous world that’s hell-bent on my destruction, so I no longer believe that every audience is a sadistic horde attempting to tear-down content-creators in order to shatter their self-esteem.

In fact, in my analysis of content-creators, I’ve often seen them lovingly refer to their audience. “This is OUR success, and none of this would be possible without YOU.” There’s a mutual respect, a bond, and a shared goal of lifting each other up. It’s a family of sorts. And sometimes Uncle Steve gets a little tipsy and yells profanities in the comment section, but so what, no big deal — we compose ourselves and move on to bigger and better things.

And that bigger and better thing is THIS. Connection. In a sense, the content doesn’t matter, it’s simply an excuse to connect. “So what are we doing Saturday night guys!? — Movies? A party? Go bowling? Eat at a restaurant? Karaoke?” No matter what it is, it boils down to meeting-up simply to hang out. And that’s what content-creators facilitate whether they’re blogging about food or fashion, whether they’re live-streaming a video-game or vlogging — it’s all an opportunity to connect.

No Whammies

I have that common conundrum of trying to figure out just who I am. The simplistic answer is: just be yourself and react naturally to life’s stimuli as stuff continually parades before you. But the problem with “being myself”, is that I very easily assume the role of a pessimistic hater, regularly predicting disaster and criticizing everything. That guy lives in a hopeless world where everything sucks — yuck. Because I don’t like the results of that attitude, I had to develop mindfulness, an awareness of what I was thinking and saying — so now when I catch myself being “that guy”, I stop.

But if I cut out a major portion of my personality, what am I left with? Who am I? I was very much motivated by fear, now what am I supposed to be driven by? I’m not sure what my ambitions are. I do have some ideas of how I’d like to live but I have no inspiration for how to proceed. It feels like I’m hanging out in a waiting room, in line to collect my lottery winnings — I know all the stuff I want to buy and the things I’d do with my time, but I’m just waiting for the check. A path by which I perform some physical act to attain those things isn’t appearing in my imagination.

So as I sit, I’m keeping busy, engaging in some hobbies with the limited resources I have. For instance, I’ve spent the last couple months building some small wood working projects and buying some relatively inexpensive tools. Beyond that, I browse real estate sites, shop for the things I’d buy when the money rolls in, and make “vision boards”. If you told me ten years ago that I’d be making a vision-board, I’d’ve called you an idiot. Now I’m “that guy” who dreams of ideal days and creates slide-show-based vision-boards of where I want to live.

I wouldn’t mind winning the actual lottery. I want to win the Lucky for Life lottery so I can tell people my job is “breathing”. The longer I live, the more I’m paid. I used to say, “there’s no reward for longevity” — now there really would be. That amuses me. Some people need assigned activities to keep busy — not me though. I’ve always been about autodidacticism and entertaining myself. It takes a certain personality to be able to live a life of leisure. My friend is quite capable of living a life-of-leisure too which is why we live in a mobile-home in a trailer-park I suppose.

But you know who wins the lottery? Trailer-park folk, that’s who. We’re just fulfilling the prophesy. “Oh, Patron Saint of the Lottery, I have fulfilled thy covenant by residing within the sacred single-wide. Now I pray thee to grant me thine fruits of triple cherries. Let thy coinage flow from thine silver vomiting orifice. May my pockets be ever widening as I humbly accept the gift I do not deserve yet receive with abundant appreciation. And may all who request such luck receive the jackpot they so desire.” I don’t consider myself lucky, perhaps I’ve just been saving it all for this one moment.

Hm, this feels like a Saturday post. Checking calendar… yep. I always write the strangest posts on Saturdays….

Labor Day

An excerpt from the fictional tales of The Haphazard Historian.

Imagine that there are some people willing to enslave other people for their own gain. Well in fact no imagination is necessary, as we can browse the pages of history (or even current events) to know this to be the case. So we know people can, and will, exploit their fellow man for mere economic advantage.

We know there are some that would do all they can to get as close to slave-like conditions as possible, just to get a bit more. This being the case, what protects workers from such unrepentant greed? What protects those with little-power from hungry wolves waiting to feast?

Answer: the power of the herd, an unshakable union of fellow workers. Without this solidarity, workers are picked off one-by-one as each individual stays silent, threatened by the knowledge that he’ll be next should he utter complaint. Only as a solid whole, a single voice, can these workers hope to overcome the power of greed.

And so, this is the day we set aside as reminder of that ongoing struggle against greed. A greed so nefarious that man would kidnap his fellow man and force his labor, that man would employ children in perilous industry, that man would continuously shave as much as mathematically possible from wages — ever attempting to reach zero.

But it is not this selfishness we must focus on today, it is the unity that opposes it. Throughout history, the bulk of mankind has only ever shown a desire to pitch in, to contribute to community. He wants to work and do right by his neighbor. It is with this spirit, that mankind often bands together whenever foxes attempt to divvy him up.

As a collection of individuals, mankind can be divided. And, it often requires a bit of prodding before the sleeping giant of solidarity awakens to the threat of dismemberment. But in due time, and after much strain, he does wake, and those that dared divide him meet their end.

As workers ourselves, it is our duty to keep an open ear for this call to solidarity — for it is in our best interest, and the interest of industry itself. Fruitful commerce requires a fruitful workforce who in turn become prosperous customers. Industry itself is not the enemy, there’s simply some greed that needs weeding out. And we must all be on the lookout.

Well-crafted Elle

elle-office

This is a picture of my darling wife Elle in her new office. It’s a small walk-in closet with a folding-chair and a folding-tray for the desk. I am documenting her meager beginnings as an Internet-influencer and entrepreneur.

In but a brief time for instance, she amassed over 25,000 followers on Instagram by posting beautiful pictures of the local landscape. She really has quite the eye for photography. The lens through which she sees the world can be a rosy one, and she’s able to capture this view in her photos.

Unfortunately though, she stopped caring about that account and moved onto something new. It was either playing Seabeard or watching The Great British Bakeoff, I’m not sure which distraction it was this time. That’s the trouble you see, her talent erupts like a mighty volcano spewing bright magma in all directions, causing heads to turn and stare, only to fizzle-out as the lava quickly cools into motionless mud-like glops stuck to the side of a once shapely mountain.

Sometimes she’ll chastise me for my lack of success. I think she’s just angry at herself and takes it out on me though. I don’t really care about my own success, I’m not very competitive nor do I have much drive to prove myself. But in an attempt to please her, I try to do things that might lead to success — although they usually don’t amount to much.

Even if I was successful, I don’t think she’d be satisfied until she found her own creative outlet. I, on the other hand, can be satisfied just sitting in a small room all day. One day I imagine she’ll find her niche and success will come pouring in. I see myself as part of her support system, keeping things well-balanced.

She’ll often get in moods where she imagines burning bridges to all pre-existing relationships, ours included, but I suppose that’s part of her artist’s temperament (it’s actually PMS, but she hates when I mention that). Her creativity does tend to follow a monthly cycle by the way. Spurts of motivation in the beginning until an eventual crash at the end followed by a month of rest and distraction.

I write all this, dear diary, because sometimes it’s tough to be criticized for days at a time by a loved one. Of course I try to tell her all the tips and tricks of happiness, many I learned from her, but they are of no use to someone in a mischievous mood. So around and around we go, the sun rises and the sun sets. The cycle continues, spring follows winter and sure enough bloom-time will come again.