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.

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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.

Down to Business

Okay, let’s get down to business folks. Career-stuff has vexed me my entire life. It’s time to turn that trend around. For too long I’ve thought of myself as a pawn, subject to the whims of Lady Luck. My thought pattern has been: “Well, I’m just waiting for a lucky break, then things will turn around. Any day now… [many years later…] Um, hello? Uh, well I suppose patience is a virtue after all…” Guess how that technique has been working out? Poorly, in every sense. It’s time to pivot to a new direction.

Lately, I’ve been paying attention to some content-creators. Not what they’re saying, but what’s going on underneath the surface. Fundamentally, their content is fleeting and futile in isolation. It’s the audience-member himself that turns content into something personally meaningful. For example, if I have you listen to a song I like, or sit you down to watch a funny video I like, you’ll probably just shrug. Content is a very personal matter and the consumer brings so much to the table.

Many content-creators are shocked that people like their work, and are often surprised at the specific aspects people enjoy, and are amazed at all the meaning ascribed to it. This means that a content-creator’s work exists beyond the creator. He or she is merely the conduit. In fact, you’ll often see a problem develop when a creator truly believes himself the source of his content, he develops a warped ego, gets anxious and paranoid about generating new content, and the content can get weird or dry up.

Okay, back to my personal situation. I started this blog about six and a half years ago and it’s been my creative focus ever since. I believe this means I qualify as a content-creator. And it’s true, I feel like a conduit for words that come from a place beyond myself. Thoughts appear in my head, I type them out, and publish them here. So what’s the problem? Well, the content I publish doesn’t have a significant readership and doesn’t generate any revenue. Oh.

It’s a hobby I’m passionate about, not a career. Whereas I’d prefer a career of some sort at this point in life. I’d like a satisfying answer to the question, “So what do you do?”. I’d like a reason to be busy and feel like a productive member of society. I’d like a source of income to buy all the trinkets and experiences I fancy — for myself and others. I’d like a reason for people to respect and admire me. I’d even like a reason to have a home-office and a desk.

And in a sense, I have a responsibility to distribute the content I’m provided. I shouldn’t feel awkward or self-conscious about it, it’s not really mine anyway, I’m the messenger. There’s an audience out there seeking content and I should accept that I’m a content-conduit. Fundamentally, I’m here to establish a relationship, a threesome if you will, a triumvirate, a trinity in fact — of creator, content, and consumer. So let’s get it done. “Hi my name is Rich, and I’ll be your server this evening!”

Ideal Imaginings 2018

I’m not very creative, so if I had to imagine an ideal life, it’ll be very simplistic. For whatever reason (I don’t care), there’s a large sum of money in my bank account. I refer to it as my fun-funds. I’d live exactly where I’m living now but spruce the place up a bit. New floors, more furniture, wall-decorations, nothing too extreme. New car obviously (Tesla?! hehe). I’d get an all new round of iDevices, Apple Watch, a laptop, some gaming consoles, and a TV.

One major figure in my life has always been Santa Claus, so I would like to be as Santa, giving well-thought-out gifts to folks I know. I’d also like to support online creators I happen across — perhaps through Patreon or whatever. I’ll go out to restaurants more and tip the staff well, maybe tack on an extra $50 at least. I’ll actually use the services of a florist and have fresh flowers for the house.

I’ll get into collecting too. Maybe hand-tools for one. Disney trading pins perhaps? Well, finding things to collect will be part of the fun. Oh and I’ll plan little get-aways to the Disney Resorts, we can walk right over to the Boulangerie-Patisserie from the Beach Club after a meal at Beaches & Cream for instance.

I’ll get an electric scooter (the cool kind) for scootin’ around town, just for some variety. And whenever new technology comes out, I’d be an early adopter. I’d probably have a prominent account on Amazon, leaving lots of reviews. I’ll be a positive guy too, not critical of life or its artifacts. People would just look at me oddly if I ever mentioned what a misanthropic pessimist I was, they couldn’t fathom it.

In many ways, the story of my life will be like A Christmas Carol, with me as the miser Ebenezer Scrooge. A changed, formerly dour fellow, that now has cheer in his heart and a giving spirit. “You there! Boy! What day is it!? Why, it’s not too late! I haven’t missed it!”. And those around me will feel blessed by my presence (and presents). And my own Tiny Jim will grow up to admire his dad and wanna be just like him. God bless us! Every one!

Spiritual End

Isn’t this blog just a bunch of naval-gazing? Shouldn’t I be concentrating on the experience of existence rather than simply contemplating it? Isn’t spirituality a means to an end, not an end in itself. To be here in the world is to live as an embodied being. After all, how did the Bhagavad Gita end? Arjuna didn’t don a robe and dedicate himself to God. Krishna successfully convinced Arjuna to stop his whining and get out there on the battlefield. As he said in the beginning: “Why such weakness in a time of war? Stand and fight!”

There’s a saying: “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” And what I take from that, is this. At some point along your spiritual journey, you have to drop it and get back to living life. You’ve been stopped at the rest-stop for awhile, you’ve refueled and refreshed, now get back out there! You can’t stand on the sidelines talking to God forever, that’s not what THIS is. THIS is earth, the realm of physical existence — do THAT.

And no offense, but you’re not a spiritual teacher. It’s not something that interests you. And the proof is in the pudding: no one cares — nor would you want them to. You care about new technology, culinary delights, entertaining shows and movies — I mean come on, you’re not a spiritual guy, that’s not you — you took this spiritual pitstop as a way to get back on your actual path — that’s all it is.

What wakes you up in the morning? Some spiritual endeavor? Service to others? Hell no! You’re excited by new technology. You stop and stare as Teslas roll past you in the street. Almost a decade ago, during a depressive episode, your spirits were kept high by the impending release of the second-gen MacBook Air (you actually drove with your friend to New Jersey to purchase it!). You don’t stare at nature with awe, you stare at those robotic creatures from Boston Dynamics with amazement. When your son asked you your superhero name, you thought: hmm, OM-Man, no, Enlighten-Man, no, Mr. Technology? — that’s a bingo! Would you prefer to see angels ascending into heaven or a Falcon 9 rocket launching and self-landing? You know damn well which one you’re more excited over. Would you prefer to visit a Zen temple in Japan or use an advanced Japanese toilet-seat? Jets of water all the way!

Arjuna was built for battle, you were built with an appreciation for technology. Unfortunately, I have no idea what you should do with that appreciation — but obviously something to do with technology would be barking up the right tree. Aren’t you the guy that couldn’t even understand spirituality until it was framed by a simulation-theory perspective? But once you “get it”, there’s nothing left except getting back into the game. You don’t sit there reading the rules over and over, you play. Now go! Stand and fight!