Creative Brain Drain

February 16, 2018 10:56pm
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I haven’t really written much for the last couple of months.

Part of it has been between work and the holidays and money issues and parenting stress and about a billion other things, my brain just hasn’t had much bandwidth left to be creative with at the end of the day.

Another part is that – I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call it a proper crisis of faith – but I’ve been kind of demoralized about writing and publishing online, and even now I’m not quite sure what to make of it…

It’s weird because whereas 20 or so years ago when I started doing all of this, I looked at the Internet as freeing because I could publish things online that would never be accepted by a print publisher. But now the landscape has become more mature, and I don’t necessarily think that my issue is that there are a ton more people publishing online than ever before – which does make it tougher to fight for an audience, but moreso it feels like social media has become overtly cumbersome to the point where it’s no longer this helpful tool to boost your signal and connect with your audience, but instead this weird ecosystem of its own that commands its own rules and yet doesn’t really pay back creators likewise for their efforts whatsoever.

This article about Funny or Die laying off its editorial staff because of Facebook speaks a lot of greater truths that over the years I’ve observed firsthand with my own creative projects because it seems like what started out as these neat social networks gradually evolved into their own walled gardens where traffic doesn’t really flow away from Facebook and the likes.

It used to be that you’d write something, post it to your website, and then share it on social media and your fans would click through and check it out…

But instead today when you share a link on Facebook, it reaches a very small subset of your fans and Facebook generously encourages you to boost your post by paying them an advertising fee! Which would be fine if that then in turn increased your clickthrough rate, but instead today most Facebook interactions stay squarely on Facebook, so instead of reading an article and absorbing a few ad views, now a fan might only read your headline or blurb on Facebook, Like it, and engage in a comment war right there on Facebook without ever even visiting your site or actually reading what you wrote in the first place.

Worse yet, you lean more towards creating content specifically for Facebook through albums and memes and embedded videos and your Facebook page looks awesome, but at the end of the day it’s a giant time suck that doesn’t attract any new readers to your actual work or improve your ad revenue in any conceivable way.

Oh yeah, and there’s also scammers and fake accounts and clickbait posts that compete with yours for views that drive up advertising costs and crash otherwise diminishing returns even further into the ground!

On top of all of this, I have other issues with the Internet that have made it a less desirable frontier than it once was…

  • Misleading clickbait Taboola ads on even some of the most otherwise legitimate sites
  • Less interest in the written word in favor of video, memes, throwaway content
  • Clickbait content in general overshadowing actual creative effort (e.g. sometimes it’s hard to even watch movie trailers on YouTube anymore because people will create fake trailers labeled as official that get millions of views when the movie isn’t even in the works)

At the end of the day, I still want to write things that can make people laugh and make people think … I’m just not sure how that works online in 2018 anymore?

In the past I’ve never had a HUGE audience, but most of the time it was respectable, and maybe I had a project here or there that was admittedly more for me because it didn’t really take off, but when everything that I’ve just described all balls up together and it feels like nothing is getting any traction anymore, I suppose it’s admittedly kind of depressing and eventually it leads you to wonder if maybe there are other things that would be a better use of your time.

…particularly right now when finding “free time” to write is often such a struggle as it is… 🙁

So that’s where I am right now.

Yesterday I wrote probably my first piece in a good while – something about the perpetual cycle of inaction that we seem to see after our mass shootings here in America – and I was honestly pretty happy about how it had turned out, but then I let some early criticism from someone close get to me and it sort of took away most of the energy that I’d built up after finally posting something new for the first time in ages! :<

I know that I desperately need this creative outlet in my life. It helps to keep me sane and happy and organize the thoughts in my head, but I’m really struggling in a way that I’ve never quite felt before and I’m not entirely sure how to move forward from here.

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