CREATING YOUR OWN CONTENT
What with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, cyber-bullying, and rising incidents of online hate-speech, social media gets a pretty bad rep these days.
And plenty of that's earned.
But it's not all bad. (And, no, I'm not talking about 30-50 feral hogs.) If you know where to look, you'll find little pockets of positivity and support in amongst it all.
One such little oasis of calm is #ContentClubUK: a community of creatives who meet on Twitter once a week to answer three questions all about content. The group is made up of some of the most generous, smartest, and funniest people anywhere on the internet, all bringing heaps of wisdom to the table each and every week.
One thing that makes CCUK so special is that it belongs to everyone. Someone different takes up the mantle of host every time, responsible for coming up with and asking the questions. And, this past Tuesday, I was lucky enough to be given a turn.
The 30 minute period is so crammed full of laughs, advice, and expertise that it's nigh on impossible to take in everything. Most likely, you'll be waylaid by a fascinating little tangent about true crime podcasts, cats, or setting up an animal sanctuary in Cornwall.
With this in mind, I've compiled my questions and a summary of some of the answers below for posterity, and so that the goodness shared isn't lost.
Let's get cracking then, shall we?
Q1: We all excel at creating content for others, but it can be really difficult to make stuff for yourself. What do you feel are the biggest challenges when working on your own content?
We kicked off by talking about the obstacles that we face when it comes to making our own content: whether that's designing new pages for your website, spending time creating a brand new logo, or writing a blog post.
One thing's for sure, there are plenty of things that can get in the way. The range of responses highlights just how difficult it can be for creative professionals who normally work to client briefs to sit down and get their own content done. There are just so many hoops to jump through:
Perfectionism is a hell of an obstacle.
Maybe it's because we think any work we put out in the public eye will go under the microscope and a single typo will mean the inevitable end of our creative careers and oh GOD how am I going to fund my already out of control biscuit habit now?
Of course, none of this is true: it's just easy to start thinking that way and put off publishing anything at all. If this sounds familiar to you, there are three things you should remember:
1. No one's out to get you.
2. Perfect doesn't exist.
3. A flawed but interesting bit of content is better than no content at all.
A1: In no particular order:— Wealden Wordsmith (@WealdenWordsmi1) July 30, 2019
- Translating initial enthusiasm into the final product.
- Trying to get a handle on what will actually resonate with people.
- Distinguishing between really good creative ideas and rubbish generated by my own prejudices! #ContentClubUK
Another answer that popped up in several responses was the difficulty of getting out of our own heads.
The majority of the people who swing by #ContentClubUK each week are freelancers, and when you're a company of one it can be really hard to know whether an idea is an awesome gem of genius or just a weird little notion that means nothing to anyone but ourselves.
Daunting as it may be, there's no real way to know whether something will resonate with others without just biting the bullet and putting it out there.
The thing is: you're probably not as weird as you think you are. It takes all sorts to make a world, after all. Have faith in your own ideas and keep your expectations grounded, and you can't go too far wrong.
A1: I definitely struggle with anything that involves talking about myself. But if it’s my own content (blogs, fiction, etc) and it’s NOT about me, that’s usually fine 😀— Jake Keane ✏️💻🎮📚 (@Jakebrap) July 30, 2019
The only real problem there comes from allocating time to get it sorted. #ContentClubUK
The UK element of #ContentClubUK made an appearance here, too: it's a very stereotypically British thing to find it tricky to talk about yourself.
So, what can you do if you find yourself in this predicament?
Urm… don't… er, be British?
Failing that, try to find your authentic voice and then use it in your work. It can help to think about yourself and your work through the eyes of friends or peers.
Just be yourself. You're great.
Katie and Jake also hit upon the most commonly cited obstacle of all: finding the time.
And that brings us neatly on to question 2. After all, there's nothing like a bit of peer pressure to get you to squeeze an extra bit of time out of your day…
Q2: What do you see as the strengths of an accountability pact with another creator? Are you looking for an accountability buddy right now? Lets make some matches!
With so many obstacles that crop up when attempting to create our own content, one way of making sure we get stuff done is to lean on our network. Telling your goals to a peer and having them check up on you to keep you accountable can be an effective tactic.
As Gareth points out, an accountability buddy isn't just there to tell you off if you don't follow through on your goals; they're also cheering you on, celebrating your wins with you. Support goes both ways.
#ContentClubUK A2: had an accountability pact with @_juliagraham_ and it really helped me kick start my own blog writing again. I’ve since lapsed though! Think the balance of pressure needs to be just right for me, or it’d become a hindrance rather than a help.— copycontentwriter (@copycontentw) July 30, 2019
A2. I currently have a writer's group/accountability pact, we're called The Writers' Thunderdome 😅 We share our work in a Dropbox folder, then discuss it in a weekly Skype session. We each set a goal at the end of every call. It's a lifesaver! #ContentClubUK— Rebecca Spelman (@RebeccaSpelman) July 30, 2019
Lots of people shared stories about accountability agreements that have worked for them in the past or which they are currently engaged in (my favourite being the spectacularly named 'Writers' Thunderdome'.)
Accountability pacts can take on all sorts of different forms; some people find structure and a regular schedule (say, once a week…) works for them, other people just want a gentle prod every now and again.
And, of course, some people prefer to go it alone. It's not for everyone: especially if you're great at self-motivation.
I guess you really don't know what will work best for you until you give it a go, so it was great to see new accountability pacts being struck up!
Q3: Imagine that all obstacles (time, motivation, anxiety) were out of the way: What’s the one dream piece of content you want to create for your business?
This was my favourite section of the whole session.
Awesome creatives sharing their great ideas, while others gave them support and advice on how to get it done. Seriously, just read through some of the gold below: it's just a small selection of the genius that the hive mind had to share.
A3. I’m actually going through this now (and would love help/suggestions)— Dominic Kent (@DomKent) July 30, 2019
I want to create a spectacular roadmap. Not a boring month by month one but a personalised interactive experience that 1. Is totally awesome and 2. provides the reader with a super asset.#ContentClubUK
Now, I know I said that every week the host asks three questions, but most weeks there's a fun little bonus question too.
In a move that has been described as "potentially misguided," and "irritatingly on-brand," I thought it might be fun to make a playlist out of songs that the #ContentClubUK community find inspirational.
I've collected up all of the songs into a playlist, and it's waiting just below for you!
Here's what they came up with:
OK, I lied.
There's one thing I need to plug before I can let you have the playlist.
If thinking about the challenge of making your own content and having peers around to keep you accountable has piqued your interest, then you should definitely check out #Write52.
What started as a few off-hand comments I made on Twitter about why I found it hard to publish anything on my blog has blossomed into a community of writers, designers, and marketing professionals who have all committed to a group accountability pact.
The rules? Post one original piece of content every week. For a year.
And that's it. Write about anything you want, post it to your own site, Medium, Linked-In… wherever. Just as long as you write.
At time of writing, I'm now seven weeks in to the challenge, and while it's been tough at times, the impact it's had on my own ability to stop the endless tweaking and hit that publish button has been incredible. And there are now so many talented writers sharing great content every week on all sorts of different topics.
If you'd like to check out the project in more detail, search for #Write52 on Twitter and sign up to the weekly newsletter here. Fans of try before you buy* can read the latest installment of the newsletter here.
*It's free, anyway.
Right, plug done. The playlist really is below, with the names of the people who suggested each track. If you like their choice, give them a follow and tell them so.
And I'll see you at #ContentClubUK at 11 next Tuesday.
- Paid – Andy Pickett (Ed Callow)
- Knights of Cydonia – Muse (Lauren McMenemy)
- Long Road To Ruin (CopyContentWriter/Claire)
- Au Seve – Julio Bashmore (Dominic Kent)
- Bonfire – The Hunna (Ben Leach)
- High Hopes – Panic! At The Disco (Fi Phillips)
- On Top Of The World – Imagine Dragons (Alice Hollis, Robyn Santa Maria & Maria Sereda)
- 3 Libras – A Perfect Circle (Rose Crompton)
- Freedom Highway – The Staple Singers (Ian Pople/The Acoustic Egg Box)
- Something For The Pain – She Drew the Gun (That. Content. Shed/Gareth)
- My Favourite Things – John Coltrane (Wealden Wordsmith/Chris)
- Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now – Starship (Tracey Faye)
- Low Rider – War (SocialINK)
- Marauder – Jesse Stewart (Jake Keane)
- Bucephalus Bouncing Ball – Aphex Twin (Jonathan Wilcock)
- Bad Guy – Billie Eilish (Julia Graham)
- Beasley Street – John Cooper Clarke (That. Content. Shed/Gareth Hancock)
- Never Fight A Man With A Perm – Idles (Tim Goodfellow)
- Disorder – Joy Division (Hello I'm Nik Design)
- Gold on the Ceiling – The Black Keys (Helen Hill)
- Gin Tonic – Parov Stelar (Andrew Monro)
- Not In Kansas – The National (Anthony Arnott)
- Jump Around – House Of Pain (Amy Boylan)