From what we could do about wasted time to how Youtube creators could stay mentally healthy while staying open to criticism
Not only could good art inspire good art. Sometimes, bad art could inspire good art, too.
For full-time hustlers, downtime and rest are invariably scarce and precious. For me, Tuesday is the only true day-off which I can have all to myself.
That’s why I am extra careful about what programme to fit into my schedule.
This Tuesday, I bought tickets for an award-winning. play with a number of accolades on its belt, hoping that I could do justice to a hard-earned night of rest by immersing myself fully in the drama.
Turned out? The play was disappointing; I dozed off midway while watching it and wished I had left the theatre during the intermission. When I walked out of it one and a half hour later than I should have done, my heart was filled with anger and regret of having spent money on the tickets and, most painfully of all, having irrevocably wasted 3 hours on an unworthy piece of theatre.
I could not wind back the clock and recover the time lost, but I could write an article inspired by it. And that’s why I am here, writing. You cannot actually recover lost time, but you can make up for it by learning from any time-wasting experience. This has always been a truth I stand by.
I am not sure how many other people in the theatre felt the same way I did. What I did know, however, was that a great number in the audience cheered and clapped passionately for a performance, which, judging from their reaction, had impressed them. I racked my head while walking away from the theatre to a restaurant nearby. I couldn’t help asking myself a question, “What did the audience like. about the play? Sure, there were technical merits to it, but the massages it was trying to get across were repetitive and shallow.” Incredible as it was, there were actually people who liked this play, which, to me, feels mediocre at best. Not only did I felt like stamping my feet for my time wasted. A simmering sense of resentment and bitterness gradually swelled up in me. As a teacher, an entrepreneur and a Youtube creator, I pour my sweat and blood into my creation. I struggle to write articles for my blog and publish videos on my Youtube channel weekly, if not daily, in an attempt to build a loyal tribe of followers, who will appreciate my talent and my work. (Of course, this is not to say that I don’t enjoy creating for its own sake, but in this influencer economy where attention and engagement are currencies which translate into earnings, perhaps it is hard for a creator not to let haters’ negativity get to them.)
When I see haters’ comments on my videos, sometimes I catch myself resentfully asking these question: How could these viewers still press dislikes on my videos? Just, how could they? Could they have done a better job than me making these videos? How could they be so critical and, to put it bluntly, so ungrateful? I put these videos up there as free content for people to enjoy. Sure, they aren’t perfect, but they aren’t bad videos either. I have taken the pains to edit them, add after effects and subtitles and make them as informative as I reasonably can. But at the end of the day, all that I gained from my hard work was getting picked on my less than perfect accent and how my teeth look. When people don’t like my videos, they harshly put me down and dismiss them as garbage which should not have been made or existed in the first place. As if only perfect videos were worthwhile to be made and published.
Let me be more specific. I make educational videos on Youtube to teach people English. What’s awkward, however, is this. Sometimes, on a social media platform like Youtube, I have to avoid using the word “teach” so as to not sound like an arrogant and self-important clod. Sometimes, more often than not, even if I say to people that my job is to share my English knowledge with English learners on Youtube, trying my best to sound as humble as I could be, there’s just no way to get round this — There are always people who are going to hate on your videos, think of you as an arrogant prick because you’re a sharer.
When people asked Casey Neistat, the now world-class, quasi-legendary vlogger and Youtuber, “How do you not let haters get to you?” He interestingly admitted,
“The truth is, haters get to me. They bother me. No one is immune to that. Nobody likes to be put down.” — Casey Neistat
I agree. Sometimes, as creator, I could even feel tempted to give up on creating more content just because of my critics. And I don’t think I am alone in feeling this. More than a few friends have found it incredible or even astounding that I could have mustered the courage to start my own Youtube channel. Youtube is like a wild jungle. It’s not a place for the faint-hearted. I can totally relate to potential creators who are too intimidated to make their first foray into the platform with all the noises out there.
How could Youtube creators, then, stay sane and keep themselves mentally healthy while staying open to constructive criticism undisheartened? How could potential creators not let themselves be intimidated by the engulfing flurries of criticisms and knife-throwingly spiteful viewers?
A few lessons to take away:
1) You don’t have to be perfect to create
It’s just like how I didn’t like the play but plenty of people liked and applauded for it. When there are people who dislike your work, there will also bound to be people who like it. And vice versa. From my experience, as long as your videos are reasonably quality, more people will be positive about it than not. That’s a simple fact of life, but all too often creators could focus on a few critical voices than the encouraging majority.
2) Not only good art could inspire good art; bad art could inspire good art too
The process of creation is a continuum through which you will evolve from a lesser to an increasingly skilled and visionary creator. See your less than perfect works as a stepping stone to success. No time spent on creation is wasted time.
Even if you start out making bad art, bad art could inspire good art, whether that created by you or by others. It’s just like how the second-rate play inspired me to write this article.
3) Give the benefit of the doubt.
Haters could simply be well-meaning people not articulate enough to fix the bluntness of their comments. As incredible as it could sound, not everybody is good at communicating enough to sound tactful and courteous. Don’t take criticism personally. Try your best to relate to their criticism (After all, you have to care about the perspectives of your viewers to be a successful creator.) But if you can’t, move on and take no offence. One day might come when you can. Take myself as an example. I used to not be able to relate to why a hater picked on me so much. Why does she hate me for my face? Did she hate me for no reason at all? But when I thought about how I could, too, harshly criticise and dismiss a piece of theatre as shallow and unwatchable, I know that criticism could stem from the harmless intention of wanting people to do better.
“Give people the benefit of the doubt. Assume that they are being good. Assume that they are being positive. It makes you vulnerable. And every once in a while, you will be proved wrong. You will feel like a jerk turned out to be an arsehole. But the truth is, the opposite is to be a negative, skeptical, cynical person…Sometimes I am wrong, and that makes me feel like a jerk, but I deal with it because it’s a small price to pay.” — Casey Neistat
4) Don’t walk away from the platform just because it’s scary.
You will become bigger, braver and more capable of facing up to your own demons and, most importantly, others’ criticism. You will be forced to evolve into a stronger version of yourself. And that is awesome.
5) Don’t win your haters over with more hate. Win them over with love.
You could stamp your feet because people have criticised you. You could shout names at them. You could throw more hate back at them. You could be angry. You could feel bitter. But I believe that all this further solidify the already ingrained prejudices of people. Your anger shows a lack of calm. We humans intuitively interpret a lack of calm as a sign of not knowing better. Of immaturity. Of faltering and weakness. Understand and accept the fact that there will be people who don’t appreciate and think of you as talented. They might not have tried to wilfully hurt you in the first place. And if they have, what harm would that do to you if you choose to be happy? If, at the end of the day, if you fail to convert them (into your fans!) with your positivity, at least you will have your happiness
“Happiness is the best revenge because nothing drives your enemy more insane than smiling and living a good life.” — Chuck Palahniuk
“Forgive your enemy. Nothing annoys them so much.” — Oscar Wilde
“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Mahatma Gandhi