How do you know if something is a good idea to create content around? Do you trust your gut? Ask other people? Do you just not think about it and hit publish? When is the right time to go all in on a creative endeavor?
For the longest time, I misunderstood how the creative process worked. I thought brilliance was a crapshoot: you either got lucky or you didn’t.
To me, it was a product of throwing as many things as possible against the wall and seeing what stuck. I assumed that to come up with a brilliant idea or angle on anime that our community would enjoy, the best thing to do was keep “throwing” things.
Certainly, there is some truth to this historically. Many currently popular Ani-Tubers produced plenty of videos before delivering a key one that really resonated with their audience and lead to higher success.
Many Ani-bloggers followed a similar path, going through a wave of blogs before hitting “the one” that sparked the flame with their readers. We know great work takes time. Smart hustle on the other hand, isn’t just about trying stuff until something works. It’s about intelligent trial and error. It’s about taking feedback and using it to make your work better. To keep doing the things that work and quit the things that won’t.
But is that all there is to it?
The truth is ideation isn’t just about attempts. It’s also about process. I see this often with those who just keep trying to “make it.” They’re waiting for a break, pounding the pavement, hoping the hustle will pay off. But they’re kidding themselves.
Hear me loud and clear on this: There is smart hustle. And there is stupid hustle.
Stupid hustle says “keep trying, and some day all your hard work will pay off.” It tells you that it’s their fault for not understanding how good you are and to just keep going for it. This is the American Dream, the story we think is the success of every great artist, entrepreneur, and athlete. But that’s not the whole story.
As singer Colbie Caillat remarked when she was rejected by American Idol early on in her career: “I was shy,” she recalled. “I was nervous. I didn’t look the greatest. I wasn’t ready for it yet. I was glad, when I auditioned, that they said no.”
In other words, they were right to reject her. She wasn’t that good yet. But that rejection fueled the young singer’s drive. It made her want to be better. Why? Afterwards, she didn’t just keep trying things the way she had been doing them before. She took the feedback, applied it to her craft, and found a way to succeed.
And that’s what it takes for an anime content creator to succeed regardless if it’s on the text (blog), video (Youtube) or even audio (podcast) side.
Quitters Are Winners
There’s a common saying: “quitters never win.”
Well that’s simply not true. I feel like this saying is more accurate and should be embraced:
“Winners quit fast, quit often, and quit without guilt.”
Quitters win all the time:
Smart hustle on the other hand, isn’t just about trying stuff until something works. It’s about intelligent trial and error. It’s about taking feedback and using it to make your work better. To keep doing the things that work and quit the things that won’t.
- T.S. Eliot quit his job as a bank teller to write poems.
- Jimmy Page quit a promising career as a studio musician to start Led Zeppelin.
- Mark Zuckerberg quit college to launch Facebook.
Some of the world’s highest performers quit their way to success by discarding the things they weren’t good at or didn’t love so they could do something better.
The anime community isn’t much different when you peek at who’s succeeding. Look at bigger Ani-Tubers: Gigguk made the decision to ultimately quit his job to pursue what he really wanted to do with content creation. Digibro’s educational decisions are well known to his fanbase, inevitably being less favored and dismissed as he moved into YouTube full time.
Up and coming creators are also taking a similar approach. The Pedantic Romantic is trying his best to put aside college to tackle the videos he really wants to make.
Everyone has something that they can be good at. You just have to quit your way to it and narrow your attention.
So what does this look like? How do you decide when something is a good idea to pursue, create and execute on or when something is just plain bad? It’s a process.
Experiment-Chase-Program If it works, we move on to the ‘chase’ stage, which requires us to double down, spending some more effort and time chasing this brand of content. Most people think they have a whole book in their content and thus, a firm hold on what they’re producing, when in fact all they have is a chapter.
Typically, as content creators we have some idea on how our work will be received.
I’m sure when Tim Rattray dropped his What The New York Times’ anime article gets wrong blog, he knew that it would at least see a bit of attention before it exceeded his expectations.
The same can easily be said about content around other hot topics. You know what a video centering around SAO will generally bring to your viewership. You know when talking about a work that’s highly popular on MAL’s airing listing, that your piece of content has a better chance of getting some eyes on it.
You might even take this one step further and gauge your potential audience’s reaction. Outrage? Agreeance? Indifference? Before you hit publish you probably have considered it.
We set expectations for our content on at least some axis and use our resources to meet or exceed that.
This is where we turn our idea on how we do anime content into some ongoing effort. We make those stylistic approaches apart of our content. If it’s a topic that has a theme, it may even gets a regular line in our production.
Of course, we continue to measure how well that brand of approach or topic is doing, but we realize at this stage there will be ups and downs, and so we evaluate on a less frequent basis. But if at any point, we think the program is no longer working, we go back to experimenting.
Maybe your series of videos isn’t doing as well anymore when you first started. Perhaps your blogs are getting less engagement, and the way you’re writing them is losing its appeal.
Experiment. Chase. Program. A simple concept that applies to just about everything:
You would never propose marriage on the first date (I hope). You’d go out, and if it worked, you’d continue doing that for a while — for months, if not years. And then if you were still in love and wanted to spend the rest of your lives together, you take the next step and get married.
You wouldn’t quit your job after your first sale. You’d slowly begin replacing your income and when it made sense, you’d make the switch.
You wouldn’t expect to get a million subscribers the same day you hit publish. You’d take your time building an audience, and hopefully overtime you continue to steadily grow into that possible goal.
As you may know, I’m not a big fan of the “take the leap” strategy that some people champion when it comes to pursuing an idea that they’re thinking about blogging or recording.
Rather, I endorse a “build a bridge” approach. Take your time working out your thoughts into a stable bridge that can connect with your audience. It will likely drive home the intended message a lot cleaner that way.
And so you can apply this on both a micro and macro level – the blog or video you want to make giving your unique take on an aspect of our community that deserves talk, or your goals on expanding your reach greater on your platform and even possibly to other entirely new one. But don’t go all in until you do the following first:
1. Experiment: Test the idea
Before you think you can just spit out a video or blog on any given anime and it will rise to the top, start small. Start introducing your style, voice and level of knowledge ahead of time. See if people even adhere with your fundamental grasp on how you plan on tackling this before killing 5k words or a thirty minute video on it.
Keep that above quote in mind. There’s a lot of blogs and videos in our community that are created in the spur of the moment, untested and simply shoved out there under the creator’s assumption that they deliver a complete thought.
If you’re unfamiliar with your approach or topic, then simply try to test it on a smaller crowd first (whether that be a secondary platform that you have or even a group of interested friends). It may sound simple, but it’s actually astounding how few anime creatives follow through on that and end up incidentally producing half full content – creating an unsatisfying feeling with their audience.
Run an experiment. Have an intended outcome, and create some expectations for your ideas once they’re put in motion. If your ideas don’t meet your expectations, you need to keep experimenting. If you do, move on to the next step.
2. Chase: Explore the idea and see if it scales
Once you’ve seen some success and realize that this thing you want to do is more than just a good idea — it’s something you have to do — then it’s time to chase it down.
If you were only pumping out content once every two weeks, now it’s time to start possibly doing more.
If you’re already pumping out content daily, perhaps it’s time to branch out into other horizontal ventures – like collabs, other forms of content and even entirely new platforms. The bottom-line is, it’s time to up the ante in some capacity.
Make everything harder and riskier to see if you continue to enjoy the process. See if your ideas on anime content holds up to scrutiny to broader audiences. Get people in pockets in the community that you may not wander in to read your work, critique your content, give you feedback on your form and technique.
This is how we get better. We invest more of ourselves into the process and figure out what we’re still doing wrong.
3. Program: Commit to the long game
At this point, you can go all in.
You can quit your job or not even think about school. It doesn’t have to take two, three or even ten years, but it won’t happen all at once, either.
However, this isn’t just about creating anime content to inevitably quit your job or any of that. It’s about how you take a content idea even on a micro level and turn it into something that just might work. It’s also a way to try just about anything without shooting down “bad ideas” or throwing away energy and time at things that you think are good ideas that just don’t seem to pay off. The truth is, nobody knows if an idea for a video or blog is good or bad until it works or fails.
The other day one of our team members said, “Hey! How about we do more of THIS for Tuesday’s content on Seasonal Prattle?”
I said, “Good idea. Let’s try it. But first, let’s experiment.”
If it works, we move on to the ‘chase’ stage, which requires us to double down, spending some more effort and time chasing this brand of content.
Most people think they have a whole book in their content and thus, a firm hold on what they’re producing, when in fact all they have is a chapter.