YouTube Isn’t for Seniors
Some days, I know that YouTube is for kids. It’s for ambitious teens. It’s for young adults. It’s for 30-somethings. It’s for pretty people and extroverts. It’s for people who smile, a lot, which also means it’s for people with sparkly white, straight teeth and dental plans.
Most days, I know all of that.
I wasn’t ever really a YouTube watcher. My boys are. They’ve had favorite YouTubers for years. Years ago, they were always talking about PewDiePie and other gamers. (Today, a lot of that happens at Twitch.) They spend most of their time with split screens and YouTube open on one of them watching some channel or other while they do other things. I still can’t say that I totally get the kind of YouTube they watch, and at the same time I do.
I really do.
Somewhere in the last year, I started watching YouTube videos. During the early days of the pandemic, I ended up watching a few favorite channels, especially Peter Draws and The Goulet Pen Company channel (with Brian Goulet). I was (and remain) especially fascinated with and charmed by Peter Draws, but I love to watch Brian Goulet casually talk about pens, ink, and all things “fountain pen.”
Ultimately, I found that I really enjoyed the format. When I was working, I could have a video playing and just listen in. At other times, I turned videos on while I worked on my own drawings or while I sat and enjoyed an end-of-day coffee (from our basic Keurig).
Somewhere in there, I shifted from watcher…. to wannabe maker.
Starting with YouTube at 50
It has been a very strange journey to have had a podcast for almost 15 years (15 in June 2021) and suddenly jump into YouTube land. So. Much. Is. Different.
But, the stories are the same.
The stories may be told differently, and I might argue there is less “real story” at YouTube, but there is talk…. and in some kinds of videos, there is story.
One of the things I have always thought worked (to whatever degree things “worked” for the Creativity Matters Podcast) is that I was just a voice. Being just a voice gave and gives people someone to listen to while they are doing other things (walking, commuting, drawing, knitting, folding laundry).
I’m a voice. I’m not more concrete than that.
People form an impression of me from listening to the podcast. Maybe they are enamored or engrossed or somehow riveted by what is often a train wreck of real life that I hint at, or the downwardly-mobile reality that often provides the backdrop for my discussions because, really, I’ve had to learn over the last fifteen years how to do with less, how to appreciate a simpler approach, how to not give in to every want and wish, and how to persevere. I’ve done a lot of that learning really publicly on the podcast even when I don’t come right out and say what’s what. (I do wish I’d started out with a show where I just flat out said what’s what, but I’d be a different person if that had been the case.)
So some people listen for that. Or maybe they find inspiration, motivation, and gentle encouragement in the way I talk about creativity, about making art in the margins, and about tracking creative life. I never really know which side of things listeners fall on. I talk. Listeners listen. We’ve co-existed in this way on the CMP. Many of us have grown up together during the almost 15 years of the CMP. Our kids have grown up and maybe moved on. We’ve found mediums we love. We’ve tackled projects. We’ve faced pitfalls and slumps and pivots. We’ve made discoveries and wondered about and marveled at memory and the cycles of art and creativity, the power of routine and habit, and the quest for productivity, tracking, and documentation. We’ve worked in parallel creating creative lives, often in the margin, like mine. (When I talk about “margins,” it has to do with the fact that I work a more-than full-time job and am trying to support my family with that while on the side, a.k.a., in the margins, I am always working on my creative life.)
I don’t always know why the people who listen listen. What I do know is that the podcast gives people an “idea” of me. Just an idea.
In adding the visual, videos make things more concrete, much more concrete.
In my experience, I don’t do so well once I’m concrete. I really don’t.
So why try this? What makes me think I have any shot of being able to make videos and have anyone watch? What changed?
Not a Pivot, but Another Project (Or, Not a Pivot, but a Passion)
I can’t exactly pinpoint how this whole “let’s go to YouTube” thing started. I think, in part, it started with the Draw Along episodes of the Creativity Matters Podcast in 2020. In the early days of COVID-19, I started doing more freeform podcasts in which I drew while I recorded the podcast. After waiting for the pandemic to pass, at which point I thought I would be able to move back from the couch to my own room and my own space in which I could record shows, I admitted that wasn’t going to happen.
So I did what I often do. I made do. I propped up tissue boxes and found a way to prop my portable microphone, and I started talking. I thought maybe other people had more time on their hands and more stress building up within them, and I thought listening and drawing might help.
I didn’t actually have any more time, but I loved the casualness of those shows, the bit of methodical slow. That all coincided with me becoming much more mindful, more aware of drawing (and filling space with drawn lines) as a technique for slowing down, for calming myself, for being more balanced. In the midst of a pandemic, all of these beliefs and practices and habits and outlooks on the power of drawing served me well. I was in the middle of my 50 Before 50 year, a year I was tracking with illustrated journals recording every week and all of the things I “did” from my Before 50 list. And in the process of really inhabiting an illustrated journal for the year, I found a space that was true, real, honest, flexible, and helped me balance.
The Draw Along shows grew out of that in the months leading up to the 50th birthday. I loved being able to talk while I drew, and I know some of you enjoyed drawing along with me.
I enjoyed the casual aspect, too.
I found the unscripted talking while I drew to be nice. It was a lot like having coffee or tea with someone and drawing without the pressure of having to engage in a full-on social interaction. We could draw… and chat along the way. I really enjoyed those shows, but I imagine they were a bit less interesting to listen to. I like to talk while I draw. But I know there were gaps, moments of silence while I focused on getting an eye blocked in or shaping a nose. When you are recording an audio-only show while you draw, you have to talk about things that happen while you draw that you might not ever stop and think about otherwise. I also, as always, was candid about this and that, what worked and didn’t, mistakes I made, things I find difficult, and so on. As a listener, it might have been really disjointed and too slow.
Who Needs Another Art Video? (Can We Ever Have Too Many Creative Life Videos?)
I know there are tons and tons of art and timelapse video channels. I have watched lots of videos in the past on ballpoint art and Copic, especially. Before that, I used to watch lots of planning and bullet journaling (or bujo) videos, people recording how they set up their pages and thousands of people interested to watch. And then during COVID-19, a bunch of live art offerings cropped up at Instagram (and some at Facebook). Right as I was putting out Draw Along podcasts on my way to 400 (a birthday goal), I was seeing other people do “live drawing” sessions. Similar concept, but oh so different.
It wasn’t lost on me that the appeal of actually “seeing” the drawing was huge and a lot more enticing than listening to me draw.
I wasn’t in a position to compete with that. I didn’t have the setup or the space (or the fame). I don’t have the equipment. As much as I wanted to be able to really transform things, I didn’t know how to pivot from the microphone.
Talking while Making Art
It isn’t that I think my drawing is the best drawing you will ever see. It isn’t. I love what I do, and I always hope you love what you do, too. But I know there are scads and scads of better, more trained, and far-more-successful artists out there. I see them every day getting people to buy their sketches at Instagram on the spot or having people request portraits and commissions. The art space is huge! And there are thousands of teachers.
So I’m not hoping to teach anyone how to draw or how to make portraits. Instead, I am looking for new ways to talk while I draw.
And I hope to inspire you to slow down. I hope to inspire you to draw more. I hope to inspire you to keep an illustrated journal, to do a challenge like Inktober (or my version, Inktoportraits) or ICAD, or #the100DayProject.
A Toe in the Water
Because I didn’t have the equipment to really make videos, I started with timelapse. It was an easy exploration that allowed me to draw and end up with a 2-3 minute video. That’s fast. A whole lot of drawing gets compressed down to a matter of seconds. It was mesmerizing at first, and I still really enjoy timelapse. But it takes a whole lot of timelapse to let me do podcast-inspired talk! And, of course, timelapse isn’t true video. (Timelapse involves your camera snapping lots of photos at a predetermined interval. So you end up with lots of photos that get combined together into one clip.)
Still, timelapse was a good place to start.
It took a lot of time to make those first videos, and the first ones didn’t have audio.
I then tried a few with some audio. Given some computer limitations, it was much trickier to do the audio overlays than I expected, but as I continue to work on those, I have found a system that works. I’ve also been working out some kinks in the free software I use. (I’m doing everything as free as possible.)
A Tripod, A C-Stand, or a Mic Stand
I spent about 6 months trying to sort out the best thing to buy to hold my phone or a camera. I wanted to do both, solve my overhead video filming (and I did have an older tool that gave me some ability but had some drawbacks), and I knew I would need to be able to look at a camera and film myself talking.
I did tons of research to sort out the best approach. It was clear that no one tool would solve all of my needs. For just the timelapse, a boom arm floor mic stand hack can work. (I saw it in a video, and it was super compelling.) But I knew it wouldn’t be super stable, and if I did try and turn the camera on myself, I knew that wouldn’t be the best solution. A C-Stand made a lot of sense for the overhead part, but it’s more expensive, and I knew it might be overkill for what I needed. A tripod would work for just regular front-facing video, but it isn’t great for overhead. That’s what sent me searching for alternatives in the first place.
What I didn’t want to do was spend money on a solution that I would need to replace shortly after.
And, to be honest, on the podcast side, which I’m not giving up, I’ve been using the same mic for 15 years. I probably really need a new mic, even a basic one or other basic one or not basic one. (It’s a huge rabbit hole.) I might need a new interface. While doing the Draw Along shows, I really thought I should get a lavalier so that I could scoot back and more easily record the drawing portion.
And here I was obsessing, literally obsessing, over tripods and overhead setups.
I watched hundreds and hundreds of videos. I watched video reviews. I watched how-to videos. I watched them again. I stayed up in the wee hours trying to figure out if this or that was the best thing. I scoured Reddit and blogs. I drove everyone crazy on Black Friday looking at tripods that were on a deal. I’m embarrassed to say that I spent the same amount of time trying to figure out the “best” phone holder for a tripod, since I would need that, too. There are thousands and thousands of them. Most of them are about the same price. I drove myself a bit crazy.
I missed all the deals, and then I went back to seriously considering a C-Stand or the mic stand hack as a temporary way to *just get started. (*With those solutions, I would still need a phone holder and other adapters and connectors, which continued to contemplate things.)
And, disappointed in my ability to figure out the best approach, I decided to just keep going with what I already had. (I do take the start with what you have motto seriously.)
When I spotted a tripod on a deal in February, I debated for a few hours and then just used some credit I had and ordered it. I think the honest reality is that most of them in a similar price range are “good enough.”
I really think the thing right now is just to start and going ahead and ordering something was a solid step.
The Hard Work Begins
In deciding I was really serious about creating a channel, I got serious. I started watching lots of videos about how to get started, what to do, what not to do, and so on. I was watching videos, of course, from people who have hundreds of thousands of followers and are monetized. Most of them are making many times my annual salary each year by simply creating videos to tell other people how to create videos.
As I watched endless how-to videos (and came to really, really like some of the personalities behind them), I started going through the steps to create all the elements I need.
With my initial timelapse experiments, I didn’t have fully polished videos. I just started creating. And I see a lot of people advocate that. Start creating. Go with a quantity over quality mindset. That really clicked for me. Set a target goal for making x number of videos and then see how it’s going. You’ll be learning all along.
So, I didn’t stop and try and create everything up front. I decided to take the Start Where You Are approach coupled with the willingness to Start Messy (which I heard and loved on a Think Media video). #Shorts also became a thing about the same time, and I decided to try some shorts along with other videos to see if I could gain some viewers. I didn’t gain followers with shorts, but shorts (which are under 60 seconds and basically like Instagram Reels or Tik Tok videos) had a much lower bar to entry. I was able to experiment with some real-time video and practicing the skills to edit and assemble videos.
My #shorts got a lot of views actually. (They might have even gotten more views than most podcasts get listens.)
Step by step, I am moving ahead with this exploration.
What’s My Niche?
Figuring out exactly what my niche is both is and isn’t a stumbling block. Yes, I sort of want to do a number of things…. ink reviews, ink fill videos (I tried and aborted my first one last December), journal flips (starting with the 3 volumes of 50 Before 50), real-time drawing (and timelapse), illustrated journal talk, organization and productivity videos, and more. I want to do many of the same things I do on the CMP but in video form. Knowing that has helped me continue to practice my skills and push at learning the ins and outs while making short videos that contain podcast talk along with drawing or timelapse.
Podcast talk is “who I am.” I’m hoping to find a way to make it work in the video space, too.
I’m also gaga over Notion, and being able to talk about Notion from the creativity/artmaking side is a huge interest of mine. (I’ve been similarly gaga over other tools in the past, like Evernote and Trello. But Notion has stolen the show for me!)
The Notion element drove me to create my first video with me on the screen. It’s got some problems. It even has some problems I didn’t realize it had until after it was live. (These are lessons one learns.) But, I did it. It took a whole lot of time to do it. I managed to build some new things for it and learn a ton of stuff about using OBS.
The first time I recorded all the sessions, there were issues that I didn’t know about until the next day. Having to redo things wasn’t ideal. But, I learned a lot. (That video only has 8 views after several days. It’s a really discouraging reality. I’m going to set my “how many” target and just keep that ahead of me and see what happens.)
I also had a lot of time to think about what I was doing, the skills I was quickly gaining, like using free tools to make a quick intro, using OBS for screen recording, tweaking all my lights to come up with something that might work, masking my messy space as much as possible, making thumbnails (covers), and more.
And I thought a lot about all of the young people I was seeing asking about their thumbnails and the trend I was seeing in those thumbnails. I think of it as the “extreme-smiling-open-mouth” trend.
I started thinking about the fact that while I still feel 25 in my head…. I’m not.
And that led me to ask myself, where are the 50-something YouTubers?
I have watched a few. Sadly, the videos aren’t very good.
Maybe mine will be similarly not very good. Maybe this is a red herring, a flash in the pan, or some other adage that we oldish people use.
But I wonder about this sense that YouTube is only for young people.
I decided that documenting my journey might make sense.
It’s funny to have come to this decision mid-March. In January, I considered that this whole video journey might be part of my 100 Day Project, a hidden part most likely. I thought maybe I would use the 100 Days to do this deep dive. I spent time most days after that doing exactly that, but only recently did it hit me that I wanted to chronicle this, wanted to document it in written form. I think that this really belongs on camera. I think I need to pull it all together and talk about it. It might happen.
But I’m also going to use the blog to run this series. When I decided this the other day, I felt totally empowered by this decision and really excited (almost as excited as I did when I made my intro and later when I did my first OBS recording). I felt revitalized.
I didn’t realize the intro would be this long. I didn’t realize that this journey, even its origins, would be so complicated to explain. I didn’t even give you a really good sense of all the channels I watch and how those channels, especially the ones in the productivity space, have informed what I want to do, my sense of what I want to do, my desire, drive, and passion for this.
But it’s a start. This post is a start, and the first videos are a start, and the first video with my face on it, despite all the technical flaws (that make the perfectionist in me cringe hard) is a start. I’m trying to relax into just starting, starting messy, and embracing the learning curve.
And I’m excited.
I have tried, for years, to get my kids to make a YouTube channel. I wanted them to be creators in a space they love. For all those years, I’ve continued with my small podcast. It hasn’t been overly successful. It hasn’t grown. I continue because I love it. I would be lost without it. And somewhere in the 400+ episodes is my book, the book that has always been my core drive and motivation. The podcast will never be a success by popular benchmarks. But I have continued to sit there week after week. I now wonder if, really, I made a mistake by not shifting to YouTube long ago.
So, here I am, a 50-something with a desire to be a YouTuber.
And, I’m going for it.
Step by step.
Video by video.
I’m hoping to document what it means to be older when you start. I am hoping to help others see the steps that really have to happen and how to get started.
I’m hoping to continue to talk while I draw.
I’m hoping you’ll follow along and help support this new evolution.
The first big breakthrough, in my head, was making the intro.
I’ll explain that next.
And let me know what you think there in the comments.
(I do know it’s an algorithm game, after all. But it’s also a content and storytelling game. I’m in.)