The first episode of my new YouTube project, “Here’s What I’m Doing,” has problems.
The shot is crooked. Actually, the postcards that are on the wall are crooked as well, so the shot looks even more crooked. I’m getting a better tripod, and will straighten those postcards.
The sound is subpar. I fed my guitar and mike into a Roland Street amplifier, and just set it close to the camcorder. I need to work on this.
There is not much to my equipment. I have a difused practical light or two, a camcorder, a Shure SM 58 Microphone, that Roland Street amp, and a Zoom recorder.
The fact remains though:
With these humble things, I began, finally, to put myself out on YouTube.
I’m becoming a big fan of Austin Kleon, the artist probably best known for those works of poetry in which he finds a news article and blacks out everything except for a few words that then form the prose. Kleon also wrote a pair of books about the creative process, and they’ve been invaluable. The first is called Steal Like and Artist, and it mostly concerns how to create things. The second, Show Your Work--which really gave me the push to finally go ahead and just take the plunge—mostly deals with how to get your work seen and heard.
One thing Kleon says that stayed with me is that people enjoy reading and watching things that document the creative process. In other words, in addition to the stories, people like the stories behind the stories. This got me thinking: how much longer was I going to wait before finally putting my songs up there?
It finally dawned on me that if I just started, the works themselves—ragged and disjointed at first, and, then, I hope, smoother and more polished as time went by—my work would, itself, be a document of one person slowly learning to express himself in the digital world.
I’ve been blogging for a while, so yes, I’ve been putting my writing up there. For a long time, though, I’ve wanted to branch out, and create audio visual works. So I wrote songs, but spent years agonizing over the right way to get those songs out there.
Nothing, it seemed, was ever going to be good enough. I stressed about the audio. I stressed about how grainy the shots would look.
And I never put anything out there.
Then I finally thought: everyone probably agonizes over the same thing.
Because of that, I finally concluded that the best thing was to just start, and accept that the first things that I put out there are going to be nowhere near as polished as I want them to be. And to make things even more agonizing, the only way that I’m going to see how I can make things better is to put stuff out there where I can look at it, shake my head, smile, and say to myself “boy…this could be a lot better.”
I made some simple rules:
—Keep it to about seven minutes, because that’s the time limit at a wonderful open mike that I frequent in Manhattan.
—Spend the beginning reading something I’ve written, no longer than 500 words, usually about creativity, but maybe about the work I'm going to share in that episode.
—Then, for the rest of those seven minutes, share something: a story, a song, whatever.
I kept imagining someone like me, middle-aged and eager to express themselves, but anxious about whether their work was good enough, and nervous about how people would respond. I just wanted to show that at the beginning, it’s just gonna be ragged and awkward.
And yes, there always will be that fear that strangers will stop me on the street and say “boy…your work is terrible.” Such is the way things make their way into the world.
Anyway, I hope to share something each week. Usually, as I said, it will be a song I wrote, a song someone else wrote, or a story.
Maybe I’ll make a film. I don’t know. Maybe I'll have guests. I don't know.
Time will tell.
What I do know is that I never again have to say that I never did this thing that I had said that I was going to do. I said I would put my stuff out there. I’m putting my stuff out there.
It will get better.
The name of my project is “Here’s What I’m Doing.”
And it begs the question: so…what are you doing?