Thursday, April 26, 2012

Quality and quantity

One of the best things about living in this century - and believe me when I say I have to actively remind myself why I shouldn't build a time machine and go back to some other decade or era - is the prevalence of online media. The cult culture of internet communities is something I've been a part of personally and on the periphery of constantly, and I've always loved the interconnectedness of it.

In my early years of fandom I was no stranger to message boards. The Jonas Brothers - whom I was very fond of for a time (and let's face it, I still am) - had a street team which functioned via an online forum. On the website I met hundreds of other fans who shared my enthusiasm and common knowledge. I ended up meeting a bunch of them going to concerts and events that were "jB"-related.

The message board was unfortunately shut down after a couple of years and all of us mourned the loss, attempting to start a new community on our own where we could continue to enjoy each other's virtual company.

Over time, the friendships I had on those websites dissipated and I got more caught up in real life acquaintances. But I've still continued to love the feeling of knowing people I never would otherwise meet and getting to speak with them in a capacity as noncommittal as an online forum.

Enter in YouTube. The website isn't exactly a message board or a traditional online community, and granted I've never actually vlogged or attempted to enter the YouTube community like so many others do. But somehow, despite not being actively involved, I feel as though I'm part of something by being an avid viewer of the vlogbrothers, nerimon, charlieissocoollike and similar YouTubers.

Last summer I went to VidCon, a YouTube conference where a lot of popular YouTubers come together in Los Angeles (this summer it will be in Anaheim, but I'm not planning on attending) to talk about their work and hang out amongst each other and with fans.

Though I was there with my dad and thus stayed distant from the rest of the VidCon attendees, I became interested in the idea of people coming together to celebrate productivity in a new way - a non-traditional form of expression and a "career" for some of them.

Charlie McDonnell in one of his YouTube Mid-Life Crisis videos.
I'd probably classify Charlie McDonnell (charlieissocoollike) as my favorite YouTuber. I am not alone in this assessment, considering he now has almost 1.5 million subscribers and over 230 million video views on YouTube. At VidCon, he was utterly unreachable as he was ushered out of every meeting room by supervisors and kept from interacting with any non-VIP attendees.

But Charlie, besides showing that there is potential for success in personal creation - as evidenced by his videos - has always reminded his viewers that good work is better than plentiful work.

The mantra "quality over quantity" is one that this vlogger takes relatively seriously, sending only a couple of videos onto the internet every month or so. It becomes frustrating as a fan to almost never see new material from him, but the commitment to creating videos that are consistently interesting is something I admire.

This past week, Charlie posted a video a day on his channel in which he talked about his YouTube Mid-Life Crisis. Videos from the week involved him talking to a camera about his video planning, his YouTube rules and a special trip from England to America to top off the crisis.

In yesterday's video (watch it below), Charlie talked about his constant adherence to the "quality over quantity" mantra, and how after a week of making videos every day he's learned that perhaps it's not a necessary rule to ensure success.
 "Crisis Averted" - Charlieissocoollike

"You can have both quality and quantity," he said.

Over the past few months, I've struggled with this issue myself quite a bit. Writing a blog every day is often met with a plethora of challenges.

Firstly, it can be difficult to balance a busy schedule and also factor in at least 30 minutes to an hour to write a blog. Because there is no outlining or much planning ahead of time, the length of time I devote to any particular entry can't be determined until I sit down and try to crank out some paragraphs.

Secondly, I worry that I'm becoming redundant in trying to come up with topics to discuss. The problem is not that I worry I might bore readers - to be honest, my goal here is to provide myself with an outlet for my thoughts, not to give others insight - but that I don't want to bore myself. Half the joy of writing a blog is the pleasure of looking back at your own musings at a later date. It's why we write diaries and go back to read them three years after the fact. When time has passed we lose a sense of who we were before and having a traceable look into your past psyche is something really interesting. But why would I want to read my blog in the future if I'm writing about the same things every day?

Thirdly and finally, my primary goal is to write personal and interesting narratives. And sometimes, hard as I try, it's utterly impossible to be creative. Often, before I think of what to write, I'll take a shower and let my day run through my head in a series of images. I pick out the most significant events, run them through my mind again to pick out themes and then try and connect that to something broader that I can write about. But there are days when all I do is write up a homework assignment. There are days when I just go to class and come back and watch a movie. There are days when I just sleep in, eat and then come back to stare at my computer for five hours. And no one wants to hear about that, not even me.

The "quality over quantity" mantra has come to hound me since I started writing this blog. But one of the greatest accomplishments for me has been my ability to conquer it at every stage. Not once have I put up a blog that I didn't feel was at least of some quality. And as for quantity, a blog a day is a pretty steady number.

Charlie ended his video talking about how there is a need for both quality and quantity to stir our creativity. While not everyone can function like me and come up with an idea every night to spew onto a blank screen, sometimes it's important to just let the spirit guide us and allow us to write even when it seems superfluous. Quantity is not the enemy, stagnancy is. Quality is just a side product that we can only hope will occur on its own.

Over my years of internet community fandom I've taken away so many pieces of wisdom. I've learned about friendships, organization, creativity and devotion. But first and foremost, I've learned that it's important to be true to yourself and your values. For me, that means writing a blog every night to remind myself that I can be intelligent and creative every day. For others that might mean doing a video blog every day or writing in a journal, maybe even just carving out an hour to Skype with a friend or call home.

It's all open to interpretation, but the important thing to remember is to allow yourself to do what you need to feel productive and happy. As Charlie says, you can have both quality and quantity. The important thing is not being true to a regimen or to expectations, but to yourself.

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