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For the last couple of months, I have struggled to get these blog posts done in time. I would spend weeks just trying to brainstorm what to write about, sometimes starting to draft ideas and only getting a paragraph or two out of them. I always managed to get something submitted, never skipping a month, though that is mostly due to being a fast typer. There is a mix of reasons why I have had trouble coming up with ideas every month and I want to explore them.
One of the main reasons it became hard to think of what to write about is because my life became more monotonous than ever towards the end of 2020 and into 2021. I found myself at home all the time, except occasionally going to the grocery store or taking a walk if the weather was nice. Things I normally would have done to get out of the house were either not open or just unsafe to do at that point, with even some of the essential parts of life like school and doctor appointments only being available virtually at points last year. There were times where I spent weeks in a row within the same spaces of my house, with no new stimuli or events to inspire me. I know English teachers who would argue there is always something to write about. I remember one telling us to simply look around the room or out a window and write about the first thing we see. However, on top of there being little new in my life to write about, there were other reasons keeping me from simply getting words on paper.
The last few years also left me more scared of publishing my work online. When I first started creating content online back in middle school, I remember being encouraged to start off with something very neutral (something I would not regret being online once I became older). I did not even show my face at first when I made videos, instead starting with how to draw videos. I was very into art back then and if anything, I am glad the adults around me encouraged me to start off with a topic like that. I have lost count of how many YouTubers have gotten in trouble for videos years later from their teenage years or actors who got in trouble for a social media post. It is hard to regret publishing a video on making really well-designed paper bats or showing a cute snowman drawing. The only art video I ever had any regrets about almost a decade after I started creating online content was when I published a drawing I knew was not particularly good at a time where I felt pressured to upload something in order to not have a huge gap in publishing. I was low on ideas back then in high school, too, with my life shifting away from visual arts. I was also finding myself having less time for drawing then. That video got a lot of very critical comments and every time I saw the backlash, I just remembered how I never really wanted to upload that particular drawing anyway and how I had been hesitant to publish it.
When I was running low on ideas for drawings and finding myself shifting away from visual arts, I spent a while experimenting with different types of things to create next. For a while, I found myself gravitating towards making vlogs and other content talking about the more unique aspects of my life and identity. At first, I only did so because I thought I would never run out of ideas if I am drawing from stories and experiences within my own life. Eventually, it started shifting into advocacy. Instead of just talking about my life to practice content creation, it became more about being a source of representation when I often had not seen certain parts of my identity portrayed in the media. Even when I saw people like me being portrayed, the stereotypes and character traits those people had often did not match me in particular. I was diagnosed with autism as an adult mainly because I did not fit the stereotypes and got labeled as other things instead. I thought for years I had to figure out if I was gay or straight, male or female before I learned about additional sexualities and genders. The more I thought about how my life did not fit the norms portrayed in the media, the more I had topics I wanted to talk about in my writing, videos, and other content. For a while, I was really happy and proud of my work. Then, I started running into issues the longer I used my own life for inspiration.
Eventually, I started to yet again run low on new, unique content ideas the more I regularly published new content. There are also plenty of parts of my life that I either do not want to share or at least do not feel comfortable sharing yet. I also found that in a couple of my pieces, I made statements within them in which my beliefs towards the topic had greatly changed since publishing when I viewed them again a year or more later. The permanency of the internet makes it hard to change your mind on something and not have it potentially come back to bite you later. It was especially hard if it was only one or two statements within a larger video and not the entire subject of the piece that I had changed my mind on. Then, I would really debate on whether to delete it or not. The internet does not always allow the room to change and grow, since people can always look back at something you published years ago and not even notice the date on it, instead seeing it as your current viewpoint. I also started to run into times when I submitted work to publish in places where I had no power to take it down later and regretted it. That has not happened with this blog in particular, but it did when working with another organization. However, even when publishing on a website I control, there is still the risk of someone republishing my work without permission and it being out there on the internet somewhere I am not even aware of. It is surprising how many sites republish YouTube videos in particular without permission, with no way to get them taken down. Even if I disable embedding, people find ways to download the videos still and republish them. It is even easier to copy and paste something I published in writing.
Without a publicist, lawyer, or some other professional providing counsel on what was safe to publish, it started to get scarier and scarier to publish online. Besides the risk of oversharing or permanently publishing content becoming outdated, there started to be legal risks. In 2019, YouTube got in trouble with the FTC for violating COPPA. For months, there was then a debate being had on whether YouTube or individual content creators would be liable for future violations. YouTube also started to restrict what features were available for content aimed at kids, with a lot of content falling in a grey area of not being particularly made for kids, but being videos kids are likely to watch. A few months after that, there started to be a lot of news about proposed changes to Section 230, which also would have impacted how much legal liability content creators would have faced if some of those proposed changes had passed.
On top of concerns about fines and lawsuits floating around the content creator community, there were still other fears, like an employer taking issue with something I post online. For a while, I embraced the advice from one of my high school teachers, who had taught us it is better to create your own online identity before someone else does it for you (to publish my own content rather than to have no online presence while other people might publish photos and other information about me without permission). She had of course taught us to still be careful what we publish online, but to also have something rather than no online presence at all. It was not until a few years after high school, but I started to care a bit less about what other people thought and just became my full self online. It felt amazing to finally be out about being LGBTQ, my disabilities, etc. after being in the closet about them most of my life. My self-confidence was boosted and I had a decent amount of support from my friends at the time. Back then, I was planning to be a self-employed content creator full time, so I was not worried about a potential employer taking issue with my online identity. One of my YouTube channels in particular was finally starting to see exponential growth, I gained a few patrons on Patreon, and I was doing some freelancing work on top of that. Then, the channel growth leveled out. I found myself months into it and still not making enough money to call it more than a hobby. I thought I finally was growing the audience I had always dreamed of, but that initial growth that had encouraged me to try going full time for a bit had died. I really was putting full-time hours into it, making at least a video a week, creating more complex thumbnails and other graphics in Photoshop, and uploading consistently. Part of me still dreams of being a full-time content creator or maybe working in the film industry, though I also started to feel burned out a few months into it. Financially, I needed to start working more traditional jobs again, and the concern over how employers would see my social media and such returned. Recently, I faced an employer whose opinion was that all personal social media accounts should be set to private, ones who made posting on social media part of my job, another who did not want their internship listed on my LinkedIn, and also some jobs where I did not want to be out at work, though I was out online if anyone found what I had published. The relationship between personal social media accounts and employment is definitely a large topic all on its own, of which there is much debate to be found.
I also started dating again and making new friends once I became vaccinated, which brought up a new issue. If I had all this content about myself online, it meant someone I just met easily knew a lot about me from my content while I still knew next to nothing about them. Luckily, no one judged me badly for anything I had shared about myself online, though it felt way too lopsided when going on a date especially. On the other hand, publishing the content that I had led to me finding out some more casual friends I have had for years share parts of their identity with me without us having known previously. It brought both great conversations and awkward, fearful moments. Between fear of fines, burnout, having so much information about myself online, and having a very small audience with little income generated on top of that, it no longer felt worth it to keep a lot of my content public. I did not want to permanently delete my work, so I ended up making a bunch of YouTube channels and social media sites I had created private. I left the option to re-publish them someday, but it did not feel like the risk was worth it to keep them public right now. Especially since I wanted to take a break from being a YouTuber in particular, it left me even more liable if I was not actively moderating the comments on my channels and had kept them published.
After a couple of years of making content sometimes focused on my identity, I also was reminded of how I do not always want to be seen for my identity first. While I do support identity first language personally over person-first, there are also times where I do not want being autistic, nonbinary, etc as the first, or especially not the only thing, a person sees me for. Sometimes, I hesitate to write about a topic for this blog that I otherwise would write about just because I do not want someone to primarily read it through the lens of knowing I am autistic. For example, I want to write about my recent experience with joining a gym again without someone thinking that is just how autistic people are at the gym since my autism is not at all important to the story I wanted to tell there. There are so many things I want to write about without the person simply thinking of me as autistic the whole time. I fear the misconceptions and judgments people bring when knowing my identity when I wish to discuss something not directly related to my identity. I fear this more than any of my other fears around the permanence of publishing online content. Although, on the other hand, it can be important for me to write about parts of my life that break stereotypes and misconceptions so people like me are represented. It’s definitely a hard situation to want to combat this and not face it at the same time. Sometimes, I just don’t want to be the one to do it or do not feel like the right person to do it, only to yet again feel the need to. There is also the fact at play that I cannot ever speak for or represent everyone who shares a particular part of my identity. It’s a balance between trying to be the representation, emphasizing I am not the only version out there, and also not being seen just for a single part of my identity, especially when the audience may be holding onto misconceptions as the lens they see my work with. That alone can be overwhelming, but also awesome to explore at times as a topic on its own.
It felt really good to finally write this piece. I had been considering just writing about not feeling like I have anything to write about for months in a row. I find I usually do better with creating content when there is something I really want to talk about at that moment and I am not just writing or making a video for the sake of making something. I love how open-ended these blog posts can be, though not having a set niche or topic I am required to cover can then be especially hard when I feel like I have nothing I particularly want to write about at the moment. I am the kind of person who once I finally have an idea I am somewhat passionate about, I can write multiple pages in less than an hour. However, I can also stare at a blank page for weeks and not squeeze more than a few sentences out of my brain when I have no ideas I particularly care about at that moment. I am not the person who can just look around the room and pick anything at random. If I do, I will be struggling to get each word out until I finally feel a bit inspired. I know everyone gets writer’s block, though not being able to just easily write about anything is definitely a weakness I am still trying to improve on as a content creator. It is especially hard when I am creating by myself, compared to if I am working on a short film with a team of people I can brainstorm with.
I still find a lot of joy in content creation when I find something I care about enough to get into more of a flow state. Although, even then, I might be able to write something beautiful, or at least full of passion, only to find it is not worth publishing or is something I feel scared to publish online. Some of my best pieces are sitting in notebooks or on my computer unpublished simply because I wrote them during a traumatic moment in my life as a coping mechanism and do not feel comfortable sharing them, or at least not yet. I have one particular point in my life I sometimes dream about turning into a book of poems, but for now, they sit unpublished out of fear of the repercussions of sharing that particular part of my life. Not everything I write is shareable, and that is okay. There is value in writing just for myself either for practice, to help process something, or to just let certain thoughts have a life outside my brain.
I do not know what the solution is to the times where I feel like I have nothing to publish here. There are definitely multiple intertwining issues at play. I just know that whenever I consider simply giving up this gig, I cannot bring myself to it. I also do not think I should give it up. I think part of the solution is I need to write more often, especially by allowing myself to do more writing just for the sake of writing and without planning to publish those pieces when sitting down to write them. I also know getting out of the house more finally has generated a lot of ideas. The only reason I have continued to feel low on things to write about more recently is that certain events are still in motion and it is too soon to write about them. The gym story I mentioned earlier is definitely something I am still going through and processing at the moment. I think it could easily be made into a post in another month or two, but not yet. I have also considered writing at least one post on dating again post-vaccination, but besides that possibly being too personal to publish, it is also still a bit too new to write about yet. I am glad more is finally happening in my life again and I am not stuck at home all the time, but I also need time to process it. Sometimes, I can write about smaller topics as they happen, though, like how I wrote about the misfortune I had with shopping for a mattress last month. I almost did not publish that one, though, because I feared I was simply writing it to get my anger at the situation out. Going off that note, I have also feared my writing might be getting too negative. While I do believe it is important to point out where the world needs improvement and face issues instead of ignoring them, I also do not want to always be critical and I want to write about more positive topics sometimes. It’s just been especially hard to have brighter topics to write about during the pandemic, though my life is definitely starting to turn around finally. I remember one month, all I could think about anytime I tried to write was being stuck at home (which ended up being the topic of more than one blog post). The issue now with writing about the finally positive, new developments in my life is that they are too new or too personal to publish. Instead of having no new inspiration, some of the ideas that come to mind just simply are not ones I feel comfortable publishing right now.
I am sure I will find solutions to this eventually. I have been creating off and on in at least one medium pretty much my whole life. Even when I took a long break from content creation or switched to another medium, I have always found my way back to not only creating, but the joyous flow states it can sometimes bring. As a kid, I was mostly drawing and making puppets. I continue to go through phases off and on with photography, video, poetry, and writing more generally. The last week or so, I have found myself getting back into drawing again during my lunch breaks at work and not making as much time for writing as I did earlier in the pandemic. I do not see myself ever cutting content creation out of my life completely and writing for this blog is one way to encourage myself to continue creating.