Tu Ha An - Dreamlike & Multicultural Illustration

1 retrospective and 5 reasons that will save 5 years of your creative life

I had a flash of insight.

I absolutely must share with you one (or rather 5) revelation(s) that crossed my mind recently…

Let’s go back to the beginning of the year. Just before I left my former cooperative, CAE Bourgogne, my support manager encouraged me to run a workshop about YouTube for the cooperative’s entrepreneurs. The idea was to show how YouTube can be a great tool to boost your entrepreneurial activity.

Preparing this workshop gave me the opportunity to delve back into the early days of my YouTube adventure. It was with a fair dose of nostalgia and amusement that I rediscovered my old videos dating back to 2017 – 2018. I was a young employee back then, writing scripts in bus stops, shooting videos at night and editing on the tramway.

These videos reminded me how carefree my creations seemed, whereas behind every line drawn there were doubts, behind every sentence spoken there were fears, and above all, behind every video published there were hundreds of hours of work. And it was this last point that was a revelation.

Each video was only 3 to 5 minutes long, but it still took me three months to produce one. Three months of desperation, frustration, and disappointment. Just writing each video took weeks and weeks.

Fast forward to the present day, and I’m amazed to find that this once frustrated “YouTuber” now runs a bi-monthly trilingual blog, in addition to a monthly newsletter, while working full-time as an illustrator. The icing on the cake: her YouTube channel still exists, and her videos are now three times as long as they were back then, in addition to the bi-weekly shorts!

No, I didn’t suddenly gain more time…

I’m not one of those entrepreneurs who work just 4 hours a week for a passive income, while sipping a cocktail by the pool on an island paradise (although, I admit it wouldn’t displease me :D)

My writing speed remains unchanged. My videos are now much more elaborate, with more sophisticated editing than the voice-over speed-drawings of yesteryear. What’s more, my content is now available in three different languages, instead of two (French and Vietnamese) as it was back then. And to top it all off, I find it hard to write articles of less than 1500 words…

Of course, if you’ve read my article When the most chaotic project becomes the most extraordinary, you’ll know that since January 2023, I’ve been supported by an (excellent) editor-in-chief and (golden) collaborators for one-off projects…

But before that date, since the launch of my blog in December 2021, how did I manage to go from working 3 months to produce a 3-minute video, to creating two trilingual articles a month in addition to a 15-minute video a month?

Here’s my analysis, which will certainly be beneficial to you if you too are running one (or more) creative project(s). And above all, to avoid making the same mistakes I did for 5 long years, from 2017 to 2021.

Reason no. 1: The power of WHY

The findings were as follows:

Back when I was making the speed drawing videos you saw at the beginning of this article, my mentality boiled down to: “I do things because they’re (or looks) fun”.

This could mean an idea would pop into my head, and I’d immediately start writing the script, without doing any research beforehand, without asking myself why I wanted to do it, or whether it was the right approach to take.

Sometimes, it would also stem from a thought like, “Ah, it’s almost New Year’s, we need a video about this topic!”

One point to emphasize: I’m a real “people pleaser”. I often confused suggestion with request. When a friend or family member shared a video with me and said, “I just saw this, you could make a video about it too, I’m sure your point of view would be appreciated!”, I felt obliged to create a video, whether to please the person or to make them proud.

The result:

I had no goals, no direction.

My channel was a mishmash of videos that went in all directions, tackling subjects that weren’t necessarily related, from family anecdotes to cultural differences, to DIY…

You will rarely find any value in my videos from that period.

But above all: without a strong reason to guide me like a lighthouse in the night, I let myself be carried away by the enthusiasm of the moment.

Once the enthusiasm wore off, I found myself without direction, without a goal, without a noble mission to keep me motivated.

Every mundane task seemed interminable and every obstacle, whether technical, managerial, or human, seemed insurmountable. This was fertile ground for… PROCRASTINATION, accompanied by its friends: fear, doubt and low self-esteem!

The solution: 

Let’s set a “why” that resonates with ourselves before embarking on content creation.

A clear and meaningful “why” can serve as a true source of inspiration, helping to maintain passion and enthusiasm throughout the creative process. Defining your “why” helps to ensure consistency of message, and that each piece of content contributes to achieving a wider objective.

If you’re curious about my “why”, you can read the very first post on this blog.

Reason no. 2: I have less decision fatigue

Once you’ve explored the first reason, you might ask yourself: isn’t defining an objective, a theme or an editorial line for my creations going to lock me into a certain rigidity?

And that’s a crucial question for us, creative types.

You know what?

Back then, I gave myself a complete free hand. I firmly believed in my freedom to create videos on any subject, in any language, and to publish them whenever I liked.

But you all know the result already!

When everything is possible, every decision becomes a dilemma. This leads to what’s known as “decision paralysis” or the “paradox of choice”, as brilliantly explained in the eponymous book by author and psychologist Barry Schwartz.

The more choices there are to consider, the harder it is to evaluate and compare them. This can lead to a fear of making the wrong decision, and we’re often less satisfied with the final choice.

When you’re tired of making decisions, your ability to think critically, be creative and generate original ideas can be compromised.

So today, in my case:

  • With creativity as the central theme for all my content, I am in my element. This theme is my True North, with which I feel totally legitimate and at ease, while maintaining a constant curiosity to discover more.
  • No more doubts about my credibility, no more days spent looking for an angle to set myself apart from established experts, no more wondering whether my current subscribers would be receptive to a totally new subject.
  • By deciding to create systematically in three languages, I no longer waste time choosing which language to use for each new creation, for fear of losing subscribers who don’t speak the language not chosen. The process is now simple and has become a habit, an automatism: I start with French, then translate into the other two languages.

I’ve even established a publication frequency, with deadlines for blog posts. Which brings us to reason no. 3.

Reason no. 3: DEADLINE is our ally!

Or rather, Parkinson’s law is our ally.

Parkinson’s Law says that work expands to fill the time available. In other words, if you have more time to do a task, it will take longer to complete.

By setting our own deadlines for the publication of video or text content, we assume the role of “decision-maker”. Of course, it’s essential that these deadlines are achievable and realistic, adapting them to our personal situation!

Personally, I have chosen to make most of my deadlines public:

  • Blog posts will be published on the 5th and 15th of each month;
  • The Creati’letter, my creative newsletter, will be sent at the end of each month.

In this way, there’s an element of responsibility involved, as if I’d made a promise to my audience. And a promise is a promise.

Reason no. 4: Improved time management

Of course, we cannot ignore this almost self-evident rule: if we don’t have more time but want to achieve more, it’s essential to learn to manage our time better.

Please note: this reason has a rather technical aspect, and is only effective if the three preceding reasons have been considered.

I am going to direct you to two articles in which I specifically address this subject: 

How to have more time to create? 

In this article, I share five effective, guilt-free tips for freeing up time to foster creativity. These methods helped me to maintain my passion for creation, to practice regularly, and eventually led me to become a professional illustrator today.

The Present Day planner – My secret weapon for creative productivity

This article reveals my constant struggles with time management and introduces the tool that has enabled me to take control of my schedule while maintaining balance in my personal life. (This article is a testament to the evolution in the quality of my content and my time management. It’s one of the longest, most documented and illustrated articles I’ve ever written, accompanied by a video version of which I’m particularly proud of the editing!)

Reason no. 5: The snowball effect

Putting the four reasons mentioned above into practice will bring about a remarkable improvement.

But the surprise is that this improvement itself will push you to go faster and further.

The more content we publish, the more material we have to identify what is working and what is not. Likewise, the more we create, the quicker we move through all the steps, simply out of habit.

But the most magical thing is that the more we create, the more we attract resources, inspiration and positive feedback that motivate us.

For example, when viewers share their experiences in private messages, it proves that our content has value and deserves to exist.

Or even advice from professionals. Often, these experienced creators are generous with their advice, but they reserve it for those who demonstrate seriousness and worthiness.

Plus, perseverance gives us opportunities to do new things, outside our daily routine (which proves that reason n°2 is not at all limiting).

Like the month of March this year, when I was speaker in a book fair, a first for me.

Or this time in December 2022, when I was invited to appear on a regional television channel.

Or the YouTube workshop I ran at the beginning of the year with my former cooperative.

Bonus reason: US, from the past

This experience-sharing might well be useful to you on your own creative journey.

However, I’d like to reserve these last words, before I finish the article, to thank you all.

Thank you for being there, whether you stumbled across these lines ten years after they were published, or were a viewer of my poorly-lit speed drawing videos when I was still trying to find my way.

My setup back then

To be completely transparent and honest, today, my content creation “system” is still not perfectly oiled. Even after having found and applied the 5 reasons listed above, sometimes, I still find myself desperately wasting too much time on a creation. The proof is in the article 45 hours for 2 blog posts or (Almost) Kill five birds with one stone.

But let’s not forget: it’s by comparing ourselves with our past selves that we become aware of how far we’ve come.

So be kind to your past self, and…

Keep creating!

Tu Ha An

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