Creativity Unleashed: Discover, Hone, and Share Your Voice Online | Nathaniel Drew | Skillshare

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Creativity Unleashed: Discover, Hone, and Share Your Voice Online

teacher avatar Nathaniel Drew, Online Content Creator

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Start With Value


    • 3.

      Addressing Insecurities


    • 4.

      The Creativity Framework


    • 5.

      Finding Creative Fuel


    • 6.

      Develop Your Core Theme


    • 7.

      Look to Past Work


    • 8.

      Stay Consistent


    • 9.

      Break Your Own Rules


    • 10.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

Unleash your creativity and begin the online project you’ve always dreamed of with online content creator Nathaniel Drew!

On YouTube, Instagram, and the internet at large, the only thing that truly matters is your voice. How you develop, use, and share your creative ideas with others can be the difference between a robust, engaged community and feeling like you’re shouting into the void.

Nathaniel knows the feeling. Over a period of many years, he’s built a community of over a million followers on YouTube through sharing his authentic self, creating quality, thoughtful content, and staying focused on a creative framework that works for him. Now, he’s sharing the tools and tactics he used to find creative clarity so you can do the same.

Through a deep dive into his own childhood, past projects, and hard-won learnings, Nathaniel will guide you through:

  • Determining your individual value as a creator
  • Overcoming insecurities
  • Establishing your core theme
  • Evolving your work as you grow

Plus, every lesson is paired with reflection questions and journaling exercises that Nathaniel completes right along with you, allowing you to do the work right now to find and develop your own point of view.

Whether you’re itching to start your own YouTube channel, create a cult newsletter, or write must-read Instagram essays, when you’re done you’ll have a renewed understanding of what makes you unique, and how you can harness it to cultivate a long-lasting career (or hoppy!) online.

Meet Your Teacher

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Nathaniel Drew

Online Content Creator


Thanks to a very strange series of events that took place in our universe, I exist. It’s weird, I can’t explain it.

My interest in clarity and intentionality stems from a desire to take as much of it all (life) in while I can. I don’t want to get in my own way.

Born to two immigrants from Argentina, I grew up in the Pacific Northwest.

I felt deeply unsatisfied with staying in the same place for the rest of my life, which is what pushed to spend as much of my time as possible doing what I call slow travel which is a more low-cost, sustainable way of spending time abroad.

This gives me the chance to learn the languages of the places that I’m living in, which I find extremely enjoyable and fulfilling.

A major motivation for me to p... See full profile

Level: All Levels

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1. Introduction: Making things is my way of understanding life. I have always felt this immense push to make things and put them out on the Internet, because I believe we live in an incredible time, and we have to take full advantage of this new thing that connects all of us that didn't exist before. My name is Nathaniel Drew. This is a class on how to find your voice. I'm an online content creator, which is a super vague term. That can mean just about a million different things depending on who you ask. I'm in a constant pursuit to better connect with people around the world. Right now what it looks like is audio-visual material on social media and my newsletter. This is a class for anybody interested in finding or further developing their voice as an artist on the Internet. This entire process of creative expression, especially on the Internet, is so incredibly unclear. There isn't a guidebook, it isn't straightforward, everybody's journey looks different and it is scary to leap into the unknown. That's an inevitable truth, I think. But there are a few things that you can do to give yourself better odds. Throughout this class, we're going to explore first, few concepts and lay down the groundwork on how to approach creativity and self-expression. Then we're going to move into tools and you can put into practice to help you navigate that process. This applies to anyone beginning or interested in further developing a project, be it a career or just a hobby. You can just as much apply to running a YouTube channel as writing a book or developing yourself as we've started with. It is my belief that you already have that voice within yourself. It's not about finding, it is about developing skills and the tools to better listen to that voice and gain better access to it. I'm really grateful that you're taking this class and let's get started. 2. Start With Value: I think the place to start is by taking a step back and laying a little bit of the groundwork with a few general concepts that have helped me get a clear focus on how I want to approach things. The first is that in my belief, in my view, everybody is looking to improve their own lives. This can look like many different things. It can look like educational material is available online. You go on the Internet when you don't know how to do something. How to tie a tie, or if you have some specific questions about a certain topic or something that happened historically. But this can also look like entertainment, and it can look like entertainment because that can provide a sense of relief. It can provide a sense of distraction from the problems that we face in our lives. My point here is that art and material online can look like many, many different things. That leads to my next point here which is that when you start a project, you have an infinite amount of possibilities available at your disposal, and that is beautiful. It means the world is your oyster. You have so many options. But it can also feel overwhelming because you can't possibly go in every possible direction. It's necessary in my view to narrow down your focus so that you can have a clear sense of direction. The most effective way that I found in doing that for myself is by asking myself a series of very specific questions, not just at the beginning of a project, but throughout the entire process. You can absolutely tailor this to yourself and this can look different for all of us. But I'm going to give a couple of examples that I think are fairly universal. I often ask myself, would I find this helpful? Would I find this interesting? Would I find this valuable? These questions, they're very powerful for a variety of reasons, and I think I can best illustrate this by giving a couple of examples. My first example is a couple of videos that I did on journaling in the last year and a half. I decided to do this because I wanted to share why first of all I find journaling helpful and beneficial. I also shared how I approach it and just wanted to give some insights in the whole process, because I found that it's a habit that has very much helped me in my own life and in gaining clarity for myself. When asking myself these questions, it was pretty easy, it's pretty straightforward, like yes, this is absolutely something that I think I would find helpful. This is absolutely something that I could see myself looking up online. That's pretty easy. I feel like it's easy to answer those questions and know that, yeah, I'm on track. Taking it a little bit further, I recently posted a video called Thank You to a Stranger on a channel called No Backup Plan that I also run. It's a second channel. Basically, it's very simple. I just sat down and shared my experience being on the receiving end a random act of kindness from a complete stranger. Throughout the process of making that video, I asked myself regularly, would I find this valuable? Because it's not so clear cut, I'm not necessarily giving tips and tricks, or clear educational takeaways necessarily. But at the end of the day, I did find enormous value in this personal experience of mine. It really touched me, and I wanted to share that with the world. That's what ultimately led me to putting it out, publishing it, because the answer to these questions was yes, I think I would find this valuable if I stumbled upon this video. That helped me get pass some of the doubts that I was having, and ultimately the reaction was extremely positive and people really appreciated. Hearing that story, I think within the context of a crazy world that we're living in right now with a lot of negative news. I give these examples to illustrate this point because I feel it's not my job to give the specific answers on how to navigate the creative process and find your own voice. It's a deeply personal journey that you go on. I'm more so trying to share the system that has worked for me and that I believe can help you get closer. Because if you can develop this instinct of finding and listening to the answers to these questions, that will bring you closer to your voice and what you naturally want to share with the world. Asking these questions and using this as a system to constantly course-correct may seem unnecessary. But in my personal experience, I've found this to be absolutely huge in staying authentic to that initial desire, that initial creative spark that I felt, and having that final result reflect that accurately. Because if you don't have some system to help you stay the course, the pressures of the outside world like I said, or the desire to try to do too many things at once can water down that final product and that can feel frustrating and disappointing. It's important to always come back to yourself and focus internally because that's where everything comes from. That's where that desire to create and share originates, and that's where I think your focus should always ultimately end up. Now is a great time to take a moment and ask yourself some of these questions, whether you're at the beginning of a project or you're already underway with something. If you feel you're struggling with the answers, explore why that may be. Because in that exploration, you may find some answers that help change and provide more clarity in the direction that you want to go in. 3. Addressing Insecurities: When I began making stuff and especially when I began trying to share stuff on the internet, I could not shake this feeling of insecurity. I kept having thoughts like, what do I have to offer the world that's original? There's so much out there. It feels like every platform is saturated. Everything has been done already. What I have to contribute? I think this is a feeling and a series of thoughts, so many of us have come across or face currently. What I would like to offer is the series of thoughts, a series of responses to remind yourself to break out of that negative thoughts cycle and not get stuck there. First of all, you're never late to the party. Art is always evolving and changing, you can look at any point in history for proof of that. To build off, of that point, the internet is very much still in its infancy. To imagine where things will be in 50 years from now is almost impossible. I mean, I would go as far as to say it is completely impossible. My guess is as good as yours. Anytime change is taking place, there is room for new opportunity and to jump in and contribute something new and different. The idea that you're too late is taking a narrow perspective on something much bigger, and I absolutely sympathize with anybody who falls into that trap because I absolutely did it myself when I started trying to put stuff out into the world. I had this little voice in my head that told me I was too late. But you can't listen to that voice. Another really important thing to keep in mind is that likes and followers are quantitative measures, and I say that because it's important to divorce it from qualitative measures. By that, I mean, that just because something gets a lot of likes or followers, doesn't necessarily say anything about the depth of the impact that it's having. It's really important to keep that in mind because, It's much harder to track that in terms of numbers. In fact, in many ways, having a small intimate community can be more powerful than having an enormous platform. Finally, it's really important to mention this. No person in the history of all of humanity has the exact same combination of personal life experiences, conversations with other people, memories, shower thoughts, etc. That basically means that just by virtue of existing, you have something original to offer the world. Really just briefly touching on criticism. I think if you put stuff out there for long enough, inevitably, you will have to encounter very real criticism from other people out in the world. It is a fact of life that you cannot please everybody, and the more quickly you can learn and understand that and accept that, the less you're going to drive yourself absolutely crazy. The reason I think this is the way it is, is because as long as you're authentically sharing what's important to you in a creative sense. There's a level of vulnerability associated with that, which in my view, means you're doing things right. You're approaching things in the right way, but it can leave you feeling exposed, and that's why feedback can hurt sometimes, and just keeping that in mind can help, I think in so many ways to stay the course and understand that, this is okay, this is normal. In fact, I think whenever something is really popular and doesn't seem to receive much criticism, it's got to be so bland that it's not really saying anything, and it's another thing to just keep in mind. Art. One of the most beautiful things about art is that it can move people. I can challenge ideas. Simply because of that, you always run the risk of encountering criticism. I think just as a very important practice to follow, don't get lost in comments and messages and consuming an excessive amount of feedback that can be deeply counterproductive. Just because some stranger said it on the internet doesn't necessarily mean that you have to take it to heart. I'm not saying not to be receptive to feedback, but being conscious of it, navigating that fine line is extremely important. A really powerful experience that you can do, that I found very beneficial, is taking a moment and recalling and writing down a series of experiences and conversations and memories that you have that belong uniquely to you. It can be as simple as, and I'm going to write this down, conversations that I've had with my grandmother on a variety of different topics that I've found just fascinating, and only I had that conversation with my grandma. Another example would be specific relationships that you have, so I think I have a very unique relationship with my brother. We collaborate on a lot of creative projects. He's a very talented animator, and so his skill set compliments mine in a very unique way, and I feel like that's also very special. Another example that comes to mind is the fact that I feel very lucky that I grew up in a bilingual household. I'm going to write down memories, going to the beach in California when I was really little. I had the good fortune of spending my sometimes tumultuous teenage years living in the forest, and I felt like that really connected me with nature in some ways. For whatever reason, I'm just thinking about my experiences in New York City. I've been lucky enough to go visit on a couple of occasions. I don't know something about the energy of the city stuck with me. I feel like that contributes to my unique experiences and memories as an individual. I really enjoyed playing soccer as a kid and the feelings of competitiveness and camaraderie they came with that. Even at eight years old. I'm also extremely grateful for having taken the leap and knowing what it's like to live in a place like Mexico City. Taking the time to think about these things and write them down is powerful in writing ways. It shifts the focus for me because the way I see this is, this is a list of things that make up my own personal wealth as an individual. Nobody else in the world has exactly this combination of things in exactly this exact proportion, and there's something special about that. There's something very powerful about that, and it's something to not forget when you're going through those moments of doubt and uncertainty and you feel like, gosh, I don't have anything original or interesting to say. 4. The Creativity Framework: So this point I'm going to lay out a series of ideas to help dispel misconceptions, I think, revolving around creativity and this, once again, maybe set that you're familiar with. But that doesn't change the fact that these are very powerful and important reminders. First of all, we place an over-emphasis on natural talent. For the most part, nobody is good when they start something new, and that's okay. I highly recommend the book, Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, who does a lot to dispel this myth of talent and what really goes into getting really good at something. If you're really hungry to understand how this works, there's another great book called Bounce by Matthew Syed that I recommend. Building off those ideas, there is no shortcut to getting really good at something. It requires a lot of practice and a lot of intentional practice more specifically. Overnight success doesn't exist and I think it's such a prevalent idea because it's what we see in popular culture. We see the two or three percent of somebody's career as they break into the limelight, and we don't see all the struggle and uncertainty and the blood, sweat and tears that went into things leading up to that moment. Just as a simple personal example that I can offer, and this really isn't just about the money, but I think this can show very clearly how this works or how this can manifest. In my first four years of putting material online, more specifically on YouTube, I made a total of $400. I think we can all agree that's not enough to make a living. I mentioned this because it showed me how unpredictable all this can be. Things don't work in linear ways and they don't work in predictable ways. Just because, for example, you start out at something and you're not good at it, really that says nothing about your potential and how far things can go and how long things can take. This is the weird and unpredictable world of creativity, and it's important to remember that. Another really important point here is that in the beginning and to this day, I consider myself my own biggest obstacle in my own creative process. I think a lot of internal dialogue and ruminations and what not can be very destructive. At the end of the day, I don't think you can think your way to a lot of the creative answers that you're looking for or figuring out what your voice is as an artist. The focus should instead be on experimentation, on giving yourself the freedom and space to do so and putting out a lot of work because that's the best way to improve. Another thing that it's important to remember, and I think we all know this, but reminders can never hurt is that things really are not as sexy as they are in the movies. There's a lot of uncertainty and pain and doubt, and sometimes I'm sitting behind my computer trying to figure out the story I'm trying to tell and it is not presenting itself. That can be immensely frustrating. But at the same time, it's also part of the process and wanting to somehow surpass that and get to a place where you no longer feel the feelings of doubt or uncertainty is also unrealistic. My understanding of this creative process that I go deeper and deeper into things is that it is a part of the process and it's better to accept it than fight against it. Finally, if you're just starting out, there's an immense amount of freedom when nobody is familiar with your work just yet, there are no expectations and that's something that you can really run with. I'm going to share a little bit of my own story and journey through this process. Maybe some of it you can identify with yourself personally. Picked up a camera for the first time five years ago, and I really had absolutely no idea what I was going to do with it. I certainly had no idea it would lead me to this point. I'm glad things naturally evolved in the way that they did. But I certainly wish I didn't put so much pressure on myself. I'm definitely perfectionist and I stressed so much throughout the first few years of doing things about never getting good enough, whatever that means. It's a very vague term without a clear definition. I think this stress came from a place of not trusting the process, not trusting that if I continued to experiment and keep at it, you inevitably get better. Developing this mindset of experimentation and really that everything in my life is just a series of experiments has been really effective way for me to escape some of that unneeded pressure. I've found that to be very effective in helping me to just keep going. All of us need to navigate this tightrope walk as we go through this process of accepting imperfections, but also regularly pushing for better. At this point, I'd like to propose another journaling exercise. This time, what we're going to do is identify limiting beliefs. I'm not saying to believe them. I'm saying to write them down first of all and observe them with curiosity, ideally. First thing that comes to mind, I do sometimes think I haven't led an interesting life. That is, I get some weird insecurity in mind. Being more specific about this actually can be helpful. For example, sometimes I think I haven't led an interesting life because it hasn't been dangerous in some way. But already just writing it down, I can see how silly that sounds out loud. Sometimes I feel like I struggle with the same concepts and same ideas over and over again. Maybe a fear of being uninteresting because I'm repetitive. Here's another one. I have regularly told myself that I'm not funny because jokes don't just spontaneously form in my brain. I've never considered myself a very witty person in a variety of different scenarios. That is a limiting belief right there. I think it's really powerful to look at this, again, with a little bit of curiosity and see what I'm doing to myself. I think it can be powerful too to pretend that somebody else wrote this, like a good friend. What would you say to them? Because we can be not necessarily very kind with ourselves, and this is a strange but very common occurrence in so many of us. Creating a list like this can maybe seem counterproductive, but I'm not saying to believe this. I'm saying to put these insecurities out into the open so you can see them very clearly. Because I think if I don't pay particularly close attention to these fears that I've got, they live somewhere in the back of my mind and they're just little by little chipping away and telling me it's not worth it, don't go for it. That is the real danger in having beliefs like this. This is why I mentioned that I am my own obstacle. There's nobody else who's telling me these things. It's me whispering it to myself in the back of my mind. But putting out in the open, like I mentioned with my first point, it's silly, really like, an interesting life doesn't necessarily have to have been dangerous. I can almost laugh at it, but it's beneficial, I think, to sometimes put these things out in the open and explore them. 5. Finding Creative Fuel: I would imagine you have a desire to start creating, otherwise you wouldn't be watching this class right now. Sometimes it can be very difficult to know where to start. That's a very common obstacle. First of all, I'm just going to say that I don't think there's any wrong way to go about things. No matter what you do, anything that you create ultimately contributes to your education and as long as you look at things through that lens in that framework, there's no possible way to waste your time. But okay, I get it. Sometimes it's nice to get excited about things. There are two places that I consistently go back to for inspiration, if you will, and clarity on what I want to create, childhood and music. Believe it or not, you already have most, if not all, the answers that you're looking for. I think this is because in childhood, we have a level of unbridled curiosity and creativity that, I don't know, it's what makes children special. Everything changes as we become adults and we start to shoulder responsibility and pressure and our ideas of what we should be interested in or how we should spend our time change. As we all did, in all likelihood, you naturally gravitated towards certain things as a child, and you may or may not be able to recall that or remember what those things were and that's totally fine, that happens to all of us. But that means it is time to do a little bit of investigative work. A good place to start and a very high up on my recommendation list is watching footage of yourself as a child that there is any, looking at photos, having conversations with people that knew you as a kid, what were you doing? What was your energy like? What interested you? How did you react to people? How did you interact with people? All of that is interesting and can be helpful in painting a picture. As a kid, apparently, I would invent languages. I would not just come up with two or three nicknames for my pets, but like 200. Something about linguistics just consistently captured my curiosity and it was, I guess, something about my brain and how I operated that just kept pulling me back to that. Funnily enough, languages and communicating with people in general is now integral in the work that I do. When I look back, it's something that I stumbled on by accident and rediscovered when I was 16 or 17 years old. There was this long period in my childhood where I forgot about that. I think that's completely normal. I think we all go through this and that's why approaching all of this like a detective can be so powerful, because I feel like after we exit childhood, in many ways, I just feel like the rest of life is just a return back towards what it was like to be a child and having a childlike curiosity and energy for life. Another potential approach to finding little sparks of inspiration is music. We all listen to and love music. There's nothing original about this necessarily. We're not trying to reinvent the wheel here, but it is really important to mention that there's something about music that captures emotions in a way that words are sometimes unable to. I find that when I stumble on a certain piece of music, a certain song that captures a set of feelings that I don't feel have another manifestation out there or that I'm interested in and I want to include as part of my creative output, I grab and hold on to that, that moment, that spark. It is not uncommon for me when I stumble on music that I feel accurately captures these feelings that I want to convey to save that song in the playlist or something along those lines and listening to it just 300 times in a row while I work. This is part of a bigger message in my opinion because this can look like many different things. It doesn't have to look like music necessarily for you, but it's acting on that little spark, that feeling of butterflies or whatnot that comes up within you. You cannot act as if that will just come back or you can recall it whenever you'd like. It will come and it will go just as quickly. Being ready for that, being open and receptive to that is huge. Returning to this idea of music, it's a guide, it's a way, it's an aid, it's something that helps me navigate this process because I don't know what I'm doing. When I have a little bit of inspiration or the inkling of an idea, I haven't figured it out yet. That's the creative process. It's figuring it out. As a final thought, inspiration really is not something that you can force. It's something to respect and be receptive to, and many times I feel like inspiration or creative ideas hit me while I'm doing something else, completely unrelated. It could be washing the dishes, it could be walking the dog. Building a habit of being ready for those moments, writing it down, documenting it, and however works best for you, can be extremely beneficial when it comes time to sit back down and try and create something. I think it's important to repeat that. I don't think any of these suggestions or techniques are necessarily groundbreaking in their originality, but they work and they're great reminders. Sometimes when I feel like I'm stuck, creative friends of mine will give me this advice and I'll be like, "Oh yeah, you know what? I'll just go on a run and see what happens." In many ways, that simplicity is all that's necessary. I'd like to propose the exercise of going into full detective mode, exploring any material that's out there, archives of footage or photos of you as a kid, setting up conversations or phone calls or whatever is necessary with family members or people that knew you when you were little, and writing as much of this as you possibly can down. This can become a roadmap to rediscovering things that captured your interest and your curiosity when you were little. I had the spontaneous idea to just call my dad and hopefully give an example of a conversation that I think would be beneficial in finding out more about your childhood. Let's see how this goes. I wanted to call you to discuss a little bit my childhood honestly, which might seem like a strange request, a strange question, but I feel like exploring childhood is a really essential aspect of exploring creativity and who you are as a person. So I don't know, could you just take a few minutes here and just describe to me what I was like, because I don't remember large portions of it. What are some examples of things that you felt I naturally gravitated towards? Language. Language from early on. As a young kid, you were interested in not just reading and absorbing language, but creating your own. I still remember, you'd make up words and one day you said I'm going to actually put this on paper and you took a stack of papers up in the playroom. Tell me if, do you want this information or not? Come on. To me it's fun. You stapled a stack of papers and started writing, this word means such and such. You stopped there. The project never evolved into Oxford dictionary. But the intent was there, you just had this interest in words and making up language. That was something that was there early on. Is there anything else that you felt stood out to you as particularly characteristic? You were interested in being in front of people, in front of the camera, if you will, from early on. You were interested in dance, you were interested in acting. I think you were exploring how to present yourself to the world. You explored those two, they didn't really go very far, I think you could do them well, but it wasn't really your main areas of interest. In the early days of YouTube, we were doing silly things at home, little videos, that fighting video we did, stuff like that, putting it on my channel. But anyway, I remember one instance, we were in the living room and I was seated on the couch and you were in front of me. Again, you liked to be in front of people, standing up and moving. We'll just take a moment and explore that for a second. What do you mean by that? Did you feel I just had a natural desire to present information or entertain? If you watch family videos, whenever I was shooting, you'd get in front of the camera, you'd engage. Later on, there's some disastrous filming in Panama, for example, where you wanted to grab the camera, you wanted to do, there was that impulse. What I mean is that, here I am sitting on the couch and I don't know what the context was, but you're in front of me, why are you in front of me, you're supposed to be seated next to me, right? Right. Then you started acting out. I think it was something around dance, there was a dance new at the time, the dougie or something. Anyway, I'll remember later. Dougie? Dougie, I think that's it. There you go. I think you were showing it to me and then you started explaining almost to a YouTube body, like an audience, how the move goes and how you do it, and I'd go, "Yeah, just go ahead and pretend you're on YouTube teaching this," and the way you delivered it was like, "Wow." I'm like, "You should start your own channel." It took some years before you even realized that, but again, those to me are all just different indications for just all of it leading to where it did for you. That's really interesting. Well, okay. Gosh, thank you. I appreciate you sharing and giving some insight. I feel like I to an extent already know a lot of this, but even just talking about it right now, I feel like I'm learning about who I was as a person in a strange way. Honestly, I feel we should have more conversations like this, because I think I'd better like to understand who I was as a kid. It's just fascinating to me. Anyway, thank you for shedding some light on that. Totally. I hope this helps. I don't really know what the course is about but I get it. You didn't give me enough information or that much for me to know the full context, but I hope that helps. We shall find out. All right, well, I'll let you get back to work. Okay. Thanks and nice to meet everybody. Cool. I feel like that was a really interesting conversation. I've already had quite a few conversations about my childhood with my parents and with my family in general, but even just now, I feel like I don't know, my dad was mentioning a few things that I don't think I fully realized about myself, particularly this desire to present information in front of camera, which makes perfect sense considering what we're doing right now. But yeah, I just think it's a really interesting way to speak to people that knew you in that stage of life and definitely something that's worth exploring. 6. Develop Your Core Theme: Several years ago, I took a long break after going several years of consistently putting out material online. I did this because I was feeling absolutely deflated and discouraged because I felt like everything that I was putting out felt scattered and disconnected. I took that time to reflect and I stumbled on what ended up becoming a core theme for myself. That's a concept I really want to talk about because it ultimately had a massive spillover effect on everything that I've done since. There are three reasons why having what I'm going to call a core theme is very impactful in everything that you do. The first is that it will be a way to guide yourself back on course whenever you inevitably get derailed or fall a little bit away from that initial mission that you were on. The second reason is that it makes it a lot easier for people out there that stumble upon your work to more easily understand what you are about, who you are, and the direction that you're going in, and it allows them to also follow this journey that you're on and be a part of it as well. The third reason is actually, believe it or not, to better understand what you are trying to do. This is an incredible device in my opinion, to provide yourself a framework to work within, and to intentionally connect all of the work that you're doing. This is a self-imposed structure that you're giving yourself, and the funny thing about this is that, it's essentially a phrase that you're making up at some level. That you are simply putting your conviction behind, and all of the meaning that will come with this phrase will come over time just by virtue of exploring and putting your work out there. I'll give a clear example to illustrate what I'm trying to say here. When people see my work online, whenever they stumble upon it or discovered by any means, I make it abundantly clear that everything that I do is connected to this idea of this search for mental clarity that I'm on. This both sets the tone and focus on my work, but at the same time is malleable enough to give myself some freedom to work within those parameters. The funny thing about all of this is that I just made up this phrase like it's just something that came to my mind a few years ago and I've stuck with it. Now, all of the meaning that it has is meaning that I have given it over time by using it regularly to shape my life in a way. Once again, I think this makes it a lot easier for people to fall along on this journey that I'm on, and it ultimately becomes a part of this brand that I began to create for myself. The interesting paradox about creativity is that in a weird way fries awful limitations, either natural or self-imposed. I think this is the case because, if we lived in a perfect world where there weren't any problems, that would be no need for creativity or creative problem-solving. This mission statement that you create for yourself does not need to define you for the rest of your life. It's more than anything, a starting place and it needs to be sometimes a difficult combination of clear and malleable enough for you to naturally evolve and grow as an artist and as a person. Very briefly, I'm going to touch on a side point that's attached to this concept, which is that I think you can have core themes in different spheres of your life. I have one for my personal life, I have one for my career as a whole, and then I have one for this particular project that I'm on, which is my search for mental clarity. I think that's a great way to section off your attention and your focus and different aspects of your life. As an exercise, I would propose to sit down and just take a little bit of time to brainstorm different potential core themes that you can use to accurately describe your work to anyone that maybe has the question like, what is it you want to do exactly? Then go about testing it out and seeing if it feels right, if it feels like it captures the essence of what you're after. I wouldn't stress if you feel like you're struggling to come up with it. I think even just taking the time to start to open your mind to potential ideas and options is the place to start. Eventually, it might take a few weeks or a few months. The idea will come to you or you might stumble upon it and that's exactly what happened to me. It's one of those things that you can't really force, by opening yourself up to it, it will eventually come. 7. Look to Past Work: The best example, the best analogy that I've come across to accurately describe what doing creative work feels like is walking through the dark. I believe this is a really applicable analogy for life as a whole, but we're going to just focus on creativity for right now. What I think this analogy very accurately captures is the fact that self-expression is a game of incomplete information. Fortunately, as we've been exploring already in previous lessons, I believe we all have more answers than we sometimes think, and that was illustrated, I believe, in reaching back to childhood. But developing that ability to listen and find those answers within yourself is massive in the creative process. In fact, in my opinion, we're all constantly leaving a long trail of clues in all of our previous work. If you can successfully look back on that work with the right balance of a critical eye, but at the same time, a healthy amount of compassion, there's so much valuable information to be gleaned that can be applied in future work. They can help you along on this process of evolving and growing as an artist. Now, the impulse is at least for me to look back on the vast majority of what I made in the past with a sense of horrified fascination, that isn't really beneficial. So I'm going to do my best here to illustrate how I tried to look back on old work of mine to glean insights. We're going to use the second video that I've ever made as a prime example. Just a little bit of context, like I said, second video I ever made, this was published on August 15 of 2015, nearly five years ago. It's entitled, I Flew in a World War II American Planes. Right after that, I feel like I could have been a little bit more enticing in the title and how I presented this, but at the very least, I can say I went forward and that's already great. Hello again, my name's Nathan. I wanted to share a story. We're about five seconds in here, I have a lot of thoughts. I'm going to do my best here to split my critiques into a couple of different categories. We can go back to the framework that I laid out earlier of style versus substance, which are both important. I think it's nice to start stylistically. Right off the bat, I think what stands out to me is the fact that the audio sounds a little bit echoey. I know that there are a lot of cheap solutions out there that can make a very big difference in terms of the production quality, that stands out to me. Just looking at this, this is the first time I've looked at this video in quite a long time and it really stands out to me the fact that the light coming from the windows is completely blown out. If I remember correctly, I recorded this facing the corner of my bedroom. I think even just turning my body around and placing my face to the window light would have made a massive difference for $0.00. It's not necessarily something that requires better gear. That stands out to me, doesn't look super nice. Even the light spilling on to my bed is completely blown out. Now, on the other side of things in terms of substance, if I'm not mistaken here, I'm going to play it through one more time. Hello again. The third word I say in this video is um, which goes to show you that I probably did not spend a lot of time planning and preparing this or scripting it out at all. Taking a moment to lay out a few thoughts and prepare a little bit beforehand can make a huge difference when it comes time to record or when it comes time to create anything in general, I think that pre-production phase, preparatory phase is massive and it's reflected in everything that comes afterwards. My name's Nathan. I wanted to share a story, something that I did, something that was out of my comfort zone and showed me something new. This is interesting. I don't feel like there's a need for me to say "I'm going to tell a story." I think at this point, if somebody is already clicked on the video and is interested in watching, that feels unnecessary and redundant. Once again, we're only 12 seconds into this video but I'm already thinking of ways that I could've potentially structured this or planned this out differently to maybe capture attention a little bit more quickly. Not that this is bad, but given the opportunity to reflect on this and consider how it could potentially improve it, that's one of the things that stands out to me. A thing that was really cool. I got to fly an antique plane in France because I spent all of last year on exchanging friends. My host father asked me if I wanted to fly an antique plane, he didn't really specify. He's very close friends with the pilot that was willing to fly me in one of these planes. So we get picked up. I think one thing that really stands out here is that a lot of mental energy, thus far in the first 40 seconds of this video is going towards gathering my thoughts and trying to figure out how I want to tell the story and the context and what not. I'm repeating myself here, but had I taken the time to prepare and be a little bit more concise, we would already be further along and getting to the meat of things. Then we drive to this air flying center. All these pilots and little planes are here. We get there, and here's the crazy thing, I get up. I don't love the music choice that I've got here, it feels like it's not contributing much to the story itself. It sounds a little bit like elevator music. Music is an amazing opportunity to add flavor to whatever's going on, to add tension if that's necessary or dictate the pacing and the energy. I'm not sure I had quite the right sense at the time, but that's just another thing to think about in moving forward. Out and I see the pilot in front of the plane with his arms covered in grease, and he's there with his team and everything. I guess I should explain, I am not a huge fan of heights, I just don't like it, I prefer having my feet on the ground. So this was definitely out of my comfort zone, if you will. I think I can remember what this was originally about. I made an effort to tie in a moral to the story, which was to face your fears, because I have a fear of heights and I went for this new experience and it was absolutely worth it. But having that in mind and looking back on this, I'm not sure the way I went about it was the most effective, most impactful way of putting out that message. I think some more non-linear editing or storytelling would have been more impactful to grab people's attention at the beginning, make it clear that this is about facing fears and then moving into what the story really is about. I'm in there, it's like a two-seater, so I'm in the front and then it was like take off, or in free fall for a moment. Then coming back down was [inaudible] I see everything shrink beneath me and its incredible. I really like this section where I'm including visuals of the experience itself and my reactions. I'm almost wishing that there was more of that. That's another thing to think about moving forward that video is more engaging when I have more visuals that correspond with I'm talking about, instead of just seeing me just talk about it. Not in time when I was younger, because I allowed fear to prevent me from doing cool stuff. Anyway, that's that. If you guys like the video or the story, give it- Anyway, that's that. That does not sound to me like a solid way to tie everything to a close. I think, looking back, I feel like I did not put enough attention towards capturing attention at the beginning and leaving with an impactful and feeling or emotion. That feels like a missed opportunity. So what does this activity serve to do? I'm constantly asking myself as a way to guide myself through this self-critiquing process, how could I have done this more effectively? That's providing a whole bunch of insights that, "You know what, that's already done, it's in the past, it is what it is, but I can apply these insights to everything that I create moving forward and into the future." It's funny because, like I mentioned before, I made that five whole years ago, and every time I look back on something like that, depending on my vantage point, where I am in my career and my life, I feel like I pull away different insights. It's interesting to see what my initial instincts were and what I wanted to talk about, and also to see now the areas that could have used a little bit of improvement. In a weird way, it's a confidence boost to see how far I've come. That's really cools to. This for me illustrates the power of time and space, and returning back to old work that you've done with fresh eyes, and looking at it as if you are almost like a different person. I would invite you as our next exercise to dig up any creative work that you've done in the past or from school, and if you feel like you've never made a single piece of art in your entire life, now is the time. You can make literally anything and then come back to it in a few days or in a week from now, and attempt to do something similar to this process. It's going to look unique for all of us, but see what insights you can glean from your own work, and how you can make this an iterative process moving forward. 8. Stay Consistent: It really is incredible to me the compounding effect of multiplying time by consistency, consistent work. Obviously, we can't control time, I think we all wish we could sometimes, but we can control consistency. Consistency for me is quite simply not stopping, which of course is easier said than done. I think we've all struggled to be consistent sometimes in different areas of our lives. Now, I think it's really important to just mention that there's no shame in setting a slow pace, something that you feel is manageable in the long-term. This becomes apparent when you do even just basic math. Let's imagine you tried to make a new painting every week, and that ultimately isn't a pace that you can maintain so you go for three weeks and then you stop, you've created maybe two and a half, maybe three paintings. Now, let's just imagine that you'd set a pace of a painting every two weeks. That's something that you can consistently maintain and you stick with that for four years. That's 100 paintings, we're talking night and day. The reason I mentioned this is that all of the most impressive artists that I know have said the same thing, which is that you must put out a massive body of work. That's the only way you're going to get closer and closer to figuring out that inner voice that wants to come out. If you find that you're more goal-oriented person, I would invite you to create a goal based around a certain amount of work that you can create in a certain period of time. Somethings that you can do maybe on a weekly basis or a monthly basis, whatever works best for you. Figure out the right amount of pressure to apply. There's a fine line I think we all walk between too much pressure and being paralyzed and not enough pressure and not being pushed to continue to move forward. Once again, I think we are all different. I personally have found that I have a low threshold and very easily I can push over into feeling too much pressure and that paralyzes me and stops me. I have learned through experimentation that I only need a little bit to help propel me to keep going. I know, for example, that there are a lot of daily bloggers out there and that is a level of consistency, creating a video a day that doesn't even remotely interest me. I know from personal experience that I wouldn't enjoy the creative process by having that level of pressure and to put things out that quickly. So setting a pace of, let's say, a video per week has for a long time propelled me forward, but that is not set in stone. In recent times, I've given myself a little bit more freedom to step back just a little bit and set a new pace of a video, a piece of material out on the Internet once every two weeks. That's because I think over time, over the last few years, my processes have changed and the way I approach creation has evolved. There's a lot more that goes into it now than when I started. This is definitely something that you have to feel your way through because consistency is going to look completely different for everybody. I feel so many of us fall into the trap of setting goals that are based on things outside of our control, metrics like number of followers or number of views or something along those lines. Truly you cannot control what algorithms decide or who stumbles on your work, and that can take you on an emotional roller coaster that it's just best avoided. Shifting that focus onto what you can control is the way to go. I say that as somebody who regularly must make that transition over and over again and remind myself what I can't control. My hope is that your takeaway from all of this is to prioritize whenever possible, the long-term versus the short-term, because it doesn't matter how prolific you are in the next day or week or month, it cannot compare to somebody who sticks with things for years. That's where you see the true development, you can go from nothing to mastery, and that's what's so amazing about sticking with stuff. That's the power of consistency. 9. Break Your Own Rules: Art in my view is iterative. We build off the work that others did before us, we build off of work that we did in the past. In every way I feel it is incredibly important to constantly just be taking these lessons and these insights that you're gleaning from yourself, and from the world around you and applying them, and experimenting with them, and letting them propel you forward. A great framework to work within is to think that as soon as you start to get a little too comfortable, is exactly when you should be shaking things up. Because that's creativity, that's art. It's not supposed to be too clean, cut and polished. So I think this is best illustrated by yet another example. I'm going to use newsletters actually that I've written over the last year and a half. I'm going to take a newsletter that I wrote in 2019 and a newsletter from this year and compare the two, to show how I tried to apply this iterative model to my own work and to the value that I'm always attempting to provide the world. So I'm going to dive into my archives here, that I make sure to keep. By the way, make sure to make every effort to keep all of your work. You won't regret it. No matter how much you hate it in the moment, it will provide value in the future, I promise you. So here we are. Let's see here. I wanted to take a look at this one in particular that I made about introverts. I called it, An E-mail for Introverts. This was directly linked to a video that I made and called it a video for introverts. So the first thing I'm just going to say right after that here is that, I can see that we're using the word introverts 1, 2, 3, 4 times already right at the beginning. So it's rather redundant in my opinion. Just glancing over this, I can tell you right now that I made this newsletter almost as a complement to the video that I created and nothing more. So there's really not a ton of additional value that I'm providing. Sure I offered a couple of resources here, but looking back it feels like a missed opportunity for sure. I'm going to now open up a more recent newsletter from this year. We're going to do this one, a Series of Thoughts For Perspective. I took some time over the holidays to think about how I could make this be more valuable for people. There's a few things here. There's a photo that I included that I captured here in France to add a little bit of a visual element here. But I also wanted to share some ideas that don't necessarily live in other places on the Internet. This isn't 100% tied to whatever video that I had most recently posted. So I gathered a quote that I felt was applicable to the times. There are a couple of ideas in here that I wanted to expand on. So for example, pain is an evolutionary tool that is designed to keep you alive. I took some time to just share some of my thoughts on that, as well as providing more resources as I had done in my newsletters last year. My take away here, is that I wouldn't have gotten to this point where I'm proud of what I'm providing my audience, putting out into the world with these newsletters, they feel valuable, I like what I'm creating. But I wouldn't have gotten to this point had I not started by just having a newsletter and putting it out into the world. It's not polished and it doesn't feel complete but it was a starting point. Then I took that starting point and asked myself, how can I make this better even like 5% better? That's where we are now. I wouldn't be surprised if a year from now, I look back on this and I can see all the ways that I could take things another step further and make it even better. That for me is the creative process or at the very least a huge part of it. 10. Final Thoughts: We made it. You got through the class. Congratulations. I hope that you found it helpful or insightful in some way. I absolutely invite you to share your work in the project gallery. That can look like a link to your website or your YouTube channel, or your blog, or photos, I'm talking of your paintings, whatever it is, all that creative work interests me. I'm excited to see what you come up with. I'm going to be there answering questions and interacting wherever possible. Please feel free to share your work. Just as a couple of parting thoughts here. Do not forget to let that inner drive that even propelled you to watch this class, don't forget to listen to that. Don't forget to let that lead you. This is going to sound a little bit cheesy, but I think it's worth repeating and worth mentioning that you do, at least sometimes, have to enjoy the process. I know how hard it can be, I feel like I lose sight of that sometimes when I gets sucked into the self-expression of mine, they feel so important, but it's good to remember to enjoy things every now and again. With that being said, I wish you the best of luck. Thank you for watching this class. Have a nice day.