Motivation for creating over the long haul

One of my absolute favorite podcasters has hit a rough spot. If you do Rails, then you know Ryan Bates’s Railcasts that for six years have been absolute must-watch content. But lately, it’s clear they’ve become a labor, not a labor of love. “You have probably noticed there has been a lack of new episodes lately. I have found it increasingly difficult to produce content, and I’m not entirely sure why. The best way I can describe it is that I feel paralyzed under the pressures of work,” Ryan posted at Railscasts in the last day or two.

Maintaining your motivation for creating is way harder than creating, and creating is damn hard.

It’s the light at the end of the tunnel that turns out to be a freight train. How many great artists, writers, actors, musicians, developers become great, only to burn out, go dry, stop creating? Ever wonder why so many prolific, good bloggers who created great post after great post years ago have gone silent? Keeping your creative motivation going, day after day, creation after creation, is a stone cold bitch.

I don’t claim to be one of those great creatives, by the way, but I’ve gone through what they’ve gone through on a smaller scale. Still going through it, in fact. That’s why I wrote the following email to Ryan, and am posting it here, in the hopes that a) it will help Ryan, b) it will help other creative people keep creating and c) to remind myself about the perils of forgetting motivation is not something to take for granted or lightly.

—-

Hi Ryan,

I and Patrick Foley did the Startup Success Podcast (http://startupsuccesspodcast.com/) for nearly 3 years before burning out. The pressure of getting a show out every week, meeting the expectations of so many people is non-trivial. First there’s the weight, and the weight gets heavier and heavier, squeezing out fun, then time off, then anything but self-imposed guilt because you’re not keeping up. That weight crushes out of you motivation to do the show, and you stop.

Here’s a few suggestions re getting back into it, if you so choose:

  • Top suggestion: get 4 shows in the can first. Knowing that you can take a break is a huge stress reducer. Building in that reserve means you can take time off. It’s your secret weapon to take the pressure off.
  • Vary the format. While you can do fantastic code tutorial podcasts, you deserve some variety. Go interview another really awesome developer and find out their tricks and issues. Go do a show about tools you like. Host a debate. Talk about php. Go wild! Get out of a rut. You have so much credibility  in the Ruby Community, practically any door will open to you.
  • Double your price – and offload all editing. I and thousands of others would happily pay you twice as much if that meant you could offload editing, responding to comments, etc. I at least want to learn how and what you think; that’s the product you sell: the rest is non-core and can easily be outsourced.
  • Connect more with your audience. Do an open hangout on a regular basis, read online your email from admiring viewers answering questions you’re interested in. Don’t underestimate or ignore just how much as humans the heartfelt admiration and respect of our peers refills your creative gas tank.
  • Make it a priority to understand how motivation works for creative people over the long haul. At a minimum, go read Dan Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us and Steven Pressfield’s Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work. Motivation to create is very, very different than what most people think, and that difference is all the difference when it comes to creating over the long haul.

Anyway, hope this helps and looking forward to you’re return.

Regards,

Bob Walsh

Comments

  1. This is great advice, Bob.

    He could also try to start outsourcing the creation of the videos to other people.