Instagram: Fighting Creative Fatigue
A requirement for being a content-creator is actually creating said content. Youtubers make videos, bloggers write posts, Facebook admins hunt for memes, and Instagrammers create visual images.
You guys, creating content on a regular basis is absurdly difficult
I know what you’re thinking: “Johna, all you do is take pictures of yourself on couches in pajamas and of laptops, how hard can that really be?” Let me try to explain why it’s so difficult.
1. To be an effective content creator, you have to post on a regular schedule
The more regular it is, the more effective you’ll be in gaining and retaining followers. New content tends to be what attracts new followers because the algorithms behind-the-scenes are looking for the newest and greatest thing to propagate forward, they aren’t going to be tracking that gorgeous photo you posted four months ago.
That being said, creating content takes time. Whether your publishing cadence is once a week or once a day, at some point your normal life will get in the way. You’re going to get sick, there’ll be deadlines at work, you’ll have to travel unexpectedly, you’ll decide you want to cook dinner every night and start going to the gym, you’ll re-prioritize what you want to spend your time on, the list goes on and on. These things might last for a week or they might last for months, but it’s more than likely that you won’t be in control of when they happen and you’ll have to find a way to adjust.
2. To be an effective content creator, you have to generate new ideas constantly
Though content creators have themes (lifestyle, fashion, tech, cats, family, whatever your jam is) if you post the exact same photo more than once you’re going to eventually lose people. Whatever the medium is (unless you’re a celebrity) subscribers aren’t following you because of who you are, they’re interested in seeing what you’ll come up with next.
Post something that’s too similar to what you already have? You lose people. Post something that’s radically new and different? You’ll also lose people this way (you might also gain some new people, this one’s kind of toss-up).
In order to create content that’s almost-the-same-but-not-quite you’ll have to increasingly tap into your creativity. Sure there are 50 ways to photograph a computer, but can you find 51? Can you find 54? Can you still take yourself seriously? Can you create your idea in a way that’s on theme, high-quality, and ties into the larger narrative?
Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that…
3. To be an effective content creator, the quality of your content needs to improve over time
Some of this will come naturally with practice. The timing of your videos will improve, your personal aesthetic will fall into place, you’ll learn how to make things efficiently (so they hopefully take up less of your time).
What goes unsaid is that in order to practice and improve it will also require an investment on your part:
- This might come in the form of time – learning how to use the tools you have better, scout out different locations, sitting down to brainstorm the next greatest thing, doing research to find out what the market is looking for so you can stay on top of things
- This might come in the form of money – getting higher quality cameras or hiring a photographer, purchasing better editing software, hiring someone to help you (yes, some content creators hire teams/assistants as they start making money off of their brands)
It’s easy to make low-quality content and put it out into the universe, people do it all the time – creating high-quality content and putting it out into the universe is difficult. We tend to be our own harshest critics, and as you create content you’ll come to find that you don’t want to create something that’s worse than what you already have (e.g. you probably won’t post a gorgeous portrait on Monday and a grainy photo of pasta on Tuesday and expect a positive reaction from people). You want everything you put out there to succeed to some degree, and as you gain experience putting it out there you’ll have a better feel for how to achieve that success.
This is how you get creative fatigue
Combine the platform-driven need to post regularly, the subscriber-driven need to post “new” things, the internally driven need to improve, and it’s easy to get burned out by the absurdity of the whole system. For some, “a while” might be a few months while for others it might be a few years.
So how do you deal with creative fatigue?
Honestly, I’m still working on this one. The good news (for you) is that I’ve had a lot of “life” come up recently so I’ve had a lot of time to think about this topic.
Come up with a posting contingency plan
- This might mean having unpublished content that you’ve saved for a rainy day in the event that life comes up (and intentionally stockpiling it when you’re bursting with creativity)
- This might mean taking an announced sabbatical from the platform (intentionally informing people you’re not going to be posting for a while rather than just disappearing)
- This might mean changing the way you interact with the platform for a while
There’s a reason why bands and authors go on tour: tours present the illusion of the performer or writer being “relevant” and “new” even if they’re marketing material they created months or years ago. Unfortunately, those of us operating in the realm of digital content don’t have quite the same luxury – if I block myself from a particular platform for a year, I’ve self-selected into irrelevancy to the community.
Luckily, with Instagram, using the “stories” feature is the content-creator’s version of going on tour. For those unfamiliar with the platform, they’re videos/photos that only last 24 hours and are viewable by anyone, but tend to be watched most closely by the followers that already engage with your profile. They’re generally lower quality, are more lifestyle-y (e.g. “I went for a run”, “I’m at a coffee shop”, “I read an article”) so there’s more room for different types of content, and are a great way to remind people you’re not dead even if you aren’t posting on your feed.
Take yourself on dates
When creativity seems to run dry, it’s often because you’re outputting so much that you’ve forgotten to take the time to remember where the creativity comes from. For some that might be spending time with family or friends, for me it involves reading and gardens, for someone else it might look like going to a new movie solo on a Tuesday night or learning a new pastry recipe.
Do it for you, not with the intention of pulling something publishable out of it (though if you happen to, that can be a bonus).
Give yourself a break
Our priorities change over time and that’s okay. There may come a time in your life where you prefer to post once a month instead of once a day or maybe you’ll decide that you want to move onto something else in your life – that’s completely natural. Regardless of how many followers you have, you’re not beholden to them to keep posting or creating content (unless they paid for something, then you’re beholden to them to follow through).
Whatever you opt to do, communicate it! That way if you decide to return to your former cadence, people will be pleasantly surprised and you won’t just be that person that disappeared off the face of the planet for a few months.
Creative fatigue can occur as a culmination of feeling pressured to post high quality, engaging content, on a cadence that no longer fits with what you can commit to. If you’re used to being brimming with ideas, it’s easy to feel washed up if none of your ideas meet your standards anymore (or if you don’t have the time to put in to make them happen). In those times it’s important to take time for yourself to do the things you love, remember that your followers/subscribers don’t own your life and it’s normal for your priorities to change, and it’s okay to take a break.