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Leo Wattenberg

Statistics: The bane of your creativity and mental health

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Analytics are something wonderful: They can tell you what people like and what they don't like and can guide you to success.
But Analytics are also like a drug that can be detrimental to your health and creativity. 

Let's start with creativity: If you are creative, are creating something new. You aren't just making something by some sort of step-by-step guide, what you're creating only existed in your imagination before. However, if you are doing well on YouTube, you probably are doing some sort of series or format. In a format, there are limits to what you can explore: If you're making a vlogging series, you can't really put a gaming video into this series, you'd instead need to find a way to incorporate the gaming content into the vlogging format. And while initially, exploring new things within these bounds is easy and fulfilling, after a while it will turn stale. Rather than a video creator, you are now a video maker, making video after a formula you've established previously. 

So far, this isn't a problem: If you are bored of a format, just make a new one, voilá, a whole new field to explore creatively. But let's introduce Analytics into the mix. While making this series, Analytics hopefully has told you that you're doing well, and that each video is being watched and loved by more people than the previous one. Maybe Analytics even motivated you to make more videos on the way. But if you now start a new series, your viewers will still expect the old format, or at least something similar to it.

If it is similar, your creative field hasn't expanded as much, if it isn't, your creativity will love it - but your viewers won't. Suddenly, Analytics, the drug that stimulated you to go further than you ever thought you could, is dragging you down: All this time invested, but the numbers are only a fraction of the stale series. All this effort, and barely any feedback. At best, this will make you annoyed or sad. At worst, it'll dissuade you from continuing this new format, and sticking to the old one instead: You're giving up creativity in favor of The Grind, an endless chase after the numbers. Maybe you'll experiment with other things along the way, but you'll probably stick to one main format on a tight schedule. 

The Grind can be fulfilling in itself: You can work on your channel, make videos and feel the progress every day. You can even improve your format and bring your content to new heights. If you're lucky, maybe it can even be your full-time job. But while grinding, it's easy to forget what's really important: Your mental health. 

A lot of video makers experience Burnout at some point in their career. Some of them are open about this, you may've seen them in the news lately. Some of them silently disappear. Some commit suicide, you see those on the news, too. Ultimately, The Grind is a driving factor of burnout. Being truly creative protects you from it somewhat: Instead of being stuck to a format, you can express yourself on any format or even any medium, and to find inspiration, you may be doing things that are good for your mental health anyways. That said: I'm not a medical professional. Do seek professional help if you experience burnout. 

And this is where we come back to Analytics: If you don't upload for a couple weeks because you're taking a vacation, your numbers will probably go down during the time you're away. The Grind never rewards taking care of yourself, it only rewards working hard to the point where you're overworking yourself. 

In TL;DR: 

  • Following success will limit your creativity
  • Following success will encourage you to overwork yourself
  • Overworking yourself will result in burnout eventually. 


— — — —

Aside: I sometimes write short stories (flash fiction, really) and publish them both on my website and on Wattpad, simply because I don't trust myself to run a server in such a way that I won't lose all my data one day (which is why this website is ran by @Paco!) On Wattpad, I have analytics and can see that literally nobody cares about my stuff. On my website, I collect no data whatsoever, and it's just incredible how much better it feels to just publish something without even being able to care how well it's doing in terms of views. I actually stopped mirroring my stories to Wattpad right as I write/publish them to preserve this pureness of having created something and being proud of it, maybe showing it to some good friends and getting their opinion. I guess what I'm trying to say with this aside is: "If you have the option,  try running without statistics for a while. Also, friends are important!"

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