Input Before Output: And How to Manage in a World Driven by Content Creation

Influencers, new content, ring lights, followers, reels, live streams. If you have no clue what I’m talking about you probably don’t spend a lot of time on social media networks. If you do, then you know that we live in a world that has created so many unique opportunities. Average people are rising to fame in a matter of mere hours after posting a silly video, funny meme, or controversial take on a hot topic.

As a writer I spend time looking into what I need to do to get my work ‘out there’. And one of the things many agents and publishers are looking for now are writers who already have a platform. They want to know that if they choose to publish your book you have hundreds or even thousands of people already watching you and waiting in line to buy it.

In all of the professional and amateur advice articles I have read and reels I have watched one theme remains central: content creation. It’s simple: if you aren’t creating content there is nothing to be discovered, liked, and followed by the masses. A lack of content means missed opportunities to grow your platform and become an ‘influential’ person in your sphere of ‘expertise’. It can be easy to fall into the world of simply putting things out there time after time in the hopes something will eventually strike a lucky chord. But is it really okay to just put stuff out there?

The two extremes would be to say: yes! or no! But, being the creative that I am, I’m going to say: maybe. But you don’t have to take my word for it. 😉 (Reading Rainbow, anyone?)

How creating content is good: It is true what they say. If I never type out the words in my head then they will never be read by people like you. Taking it a step further, if I believe I have something to say worth hearing then I want to make it as appealing as possible. I want people to want to hear the messages I am proclaiming. Having a good setup, taking thoughts and forming them into consumable content, these aren’t bad things. Platforms allow us to think together, to empathize with one another, to learn from those who we may otherwise never even know exist. I have learned a lot from authors and even fellow WordPress bloggers that I have discovered through having my own blog. There is definitely merit in putting something out there and watching it grow.

How Creating Content is bad: Let’s say I feel really passionate about a subject. I spend a lot of time thinking about it, reading up on outside sources, and forming an opinion based off of experiences. And now I want to share that with others. Great! But what about the times when there isn’t much going on in my mind? Or when I feel so passionately about something that I throw research and critical thinking out the window and say exactly what I feel like saying? Not so good. Discipline is important. Consistency is important. But the type of content we create also matters.

So what’s the deal? Are we supposed to create all the content or not? I think the key to open the proverbial door here is simple: input. What are you putting in? Is it equal to or surpassing what you attempt to put out? Is it relevant to the things you choose to revolve your content creation around? If you choose to write about cooking but have eaten out for the majority of your meals in the past month you may find it hard to think of cooking content to work with. You could look up a new recipe online to write about. But if you haven’t actually made it and eaten it then what is your content really worth?

I think the application is obvious here and there’s a common metaphor we use for the concept: you can’t pour from an empty cup. If you are not filling yourself with relevant, quality input then your output will be poor quality, fake, or altogether nonexistent. So how can you manage the pressure to be the ultimate content creator with the need have your own cup filled? Here are a few things I have found work for me in keeping the input/output balance:

  1. Take full advantage of those full cup days. There are days when inspiration strikes. In my case it’s writing. I feel like I could sit and write for hours. I think of a million topics to touch on and what I want to communicate about them flows effortlessly from my mind down to my fingertips. I used to sit and write during these moments of inspiration but would lose all memory of my inspired ideas as soon as I had to leave my writing to attend to a more pressing matter. Now I know that even if I can’t write all 10 blog posts in one day I can at least add those ideas to a list of drafts for the future. Because there will inevitably be days when I want to write but don’t have much to write about. I also learned to put more than just a title because I went back to my drafts list too many times and thought ‘What on earth did I have to say about this?’ as I stared at a list of titles I thought were catchy at the time but were actually just confusing.
  2. Set limits and stick to them. ‘Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy.’ God has always known that we need a day of rest. Yet most of us challenge him, sure that we are the exception and know how to handle working 7 days a week. The challenge with content creation is that it can be done any time, any day, any where. But just because it can doesn’t mean it should be done. I used to try and upload an Instagram post daily. I would waste hours trying to take the perfect picture, right the perfect caption, connect with potential readers. It was exhausting. And the worst part was that I almost always fell into the Instagram black hole on Saturday. The day I was supposed to rest. Posting on IG isn’t work so I didn’t think it would be a problem. But it quickly became clear that I needed those Saturday mornings for filling up my cup much more than I needed them to grow an audience. So I put a limit: No posting on IG on Saturdays. Period. Limits help ensure that we make the time to get input and that we don’t accidental spend that time being absorbed in trying to create.
  3. Be a picky consumer. You are what you eat. Or so they say. When I read fiction I want to write fiction. When I read my Bible I want to tell others about what God is teaching me. When I don’t read at all I rarely have much to say. Or at least much that I find is really worth hearing. Making sure you are getting input- being filled- is the first step. But make sure you are also paying attention to what it is you are being filled with. For this is just as important. I would rather create no content at all then fill the void with icky things that do not represent my mission at all. As a Christian this means that my first source of input should always be God’s Word. If I am his ambassador and my aim is to point others to Him, then what better words to be full of than his own? What better love to know than His? I don’t have to worry about getting a bad bite or rotten food when I am consuming his word.
  4. Find your input niche. Being an author I also enjoy reading novels. I enjoy following other bloggers and especially single women. There is a sense of community and of understanding. It helps keep me balanced and reminds me that I am not the only voice. There are other experiences, other levels of maturity, other ways of creating content that fill me up. I am not and never want to be the one and only content creator in my niche. So it’s important to fill myself with inspiration from others who may be similar to me. This doesn’t mean I follow every single female blogger or read every IG post by an author. I choose to consistently read content from those that I feel most align with my vision and encourage me when my glass is getting low. This is my safe place. Where I am reminded that what I write about is important to others too. That my voice is not alone in an echo chamber. That together we are helping others know and learn too. Find those people that encourage you and make you feel more full. And don’t be afraid to unfollow those who don’t.
  5. Lastly, love what you do. I can’t imagine becoming a reviewer for horror films. I don’t watch scary movies and don’t like to. I would never want to spend my time telling people which horror films to watch when honestly I could care less if they don’t watch any horror films at all! Don’t create the content that you think the masses need. Create the content that you need. Make it attractive, accessible, relevant when you can. But one of my favorite things about being a writer is being able to go back and read my own words long after I have forgotten when I wrote. On a few occasions I have even discovered something that I wrote without realizing it was mine. As I read I found myself immensely encouraged- she knows what it’s like. She gets me. And when I arrive at a point where I realized it is my own writing I can’t help but smile at how past me was able to trick future me into being encouraged by her own words. Create the content that you would consume. The content that those who are picky, have limits, have found their niche would choose. Because in the end your content should be a reflection of you and not of our content crazy culture.

Many of you reading this are a part of my ‘input niche’. My safe place where I know I my glass can be filled. Thank you for being ‘my people’. I’d love to hear from you as well! What content are you creating? And what advice would you give a content creator in this content crazy world?

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