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My Life: One Year Later

This time last year I opened Gmail to find a truly mind blowing arrival. An email from the YouTube staff letting me know that I had been chosen for YouTube NextUp NY’s inaugural class. The email was sent on March 31st, and it basically had to say “This isn’t an early April Fool’s joke! You really are NextUp!” which I think is hilarious but also kind of sums up exactly how getting that email felt.

I’d applied for two YouTube-related things in early March and I’d been rather confident in hearing back from one (VidCon’s “Less Than Famous” Panel because I’d been a runner-up in 2015 so I mistakenly thought I’d be a shoo-in for 2016).  So I had my hopes dashed a bit when I saw the panel participants announced a few days prior.  As for YouTube NextUp, I thought I had such a low chance of being chosen I essentially applied and forgot about it.

But what happened was such a crazy rush of impossible coincidences that a year later, with my life so vastly different from what it was then, I can’t help but reflect on the catalyst that receiving that email was.

Things you don’t know:

The day I received the email I had taken a half day from work and spent the afternoon touring apartments in Downtown Lynchburg. I’d reached somewhat of a breaking point with living with my parents/being far away from Parker/desperately searching for new employment, and I thought that perhaps moving out of my parent’s house despite the risks of signing a year lease in a city that I didn’t want to be permanently and staying at my (honestly) dead-end career-wise job for another year would maybe bring me some kind of relief.

And there was a sense of excitement to it because I toured a beautiful 2 bedroom loft apartment with exposed brick and original hardwood floors and a cool “millennial-girl-living-her-best-life” vibe that was being offered for the price of the 1 bedroom apartments if filled quickly. And it was so beautiful and all the things I thought I should be doing with my life (according to Instagram, that is) even if it wasn’t really the best financial or career-related decision. So I’d just filled out an application and was excitedly telling two of my best friends about it via text (who had a less-than-enthused response because “But what about Richmond?” and “I thought you hated your job?”) when I opened my email and low and behold…

And things kind of came to a screaming halt. Because this was an Opportunity with a capital “O.” And moving out. Living my Instagram life. None of seemed as important until I’d allowed this Opportunity to change me.

So I put the fancy apartment on hold, and I went to New York for a week.

And I talked to my fellow creators. I learned about what they did for their “day job.” And how they balanced YouTube and their careers. Or rather, how they were trying to integrate YouTube into their careers for the most part.

And I came away, maybe not with a foolproof plan to YouTube stardom, but a better idea of how I wanted to live my life–real life, career life, Youtube life, all of it.  Unfortunately, that meant not moving into the trendy loft apartment. It meant putting a pretty solid end date on my time at my current employment. And it meant not taking a backseat on life anymore. I’d spent so much time saying “Well I can’t make better videos because I don’t have lights” or “I can’t make 2 videos a week because I just don’t have the ideas/energy” or “I can’t make non-dating advice content because that’s not what my subscribers are here for.”

I can’t. I can’t. I CAN’T.

But I could. Even when it seemed so darn impossible! (Like me being selected for NextUp).

So I said, I’m going to move to Richmond by September whether I found a job or not.

And I found a job. And I moved in August.

I said, I’m going to make 2 videos a week.

And I’ve made 2 videos a week (except for 2 weeks around Christmas when I just needed a break) since August, and I feel like I have more ideas than ever!

I said, I’m going to try making different content.

And I’ve made travel videos and review videos and a lookbook and collaborations with friends and a music cover of “City of Stars.”

I’m not telling you these to brag. When I write it all out like this, I actually surprise myself because to me it just feels like I’m doing life. It doesn’t feel extraordinary. It’s just what I have to do to get by. (But with obvious self-imposed challenges, of course).

What’s really awesome and amazing is that even though YouTube NextUp didn’t really do much to boost my channel in terms of subscriber growth, it did allow me to find what I think is important in life, in creativity, in my career, and in online video making.

I’m very a different person and a different channel in many ways than what I was at the beginning of April 2016. And I’m quite happy with not having to go back.

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When You Hate the Things You Love

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I had a super stressful weekend when it should have been super amazing and exciting. It’s been a goal of mine and my good friend Alanna’s to make a video together since we now live in the same city.  And we’ve been working on said project for the last few weeks. This Saturday was the big day when pre-production moved to production, and we planned to shoot all day.  Which on the one hand, is AWESOME because I’d get to hang out Alanna all day doing something we both love.  But on the other hand, was causing me some SERIOUS anxiety because it was an ambitious plan and everything leading up to the production day seemed to be heading towards flames. I’d ordered a cord I need to record Parker playing the piano for the music we were using, but in my rush I accidentally one-day shipped it from Amazon to my parent’s house instead of my apartment (of which these two places are over 2 hours apart). This was after trying to use “Prime Now” for the first time and for some reason, it was “undeliverable” even though I gave them very specific instructions.

I had also spent the previous few weeks in an internal hell worrying about how we were going to get the piano music in the first place and what I would do if we didn’t. (Parker finally came through for me in that last week and learned the song surprisingly easily, at least from my perspective). And then circumstances changed in such a way that we no longer had a 3rd person to work as camera operator in the few scenes we’d planned where we’d both need to be on camera. This resulted in a text frenzy and frantic searching for someone, ANYONE who was free Saturday evening to hold a camera for us. So by the time Saturday rolled around, I was an anxiety-riddled, emotional, and crying mess. All the anxious parts of me screamed, SCRAP IT! SCRAP THE WHOLE THING! But I was also torn by duty and the rational knowledge that this was a good project. It was a fun activity to do with Alanna. And it would result in a video that I would not have done on my own. And isn’t that one of the reasons, I wanted to move closer to my friends? So that I could collaborate and expand beyond my modus operandi on YouTube?

So then why did I experience so much internal resistance? Admittedly, there were a lot of things that went wrong in the pre-production process like not ordering the cord I needed earlier or not fully communicating what we needed with the camera operator.  But I think the biggest issue in the whole mess of this past weekend was that it was something different. I have a comfort zone in my YouTube creating. And any time I step outside that comfort zone, especially when it involves other people and their own schedules, I start to feel overwhelmed. And I eventually get to the point of utterly hating the thing I usually love most. I tend to love the idea of doing new things or trying something different, but when it comes down to actually do that new thing? Nuh uh! No way! My brain resists like crazy and tries to come up with every possible excuse for bailing. And quite honestly, I think there’s a fair amount of self-sabotage (e.g. see list of pro-production fails above).  

But I also can’t stay in my little box of comfort. I’ll never learn or grow that way!

I did end up having a lot of fun filming with Alanna on Saturday, and I think the project we’re working on is going to be super cute and amazing. It’s definitely not like anything else I’ve done on my channel, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do. So now, even with all the pain and angst, I’ll have experience and the next time I do a project like this, it will hopefully be just a little bit easier. That’s really the only hope that I can draw from this. I don’t know how to change my anxiety or my innate desire to stay in my comfort zone other than to push myself out of it and deal with the consequences. There’s usually a fair amount of crying and general rage at the world, but once I get past that (and please note that it’s not a walk in the park or anything), I do enjoy doing the new thing and challenging myself. I start to remember that “Hey! Yeah, I do love this thing. I hated it for a bit. But now…eh, it’s not so bad.” 🙂

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The Time a Teacher Told Me My Art Was Too “Crafty”

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While in high school, I was so much of an overachiever that I couldn’t fit all my passions into my class schedule. So my love for art was relegated to an after school activity in a small “Gifted Arts” program. It was two hours after school once or twice a week with an art teacher where we worked on various projects and explored new styles since the handful of us in the class were talented but not taking an art class as part of our course load.  During my sophomore year I had a wonderful teacher,  Mr. Pitsenbarger, who was hands-on and taught me creative skills I still employ today when brainstorming a project. But my freshmen year teacher almost made me quit art.

I think the first problem stemmed from her way of structuring the program.  Where Mr. Pitsenbarger had specific units and weekly projects with set goals, this teacher allowed us to develop our own large-scale projects and then work on them during program time with her help and critique.  While this seems awesome in theory (Woo! No assignments! No rules!), it really made the entire experience a free-for-all where I didn’t really learn much in terms of art theory or skills or practice. She helped me do a little research when I decided to work three-dimensionally and encouraged me in certain directions, but really what ended up happening was me feeling pressured to make the piece a certain way (that is, her way) and so I lost the original inspiration I had for creating it. Which resulted in a hideous fabric covered box and a failed attempt at starching and wiring fabric into a sculpture.

I remember getting extremely frustrated with it because it had mutated out of my original idea to a point where I barely even recognized it and the teacher seemed irritated with me that I had taken on such an intensive project when it wasn’t even something I had wanted!

But the thing that struck a chord with me the most and what honestly put me off from making any art for several years was that she told me all my ideas were too “crafty.”

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In a social media-infused world where “craftiness” is EVERYWHERE from artfully presented recipes to Dollar Store Hacks to holiday decoration tutorials, it seems weird that being told you’re “crafty” would come off as insult.  Now being “crafty” is a pretty lusted after asset especially when you can show off your craftiness to your social media following daily.  But at the time (and with the implication of being “too crafty”), it decimated my artistic confidence.  Instead of embracing my artistic style (which involved collage, mixed media, and a fair amount of fabric) and helping me develop it even if it didn’t fit the “traditional” style of art she was used to teaching, she shot me down and boxed me into some preconceived notions of what art should be. Which ultimately lead me to resent her and resent traditional forms of art (besides my time with Mr. Pitsenbarger I haven’t developed any traditional art skills like sketching or painting in class format since then).

So now, years later, with little attention paid to my traditional art skills (which I deeply regret), I’ve come to realize that my craftiness is not a detriment to my art. While the art and creative projects I enjoy doing may never hang in the Louvre or the Met, they bring me joy.  And for me, art is about the emotion–whether it’s joy or sorrow, empathy or anger.

I’m not painting grand landscapes on life size canvases, but I am making DIY costumes for cosplay like Judy Hopps for this past Halloween. And participating in the Creative Sprint where many times the goal is to make something out of nontraditional elements. I also started collecting magazines because I feel like getting back into collage and seeing what my life and creative experience since then will help me create.

I’ve also been super inspired by one of my fellow NextUp winners Cinnamon–known as the Art Sherpa on YouTube–to start painting again. I’ve been watching so many of her viewers post pictures of what they created based on her tutorials and pieces they painted because of the skills and confidence Cinnamon taught them. I love the positive and supportive community she’s created! I have a feeling if she’d been my art teacher she wouldn’t have told me I was too crafty!

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It’s Cinnamon aka The Art Sherpa teaching you how to paint!

But I also don’t want you to think that I hate that art teacher or that I want to shame her for her comment. While at the time, I was angry and hurt by what she’d said about my art and my art process, I know that most likely she didn’t mean to hurt me. She was doing the best she could in an after school art program for a rural public school system where she probably wasn’t getting paid for the extra work. It’s not like it was easy for her or that she was trying to be a self-righteous judge lording over us.

No, she was trying to help me the best way she knew how. It just so happened that it resulted in an unfortunate opinion about my work that stuck with me (because I was a very sensitive child, honestly).  But I hope that you know, that art shouldn’t ever be too crafty. Even straight-up crafts are art in their own way!  It all stems from the creativity and passion you infuse it with.

So go out and get on with your creative and crafty self! Don’t let someone shut you down because your art is different. I mean, learn the theory and basic skills if they’re teaching it to you, but also develop your own style even if it’s something your teacher (or friends or parents, et al.) haven’t seen before.  Let your art be as unique as you!

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What It Means to Be “Creative” for 30 Days | October 2016 Creative Sprint

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I’ve always considered myself a pretty creative person. In grade school I considered creativity my best asset. Parents, friends, teachers were in awe of the creative ideas or projects I would come up with and praise me for my unique way of thinking.  And today, while I still work hard to produce lots of creative content weekly for my YouTube channel and blog, and people still occasionally praise me for my creativity, I feel less creative than I ever have.

Many times I long for the days of my childhood where out-of-the-box ideas were prolific.  I can remember the constant stream of story ideas and the overflowing journals with poems, short stories, and reflections on life. I was always sketching or painting or working on a larger art project.  Most of my clothes were some DIY creation, and every holiday/birthday/special event warranted a handmade card and gift.

But slowly–imperceptibly even–those creative activities that filled my thoughts and occupied my hands during every free moment slipped away, filled in by some obligation or self-doubt.  It’s not that I stopped being creative. Creative thinking is a skill that you can bring to pretty much every part of your life, so I’ve continued doing creative things.  But I lost the confidence to continue exploring the creative activities I’d always loved.  I found myself spending more time using my creative skills for needs rather than just desires.  And for me, the joy of creativity comes from being creative for creativity’s sake.

So enter the Creative Sprint!  If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen some of my posts about it, but I wanted to reflect on the project as a whole on the blog this week. It was a 30 day challenge where you were emailed a daily prompt to help you make or do something creative. Prompts ranged from being inspired by the color green to using items you found outside or in your kitchen to create something.  It also focused on cultivating a creative community with the hashtag #CreativeSprint so you could find other Sprinters and follow and encourage them and even had prompts asking you to work with or be inspired by them.

You would think that 30 days of creative projects for someone who loves being creative and desperately wants to inject some art back into her life would be a dream come true!  And it was…in some ways. It was also a nightmare in others.  Encouraging yourself to do a creative thing every day is easy. For me, coming up with an idea for a creative thing every day was pretty easy too.  (It actually got to be quite exciting where I would go to bed happily anticipating what the next day’s prompt would be and gleefully opening my email when I awoke to read it).  But actually DOING the creative thing came to be the hard part. I think that is where the self-doubt comes in.  And why I stopped being so free with my artistic endeavors.

I still have lots of ideas–maybe not as many as I did when I was young and mostly obligation free as a tween (which, honestly, if you put aside all the hormonal changes, I’d suggest is the most creative and free time of your life).  But I rarely follow through with any of those ideas anymore.  I don’t create the giant mixed media collage because the canvas is expensive and where would I put it anyway? I don’t start writing the novel idea I had because I haven’t finished a novel yet so why should I start another idea for it just to rot half developed? I don’t actually sketch in my sketchbook because that last sketch I did wasn’t any good so why would I want to document my degrading art skills?

But during the month of October, I made myself DO the creative things. Sometimes it was with satisfaction and excitement.  Other times it was past 9 pm and I was ready for bed but scrambling to scrape together something. There are days that I’m incredibly proud of.  There are other days that I would rather hide from the world.  But it can’t be argued that I now have 30 more art pieces than I started October with.  And probably 30 more pieces than I would have created at all had there not been the Creative Sprint.

What I really took away from this challenge though is not just 30 pieces of art (good and bad), it was the realization that I have some work to do with overcoming my self-doubt when it comes to making art. Because I love painting and sketching and writing and creating things. But I’m stopping myself from doing those things out of fear.  In the digital age where every creative thing a person does seems to need to be broadcast to the internet in order for it to be “real,” it’s hard to not compare yourself to others or to feel confident enough to share something that you’re proud of even if it’s not professional level art. (And who’s to say what’s “professional” level and what’s not anyway?)

Just like any other skill, you have to practice to get better.  So I think if I want to get better at writing and art (or at least to get back to the place of confidence I was at in high school and early college), I need to work on it more.  Maybe not everyday, but MUCH more often than I have been.

So what do you think? How have you struggled with your creativity and self-doubt or confidence issues? Tell me down in the comments!

Also check out this gallery of all the things I created for the Creative Sprint!  I’d highly encourage you to sign up to participate in their next sprint which should be in May. Sign up now and they’ll notify you when it’s getting close!

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Adventures and Artistic Endeavors: The World of YouTube You’re Probably Missing

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This week’s Tuesday video (I really need a fun name for it. I guess I should be uploading on Friday so that it could be “Fun Fridays with Kaitlyn!” since that’s the general vibe I’m going for) hold a special place in my heart. It probably won’t be my highest viewed video (as my music videos and experiments in editing never rank as high view-wise), but I wanted to celebrate it on the blog today because I put a lot of hard work into it.

I’ll be honest, it’s much easier for me and has a much better payoff to film and upload videos of myself talking about getting your crush to like you or building up your self-confidence.  But my first love on YouTube–what I watch and always have wanted to emulate–are the experimental editors, the motion graphic artists, and the music video directors.  I like to see content that pushes the boundaries of video and music and storytelling and art. It’s what I strive towards even if it’s not necessarily what I create on my channel regularly. But this week, I made the effort to learn something new and create something beautiful that tested my skillset.

On the most basic level, “Summer Adventures” is just a travel-inspired music video with shots I’ve taken over the summer (and even some from the end of last summer!) artistically cut to music. I added some light leaks for a whimsical effect, but other than the beautiful scenery there wasn’t anything particularly awe-inspiring in that part of the process. Yet somehow I still ended up spending 6 to 8 hours on the project. Why, you might ask? Because I wanted to give it an extra “umpf” by creating a quirky title and lower thirds.

I had already been researching different types of clean lower thirds for inspiration on a work project and I ran across this tutorial by Mt. Mograph which I absolutely loved. So many people make simple tutorials drag on forever but Matt was able to create, animate, and explain well his piece in just over 5 minutes.  That’s a great tutorial!  I learned a few tricks to accomplish graphic movements I’d witnessed but only ever clunkily created with much more ease and precision.

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The time suck came from my desire to create “Write-On” Text for the title screen. I wanted a really quirky font and I didn’t just want a fade in. I wanted the letters to build themselves on screen. I’ve worked with “Trim Paths” quite a bit in After Effects and I knew the way to achieve the look I wanted came from drawing out each individual letter from watching this tutorial previously.  But that’s a lot of lines! And curves. Curves have been the bane of my existence, but after watching several wonderful tutorials on using the pen tool in Illustrator, I’ve found it much easier to work with in After Effects too. So I decided to go for it! I started with just the title and drew out each individual letter by creating paths in their shape and using a stroke to match the width of the letters. I could then animate the stroke using Trim Paths and it came out wonderfully! Each letter has to be in it’s own shape layer and it can feel tedious with the drawing and adjusting the curves to fit JUST right and naming each shape layer so it doesn’t get too confusing, but I did it!  And then on Monday I got the crazy idea that I should do the same animation for all the lower third text too!

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It’s a time-consuming process, but it does create a really amazing effect (I think especially with the particular text that I chose since there are all kinds of extra lines and curves.  So I ended up with a project that includes a few motion graphic elements that I’m REALLY proud of and in turn, makes me even more proud of the project as a whole.

So if you’ve gotten this far, and you haven’t quite understood what I’ve been talking about the in the last few paragraphs or so, thanks for sticking with it!  I’m actually quite the motion graphics nerd. I love After Effects and Illustrator tutorials, and I honestly could spend all day watching and experimenting with them.  I would suggest that you check out some tutorial channels if you’ve ever been interested in motion graphics or graphic design.  Sometimes I watch just to learn the keyboard shortcuts I still don’t know about, but there are so many talented individuals who make amazing tutorials for you for FREE. How often can we really get quality learning these days without paying a boatload of money?

Some of my favorites include ECAbrams, Mt. Mograph, and Kriscoart Productions (who I got to meet and become friends with through the YouTube NextUp program which was super cool to me because his channel was one of the first “tutorial” channels I found and fell in love with).  Go check them out! And go challenge yourself to do something cool and creative this week! There are so many things I’ve felt like I couldn’t do until I picked up my pen or mouse and tried them!

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I Want to Do All the Creative Things (But I Can’t Seem to Find the Time)

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Are you a creative person? Do butterflies rise up in your stomach at the idea of creating new things—whether it’s cartoons or fashion or stories or new recipes or computer programs? But do you struggle with finding the time and energy and maybe even chutzpah to actually create?

As a kid, I overflowed with creativity. It poured out of me into everything I did. I always had the most creative projects at school so my teachers loved me. I had a notebook for sketching, one for fashion ideas, and another for science experiments and inventions. I had multiple notebooks for all the stories bouncing around in my head—individual ones for stories I was going to turn into novels and another specifically for all my short story ideas. Even when I wasn’t putting my ideas down on paper or some kind of physical form, I was imagining them all the time. My story characters were my best friends. They kept me company when childhood friendships ended for petty reasons or helped me play out my feelings when I was afraid or confused.

Creative 2           But somewhere during all the “growing up” that life makes you do, I lost that affluence of creativity. My passion for being creative is still as strong as ever, but my ability to CREATE endlessly just isn’t. I tend to blame this issue a lot on time. “I just don’t have the time to be as creative as a I used to be.” But even that’s not really true. Yes, my life is busier and filled with all the “adult” things that aren’t so fun but are necessary to continue living and supporting myself in today’s world. But why should that stop the ideas? Even when I was busy as a child and teenager (and trust me, I was busy as a chronic overachiever), the ideas always bubbled up from the depths of my creative cavity. Even if I didn’t have the time to write them all down, they were still there.

But now, though that spring doesn’t necessarily feel like it’s run dry, it does feel much less prosperous. Like I’ve had to install a well and need to pump on it each day to keep what little juice is left flowing to the surface. It’s a sad state to find yourself when you’ve always been a prolifically creative person.

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And for you readers, you might be thinking, “But she is so creative! She writes a weekly blog and a weekly vlog on such crazy topics! I don’t do that!” And yes, I do those things, but that doesn’t make me more creative than you. Or like I’ve won some kind of creativity award. I’m still far behind what I’d like to be accomplishing creatively.

For example, I’d like to write a funny but gut-wrenching memoir about my struggle with perfectionism as a child. And start an artist shop on Threadless where I could sell product with iIMAGINEblank designs and some of my own artwork. I’d like to make more than one video a week on my YouTube channel. I’d like to learn how to code and design websites. I’d like to get better at graphic design. I’d like to make music videos regularly. I’d like to learn how to play an instrument and write and perform music with my boyfriend. I’d like to design outfits and fashion inspiration. I’d like to keep a sketch diary as well as a daily journal.

Creative 4           This just barely scratches the surface of what I’d love to be doing creatively. When you’re a kid, your life seems long and the universe seems huge but also conquerable. You’re not afraid of your creativity. You know you’ll have time. You know that it’s great in some way. But the older you get, the more self-conscious you become. You feel like if you’re going to be creative, you need to somehow contribute to the world. People need to like it, even love it for it to mean something. You become afraid of time. There never seems to be enough for you to fully realize your creative ideas, so instead of making the best of the time you have, you put it off. Saying, “I’ll do it when I have ‘more time,’” when the time is now. When there will never be more time than there is from this moment on.

But instead, we put down our utensils of creativity and bow our heads under the weight of adulthood and wait a little longer for the “right time” to start. But there is never a right time. There is only now.

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