Practice publishing your raw ideas in obscurity

Years ago I went to a Robin Williams’ comedy event called “Raw” where he was testing out new material.

As a big fan of his movies — I was very surprised that, at the event, most of the jokes he told were terrible. I had no idea that he was so un-funny :)

But this is how many comedians do it. I’ve heard that Chris Rock does this too. And so did Richard Pryor. These are called “work in progress” gigs. They test out new material in front of smaller live audiences (free or discounted rate) without publicizing the event much. Since they’re famous, they can just do light announcements on local radio and get a crowd there.

At the Robin Williams event I attended, there were maybe 250 in the audience. Can you imagine “failing” in front of so many people?

But that’s a drop in the bucket compared to Williams’ usual audience of millions for each of his movies, so it’s all relative.

Professional content creators, whether comedians or bloggers, know that we have to test our ideas in front of real audience members to know if it’s going to work.

Of course, most of us aren’t famous enough to instantly gather a live crowd. But still, we can post on social media to see if our raw material gets positive reactions. And if it does, then it’s worth spending the energy to refine it further and publicize it to the masses. I call this The 3 Stages of Content Creation.

In fact, I would even add a “Stage 0” which is to post your raw ideas publicly somewhere (that feels relatively safe) for you to practice sharing that idea. (Good options: new Twitter account or FB Business Page.)

This is what I’ve started to do on my Twitter account. Even though I supposedly have thousands of followers there, I get very little engagement with my tweets. (This is in contrast to my Instagram — www.instagram.com/geokao — where I get a lot more engagement.)

Therefore, on Twitter, I feel more comfortable testing out new material, in relative obscurity.

What’s also nice with Twitter is that all my ideas are time-stamped so that, if I later develop the idea further, I don’t have to worry about anyone thinking I stole it from them. I can always point them to the origin of the idea, with that older tweet.

As for “my own” writings and ideas, I’ve placed it all in the Creative Commons, so you’re welcome to use or copy any of it! Read more: Why I don’t protect my writings.

Unless you’re trying to offend people (which I know you’re not!) don’t worry about people seeing your raw material. No one will remember your mediocre content. They will simply scroll on by. They’ll only remember the stuff you put out that really made an impact on them.

I find that it’s really important to keep the creativity muscle strong by creating and posting raw ideas every day, which I do on my Twitter account. Daily is a good rhythm to create because it’s simple (“have I done it today?”) and it grows our creativity and confidence faster than if we only practiced creating once a week.

Once you have a small audience, you could even test out your material by doing Live videos, for example on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Youtube. Probably a few of your fans will see it and can give you feedback instantly. If you’re shy about more people seeing it, simply delete the video afterwards, after you’ve gotten the live feedback that you need.

If you get little or no engagement with your post, simply reframe it as a temporary blessing — you have the freedom to experiment with publishing your ideas in relative obscurity, building your muscles of creativity and “public” expression… before you get famous ;-)

Once you have successfully gathered a regular audience, you might just feel shyer about testing out raw material, knowing that you will be making a fool of yourself in front of quite a few people. Hopefully by then, you’ll have practiced creating and publishing so much that you’ve become strong: you’re no longer afraid of losing audience members.

Consistent practice of authentic expression brings grounded confidence.

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