I’m not going to mince words on this one.
No, it’s not just you. No, it’s not your fault. No, nobody knows what to do about it.
Recently, a lot of furry artists and content creators have expressed a sentiment of frustration and listlessness with their own work. (Both privately and publicly.)
This is usually enveloped in a sense of failure and self-blame.
Many of my friends have large audiences and are considered somewhat popular in the furry fandom. Some of them have six figure YouTube subscriber counts.
I’m not going to divulge any private conversations I’ve had with my friends, but here’s the skinny on the situation:
There isn’t a single artist or content creator I know who feels good about their work right now. The metrics are bad, engagement is down, and the feelings of loneliness and nihilism are at an all-time high.
Most of the artists and content creators I know aren’t “big”, and so the pressure to do good numbers is exacerbated by the promise of maybe being able to make a career out of their passions.
This can lead to a dark place, rather quickly.
There might be many reasons for why everyone is struggling. The fact that we’re a year into a global pandemic that never had to be this bad is the most likely common denominator in 2021 (although it’s hardly the only one), but a lot of folks will handwave that explanation.
“I’ve always lived like this,” they’ll say. Maybe they’ve always worked from home. Maybe they’ve always lived alone. Maybe, if they didn’t live alone, they’ve always isolated themselves for 14-15 hours at a time to create their craft. Everyone’s circumstances are different, but the dismissals all rhyme.
They’ll continue, “It can’t be the pandemic! There must be something else. Maybe I’m just not as funny or smart or interesting or creative as I thought I was,” while recalling it’s been over a year since they’ve hugged–let alone cuddled–a friend that they don’t live with.
This is even happening to people that don’t usually suffer from anxiety or depression.
If you’re a content creator and didn’t already consider this, I’d wager this is also happening to your audience, which might be why engagement is down.
It isn’t that your content isn’t enticing or entertaining; it’s that a lot of people are extremely unhappy with one or more facets of their life right now. Widespread listlessness and anhedonia leads to more people feeling like their work has degraded in quality.
Maybe if there wasn’t a global pandemic, everyone would be chipper.
Maybe if there wasn’t widespread racist violence.
Maybe if there wasn’t such extreme economic inequality.
Maybe if there weren’t so many real problems that are both depressing and worthy of our energy and attention. The world is burning and cryptocurrency scams are accelerating the evolution of the hellscape.
At the end of the day, you aren’t personally responsible for these things. Yet they still affect your followers, and they will consequently affect you too.
The truth of the matter is that you’re (almost certainly) not doing anything wrong. And thus, there’s (almost certainly) nothing you can do differently that will result in better numbers and metrics that wouldn’t almost certainly also happen randomly if you did nothing.
The only thing that you might help right now is simply to acknowledge that everyone else is having a hard time right now, and that it’s not your fault, and that no one knows how to fix things.
And because of all that, you should be able to better focus your time and energy on producing something that you’ll enjoy 3-5 years down the line when this collective rut has been overcome and you look back at your old work.
Furthermore, since we all know virtually everyone else is having a hard time right now, focus on helping.
Talk to your friends/fans/followers/etc. Ask them how they’re doing. Listen to their stories. Support each other.
Whatever you decide to do, let go and stop blaming yourself for things you cannot control.