Concise: a word no one has ever used to describe me.

But maybe one day. Maybe soon. Hopefully. Because I’m working on it…

Quarantine is an interesting time for us all - I’ve been exploring my understanding of the “self” and indulging all of my creative whims. As a retired perfectionist, I’ve really enjoyed publishing unpolished content during this time. And in doing so, creating a whole lot more of it. I’ve actually discovered that for me, this is a much better way to iterate. The amount I learn in creating heaps of less-than-perfect content is incomparable to my attempts at careful and calculated brainstorming and curation.

Recently, I’ve been loving experimenting with my YouTube content. I’ve learned many things in the process. The first thing being that I really enjoy making YouTube videos. Like writing, It’s simultaneously a form of self-expression and a way of communicating ideas. But there’s an added visual component. And as much I thought I would hate the entire editing process, there’s something therapeutic about going through clips and finding ways to blend things together coherently and elegantly.

But the number one thing I’ve learned so far is that I am not concise. My brothers kept telling me to stop making “talking” videos. But I resisted. Because I like making talking videos. Because I like talking. About ideas, about experiments, about reflections, about anything really. But what I realized is that my having a lot of energy and enthusiasm often leads to a lot of surplus words. I realized that if I can convey the same message with the same energy in less time, it would be even more powerful than a somewhat “classic” Grace ramble. As soon as I realized this (yesterday), I made this a new mission for myself.

One of the lovely things about living in the digital age is that there are metrics for everything. I’ve already resigned myself to not worrying about views or subscribers or likes at this stage, because for the most part, YouTube is just fun. It’s a hobby and it’s an experiment. But as I thought more about the power of concision, I realized that I’m very interested in exploring this idea via YouTube. Tons of questions popped into my head. For starters, how can I make talking videos more interesting? Because we all know that not talking is not an option for me. How can I still discuss and share ideas in a way that’s more engaging? I’ve seen that a lot of professional YouTubers write scripts to make sure they say exactly what they want to say in the way they want to say it. When I first thought about this idea, I thought I’d found my perfect solution. Since I seem to enjoy writing and have been regularly posting to my blog, I thought it would be easy to transfer those skills into scripting. Usually, this would mean that I would do a lot of research and brainstorming about how to write a script. However, in line with my new action-first attitude, I just tried it.

You won’t find the result of this experiment on YouTube, because quite frankly it was terrible. And while I have been making an effort to post less curated content, I couldn’t watch this 3-minute scripted video through to the end without bursting out in a fit of laughter. I think scripting works beautifully for some people, but my gut told me right away this was not the method for me. I’m not saying I won’t re-approach the idea in the future, but for now, let’s just say we’ve tucked that away. Very, very deeply in a drawer somewhere. The other thing I’ve realized is that scripting is great in that it is an exercise in writing, in story-telling, and creating a dialogue. But for someone like me, who seriously lacks the ability to be concise, I figured it wouldn’t hurt for me to practice spontaneously saying what I want to say in less words. Because in real life, I won’t have the opportunity to edit myself ex post facto.

So, I’m hoping that my approach to creating more concise content will hopefully help me become more concise in everyday life too. I’ll start just by iterating. Record myself saying what I want to say and then say it again and again in less and less words until I’ve truly gotten to the essence of what I want to say. This isn’t to say that there’s no room for tangents, stories, or dramatic pauses. I just want everything to be intentional. I’ve noticed that when I watch YouTube videos I am very rarely engaged for the duration of the video. I skip through parts and walk away during others. Some of this is personal preference because some topics just aren’t interesting to me, as will be the case with everyone. But sometimes, it’s because there’s some unnecessary repetition or no visual variation. Even painting over words with beautiful scenery gets mundane after too much of it. As humans, we are literally wired to become accustomed to things that don’t change. So what if I tried to design content in a way that is either visually or intellectually stimulating for the duration of my content? Obviously this is an insanely lofty goal, but it’s great to have direction and focus when working on a project. A distant spot on the horizon, but one that’s there and in sight nonetheless.

But I don’t think literally cutting down words alone is enough. As much as I don’t want it to be so, my brothers were right to tell me to stop making “talking” videos. I want to explore ways to be able to share that type of content in a more visually interesting way. And I know this isn’t a new area of investigation, but it’s one I’m interested in. Specifically, in finding a way to visually overlay words with visuals that evoke emotion or meaning. If I’m lucky, I might even stumble across a way to do so that also expresses a part of me at the same time.

Now I’m not saying that I’ll stop making talking videos, or only make short videos, or only make concise videos… I’m merely expressing my interest in a problem that I’m curious about and have a desire to work on. I don’t have any idea where this journey will take me, but one thing’s for sure: I’m excited.