What I learnt about writing online from Zoella and other YouTubers
My husband laughs at me. My teenage son rolls his eyes. And my daughter, she's eight, asks 'are you watching Zo-ella, again?' She's already learnt the art of taking the Mickey.
And, to answer her question, yes. Yes I am. As I write this I'm watching Zoella's Vlogmas from 2016. Her countdown to Christmas by vlogging every day in December. And I'm thoroughly enjoying it.
During Vlogmas we see her house dressed up with Christmas trees, we see her laughing hysterically with her friend Mark and supermarket shopping with her boyfriend, Alfie. We open her advent calendars with her (yes, plural) and coo over her oh so cute black pug, Nala, dressed in various seasonal outfits. It's all very tame, very homey and it's certainly not an expletive or action packed video. She bakes banana loaf, goes to garden centres, describes what clothes she wearing and puts on make-up whilst chatting to her audience. Her more recent videos, where she shows her (incidentally, gorgeous) new house, has time lapses of her tidying cupboards.
You might be thinking...huh?
I know. I understand.
She has an audience that loves her. That consumes everything she creates. And she also loves creating it.
I love the fact that Zoella is a homebird, like me. I love how she talks about kitchen utensils next to lipstick. I'm getting an education in beauty but, more than that, Zoella, along with Alfie, and her friends Tanya Burr and Poppy Deyes, are educating me in the art of online entertainment. To grow a successful brand online you have to create consistent, brilliant content. Content that resonates. Content that tells a story.
Content that entertains.
Content that you, yourself, are passionate about.
Through YouTube Zoe has become a savvy business woman. She has gone on to launch a series of novels, has her own range called Zoella Beauty and Zoella Lifestyle in Superdrug and recently opened a pop-up shop in London's Covent Garden with Alfie and her brother, Joe, (also YouTubers) where people were queuing around the block. It completely sold out.
Despite all of these 'peripherals' that have taken off outside her YouTube and Blog Zoe still continues to create content on a weekly basis.
Why? Because she knows that without great content none of the other things could happen. Without great content you don't get the viewers or the readers.
And I know that this is obvious BUT it is something I forgot over the years. It's something I think many people forget. Changes in algorithms can hinder creativity. We create according to what the algorithm wants rather than what we want or what our audience wants. Or we get swayed by online advice. Create a niche, we're told. We do. And for many of us our passion fades. We're stifled.
I think Zoe's online journey is fascinating. And although that level of fame would freak me out and is not something I personally aspire to, I am inspired by her work and business ethic. I know I'm not her typical demographic but I love that she's proud of what she creates online.
I started blogging well over a decade ago. Back then I blogged to share my word count as I raced to complete the first draft of my novel with other writers. The blog was secondary to writing my novel.
Blogging about other interests or writing creative non-fiction (such as Secret Diary of a Call Girl or the Julie/Julia Project which was around at the time) did not occur to me.
I had a mindset about blogging which has taken me over a decade to shift. I thought blogging was a procrastination device. I thought blogging was something I did when I should have been writing something else. A novel, an article. A pitch to a magazine.
But watching Zoella's videos has taught me this:
Blogging can be your primary creative outlet and not simply a way of recording your creativity from elsewhere.
Lightbulb moment. (I'm having lots of those at the moment!)
I can create sentences, paragraphs and stories specifically for this blog. And I can treat the blog as a primary creative outlet and not just an add-on. I don't have to see blogging as a waste of time. Or feel guilty for spending time on writing a post or editing a video. Because I think I should be doing something else more worthy.
Or, looking at it from the other side, to not put all my creative energy into a tweet or Instagram post when those channels can install an unhealthy obsession with follower count and how many people are seeing my photos.
Rather, blogging is the most important thing I do.
For a long time my aim was to be published. And yes, that would still be amazing. Then my subsidiary aim was to grow my online audience on Instagram. And yes, that is still an aim. But it's not my true aim.
Because now I want to concentrate on this blog. I want to create a body of work online that I'm truly proud of and that other women can relate to. To write. To experiment. To search out new topics, share different experiences.
That is my ambition. My job. My dream. And my passion.
I want to blog regularly. Without shame. Without guilt. And by challenging myself - pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Being true to myself. Being authentic.
Hopefully, other people will enjoy reading. Maybe my audience will grow. But, even if it doesn't, at least I am doing something I feel passionate about and love to create.
So yes, Zoe, thank you. Thank you for (indirectly) showing me the way.