Last week I said I was going to try telling more of my own stories. I also talked a little about my new obsession with TikTok (TT). Well, since last week, I’ve been getting my feet wet with visual storytelling in TT. You might remember that I said the learning curve was steep and — oh boy — it sure is!
Here is my humbling, and long-winded, experience with the app so far:
So in TT, if you’re unfamiliar, there are “trends” which are essentially memes in a video format. If you start watching TT, you’ll definitely start noticing them. Trying to explain them kind of defeats the point, so I’ll just show you. I started seeing videos like this and like this, thought they were fun, and was inspired to learn how to make my own (one, two). Notice that mine uses the same sound and morphing effect as theirs. If you like a particular trend, you can find more of them by searching through its song, sound effect, or filter. If you want to make one like it, favorite the sound/song and then use the same effect.
Well, those two videos were surprisingly easy to make and got a fair amount of views. Not many “likes” overall but I can’t be too concerned about that since I’m new to the space, right? Yeah, ok.
Then I went rogue. (It’s hard for me to color inside the lines, ok?!)
A little backstory first: I’ve been teaching my 15-year-old how to drive. Here in Alameda we have a big, defunct naval base and its wide-open, empty parking lots are perfect for such lessons. She basically goes around in big circles, sometimes stopping to practice parking. Anyway, I thought to take some photos and time-lapse footage of these drives from inside the car. When I got home I remembered I had a fun picture of her at the age of four learning to ride her first bike. The expression on her face then was very similar to the one she made from the driver’s seat now. So, it started to gel in my head how it would all look in a TT video. That night I started putting it together. It literally took HOURS. Easily three. I made a lot of mistakes.
This is the result.
It didn’t do that well. The “likes” it did get were mostly from friends and family and only because I forced the video on them. So I began to wonder if it was too long. Or that no one “got” that the two then-and-now photos were related because I didn’t put them together. Like, I didn’t “bridge” it well enough. So I made another video with just the two photos, no time-lapse footage. I simply morphed the two and added a new song. But, that one did even worse!
My instincts are failing me and it’s vexing. But, they say failure is necessary to reach success (which I call “suckcess” because failing up sucks). So, I’m not about to give up.
In fact, I tried something even bigger.
I had this idea, one inspired by something my friend Dan in Berlin said. He joked a while ago that I basically work in a real-life Animal Crossing. So, last weekend, I went to Fairyland and took a bunch of stills to illustrate how similar it is to the Animal Crossing world (it really is!). It was fun imagining the final video product. BUT, I soon discovered that what I wanted to do was well past the app’s native capabilities. So I had to download another app, a video editing one, to do the additional things I wanted. And then as I got deep into editing in that app, I realized what I was trying to do was too difficult for it and had to bring it to my desktop into yet another app.
About four grueling hours later, I posted this. I used tags I thought would give it some eyes. But, after some 14 hours, no one had even looked at it. Zero views, literally. I also posted it on Instagram and on Twitter, and it got a few likes and comments but nothing to warrant four hours of my time!
So, what’s my next step? Go simpler and make more, fail more, until I reach some hard-earned “suckcess,” I guess. The odds are against me. I’m an older-than-average creator (by far!), but not old enough to be seen as cool in a charming and quirky way. It could be that there isn’t an audience (yet?!) for what I’m bringing, or it could be that I need to pay better attention to what is working for other people there. I still see a lot of possibility there and, like I said, I’m not willing to throw in the towel just yet. It could be that I’m simply not very good and that’s ok. However, it is hard for me to show (what I consider to be) mediocre or less-than-perfect work.
I’m reminded of something SJ said when she was little. She was drawing and said sadly, “Mommy, what I see in my head is not coming out on the paper.” I FEEL YOU, KID.
P.S. Even though I’ve already killed the delicate dill and the spearmint starters we planted, gardening is still more gratifying than making TT videos.