The First Step - Recreate

“I’d like to start a blog, but what am I going to write about?”

“I’d like to learn how to code, but what would I build?”

“I’d like to get better at photography, but what would I photograph?”

We’ve all been there before. We want to try and learn or create something new but we don’t know where to start. We let the “buts” continue until we have permanently shelved that idea. It’s quite funny actually. In the beginning we always want to produce a work suitable for framing, even though we know that our first piece will suck. It’s hard to accept that, but be honest with yourself, it’s gonna be awful. Get excited about that moment when you create the second piece and get to see how much you have improved.

I’ve recently realized that one of the greatest roadblocks to taking action and creating something is that we get hung up on creating something new and original. I will get inspired by someone’s work, and then spend a lot of time thinking about how I could make an original version of it (yes, I realize that by trying to make an original version of something else, my work is then in fact not original.)

Shooting videos has been one of my new found interests in recent months. I would watch videos on YouTube and get really jazzed and want to go shoot my own, but then get hung up on what it’d be about. I’d drag my feet, take too long, the feeling would pass, and no action was ever taken. Sound familiar?

One day I was watching one of Casey Neistat’s vlogs and it hit me - I should make a vlog. This seemed so appropriate for a few reasons:

  • My “original content” was now my daily life, so I wasn’t hung up on that anymore.

  • I could make and ship a new one everyday. This allowed me to set a deadline for myself and share work with a few people who were keeping me accountable, while also getting the satisfaction of shipping something new at the end of each day.

  • I had something and someone to emulate and recreate. I watched a handful of his vlogs everyday and took note of the shots that I really liked, how and when music played, and how he told the story of his day. Then I took these notes and tried to recreate some scenes.

That last bullet point was my big ah-ha moment. Recreate. I was emulating someone that I really liked; copying and stealing until I understood how certain scenes were constructed and why I enjoyed them so much. This time tested method greatly accelerated the improvement of my vlog. Hunter S. Thompson retyped The Great Gatsby just so he could experience what it was like to write a great piece of literature, and I copied Casey Neistat to experience what it was like to create a vlog. From there I could take my new understanding and begin to explore on my own and make something new.

Watch this episode of Casey’s vlog:

Now watch this episode of mine:

Look at that opening sequence, the quick cuts, and the abrupt ending. Can you see where I got a lot of my inspiration from?

Once I gave myself permission to recreate scenes from Casey’s vlog I was off and running. I began to watch his videos with a newfound appreciation and also watched my skills improve a lot quicker than I expected.

By the end of the two weeks that I had allotted for this great vlog experiment, I was done with it. It was a huge time commitment - sometimes it would take me 3 - 4 hours a night to edit one video. Shipping that last vlog episode felt like what I imagine summiting a mountain feels like - lot’s of hard work until suddenly you’ve made it and you can relax, taking in everything you just accomplished.

So you want to start a blog, learn to code, or get better at photography? Find some work that has inspired you, an author, a website, a photographer or even just a photograph - and recreate it. No more excuses.