Breaking into any extant field can be a daunting prospect. The argument that there’s nothing new under the sun can be made when discussing fiction, film, commentary, web series, criticism, journalism, comic books, you name it. You might look at the shelves at a bookstore, the offerings on Steam, the content on YouTube, or the blog of an eminent Internet personality, and believe there’s no reason to follow through on your creative idea.
The problem with this belief is that it is provably false. Tolkien and Lewis have already written about fantastical worlds, but that has not stopped Martin, Jordan, or Hickman & Weis from doing the same. Asimov, Dick, and Heinlein were pretty much pioneers of long-form science fiction, but if you look on those same bookstore shelves, you’ll see names like Abnett, Stephenson, and Zahn. And as one of my favorite cybernetic characters once said, “The Net is vast and infinite.” There’s plenty of room to start up a new web show if you want to.
The way to be successful with it, in my humble opinion, is to do it differently than others do.
I don’t mean completely change the format or your approach to the subject matter strictly to be different from what’s already being done. That can quickly become gimmicky or trite, and you’ll lose more audience than you’ll gain. What I mean is, instead of copying a methodology or setting or theme wholesale, use it as a starting point and let your own idea grow out of it. The idea should continue to grow, as well, and become its own entity, rather than remaining completely tied to the original inspiration.
I think that was part of the problem with IT CAME FROM NETFLIX! – I wasn’t doing anything to grow or change the idea. I was, for the most part, going through the motions of trying to gain traction and an audience for a medium that, if I’m honest, I’m not sure I’m cut out for. I may be passionate about things like gaming and politics, but a lot of people are, and a lot of people are also not qualified to talk about them from the objective viewpoint of a professional journalist or critic. I think most people would agree that most if not all of my attempts at criticisms are amateur at best.
Does this make them invalid? No. Does this mean I’ll never criticize something again? Of course not.
What I’m getting at is this: I don’t do enough differently as a critic or journalist to justify asking people to pay me for it. From where I stand, my voice is not unique enough to stand out in the ever-growing universe of online critics, and while I could possibly cultivate it to make it stand out more, it would take away from my calling to write fiction, an area in which I do have unique ideas that are working and will get me paid.
I simply need to focus on what I’m good at. I’m better at telling stories than I am writing objective journalistic breakdowns of what’s wrong with this movie or that game or this aspect of our culture. I can do all of those things, sure, but it’s never going to be more than amateur dabbling and a little running off at the mouth from within my little isolated bubble in an obscure blog perched on a corner of the Internet. And I think I’m okay with that.
I do not want to prevent anyone else from going that route, though. So, if you do, if you really want to set up a platform and podium from which to get the word out on something you think is really wrong out there, by all means, have at it. Just find a way to do it different, do it better, do it right. Don’t just imitate, innovate. And don’t be afraid to pimp yourself. Remember, if you don’t work, you don’t eat.