I’ve been a Person Creating Things on the Internet for over ten years. For just under 10 years, I’ve had a Patreon where folks who liked the things I made could throw me a couple of bucks to help keep me going. This week, after several months of deliberation, I shuttered that Patreon. I spent a lot of time talking about why I made this decision over on…well, my Patreon, but now that none of my posts are accessible anymore, I wanted to write something here for posterity, and to give me another place to unpack my reasoning.
Making videos for YouTube was always something I did in my free time. I was never big enough to be an influencer or be sponsored by Squarespace or anything like that. My following plateaued around 1500 subs a good while ago, and hasn’t budged since. So unless I blew up at some point, I was always going to be beholden to just how much of my time was free. When I started out on YouTube in high school, that was most of my time. I had to be in school during the day, sure, but my evenings and nights were, barring homework, pure free time. College opened this up even more, as I had the freedom to schedule out my day almost however I wanted. These were times of great creative output for me. In 2012, I put a video on my channel almost every day of the year. 2013 was no slouch, either.
Now I’m almost 30. I’m a freelance video editor by day. By night, I’m very tired and want to relax. I don’t have the time I once did to endlessly work on each and every video idea that came into my head. And over the past few years, I’ve found that actually, I have some other things that I want to use my free time for. I live with my girlfriend of four years now, and I want to hang out with her, cook dinner together, and go on dates on the weekends. I want to keep up with the latest video games, dig into my backlog, play with friends when I can, and maybe write something about my experiences therein. I just don’t find making YouTube videos at the top of my list of things to do anymore. And I’ve spent the last few years learning that that’s okay. It’s not my job. It doesn’t put bread on the table. It’s just a thing I like to do. A thing I used to like to do more.
That’s really the long and short of it. I’ve found steady work that I really like and takes up my time, and I’m not the same person I was in high school. Pretty big and obvious and valid reasons, I think!
There are some other, lesser reasons that fed into my decision, like the degree to which YouTube and the internet at large have changed since the early 2010s, the creation and evolution of the “creator economy,” what it means to be a “creator” in this era of the internet, and how all of that has affected my relationship to my creativity over the last 12 years (I uploaded my first YT video in 2010). There’s also the fact that I never found a bigger following, which was something I definitely wanted at one point, and which I do not want anymore. Or that I never really found a niche or picked a direction for my videos, which is probably part of the reason I never found a larger following. I never settled on “vlogging,” or “gaming,” or “short films,” or what have you. I wanted to try and make a little bit of everything. I never had a plan, I was just making whatever I wanted to make in the moment. Which is fine! I had a lot of fun doing that! That was a very good and normal thing to do with my time on the internet. That I never achieved virality is not something to mourn. That shit may as well happen at random. And the people it does happen to, well, they don’t always make it out the other end. That’s fame, baby.
I still like making things. I still have a creative spark inside me that pushes me to put my thoughts and ideas into the world and onto the internet. Here I am doing it right now. I’m going to keep making whatever I want when the mood really strikes and I just can’t stop myself. But I’ve decided that I need to change my relationship to that feeling for a while, by removing money from the equation.
Patreon was making me feel weird about making things. Like I was clinging to a really old idea about how and why I wanted to create, and who I wanted to create for. I have a job that I really like now. It’s just about my dream job. I make good money from it. I don’t need to worry about rent. And I don’t need to keep chasing the idea that the silly things I put on the internet will or must one day pay my bills. And so it was time for a change, time to take some time away. I want to remember what it feels like to create purely for the sake of the thing I want to make. I want to make things for me again. Things that maybe no one ever sees, that’s fine. It’s better, actually! Let me just be in my little room creating for creation’s sake, writing for writing’s sake, etc, and just have it be totally inconsequential. That sounds really nice.
All of it always was basically inconsequential, but now I’ll have no illusions otherwise. And it is absolutely wild the degree to which that brings me peace. That’s how I know this is the right move.
Maybe one day I’ll come back to Patreon, either when I’ve found some specific, regularly recurring project worth presenting to people for funding, or when I’ve cleared my head a bit, and wrapped it around the idea of accepting money on a monthly basis for being a generally creative person, and not making anything specific on any specific timeline, and not feeling like I’m beholden to people or letting them down if I don’t hit some imaginary deadlines.
Until then, I’ll be here, and in all the usual places. Maybe a bit less. Maybe a lot less. But I’ll be happier for it.