Do It Scared: Stage-Shyness and Content Creation

We talk a lot about content creation strategy – both in these articles and in others. Even in interviews with laid-back, off the cuff creators, we’ve found that most people have some kind of strategy for creating their content. Maybe they treat it like a giant performance, planning and rehearsing everything in advance. Or they just jot down a quick script and go. 

Not Lil_Zuko. Her style is a little different, but no less valid.  

Simply put, she doesn’t really have a content creation strategy. One look at her profile will prove she has a specific style of content she posts – and she’s consistent. But Zuko literally posts for herself. Not what she wants to watch or the content she’d enjoy consuming. She started posting thinking she’d be the only person to ever watch her content. 

“It started as (and still largely is) a way to document things for myself. I actually didn’t want to do it at first but I had an instructor in one of my classes say – even if it’s private and you never show anyone just do it for you.”

Zuko is an aerial and fire artist and uses social media as a way to catalog her progress. This is not an uncommon way to use social media, and you’ll find hundreds of performers and hobbyists using platforms for the same reason. Zuko records her practices (not performances or perfectly rehearsed shows, but her actual lessons) as a way to see what she needs to work on. She gets her content from these batches. 

“Mostly I don’t plan posts in advance. Apart from this though I often edit or add music but it’s footage I already have from whatever I was doing. The aerials are recorded during classes in a studio. I have my phone on a stand and just record whatever I’m working on in class that week and then choose bits and pieces of it to post.”

Zuko’s Content Evolution 

Zuko’s journey on social media began like many of ours. On MySpace. 

“As a teenager I definitely had a few types of social media, but it was more about sharing self-indulgent, teenager type thoughts.” 

One could say that Zuko’s posting style hasn’t changed all that much. She’s grown up and now has two teenagers of her own, but most of her content is still a little self-indulgent. Even though she posts what she thinks looks cool or what her audience might enjoy seeing, at the end of the day the content she posts is for her. It’s so she can go back and easily see how far she’s come from the beginning of her journey. 

But Zuko, you’re thinking, why not perform too? Get an audience’s feedback?

That is precisely what Zuko wanted to talk with us about. She doesn’t perform: she’s stage-shy. As of writing this, Zuko hasn’t performed in front of an audience yet. 

“It’s super unlikely that will go any further than a few videos for me, though. Live performance is still a terrifying thought.” 

Social Media and Stage-Shyness

At first glance, this does seem like a bit of a contradiction. How can someone with stage-shyness post so often on social media? Doesn’t that just make them more scared? Would it make an already acute case of Perfectionist-itis even worse? 

Luckily, we had an expert there with invaluable insight. Zuko shared a lot about her process and how she approaches creating content. This conversation was full of inspirational sparks and foot holes. But, for the sake of reading, we’ve boiled it down to 5 key points about content creation and stage-shyness. 

“I’m honestly just a weirdo from Australia documenting some of my hobbies.”

Reframing “Performance”

Even the most seasoned actor will get a little shaken before they go on stage. It’s natural and understandable. And while the best social media can feel like a performance, it’s not really. 

“I still don’t actually consider myself a performer. I don’t think I’ve ever done a ‘performance’ as such depending on how you define it.”

You’re still stepping into the focus, still changing your persona (even if you just pretend to be in a good mood that day), and still allowing people the chance to see you and make judgment. Because that’s half the fun a performance: you can decide if you enjoy this or that. Social media is still a performance…just on a different, much smaller scale. 

For Zuko, there’s more flexibility. In a real performance, you get one shot to impress the audience and sell the story. If you mess up there’s no starting over or undoing it. But with social media content, the narrative is literally in your hands. 

“It isn’t live. There is much more control. If I don’t like how it looks, I don’t have to post it. If I make a mistake and want to start again, I can and no one has to know if I don’t want them to.”

So what if you failed the same thing 15 times and got it right on the 16th? You got it! You can post the 16th and act like the other 15 never happened. If you aren’t happy with the particular iteration of something, you can find another. 

And there’s no audience sitting feet away, watching and waiting expectantly. No one is there to see if you make a mistake; no one is there to judge if the outcome isn’t 100% perfect. It’s literally just you and the phone. That kind of freedom can make performing much less scary. With modern social media, this goes one step further: it’s easy to believe no one will see your post, so what harm could the video really do? 

In this way, you’re showing your work and inviting people to see, without having to deal with them literally being right there. You’re still performing, just without that I-can’t-believe-I’m-doing-this-someone-get-my-mommy feeling. There’s no way to mess up if you’re in control. 

Post for Yourself

This is something else we talk a lot about. Social media should be self-indulgent and you should be creating content you’d want to watch. But we want to turn this discussion a little to the other side and talk about using social media for your own needs. 

Each platform you encounter is a tool. No matter what you want to do with it, you have to figure out how to use it – and then how you use it. Don’t look at a social media app and think that just because everyone is posting this style of content or using these certain features that you have to, too. Make social media fit your needs and goals. 

Zuko offers another great example. A lot of short-form content is about grabbing the audience’s attention and going viral ASAP. How can I make a video that will make money, get the most attention? It’s a great aspiration and not one we’re sniffing at, but Zuko doesn’t post for notoriety. It’s a journal, a way for her to see how she’s doing and what she can improve on. While not unusual, this isn’t something we see a lot. 

“I still see it as recording progress rather than content. I don’t put stuff out with expectations on what will and won’t be liked. It’s just whatever I happen to be working on at the time, so it’s not really a consideration for me.”

Trying to conform to expectations and trends can feel straining or draining…and can feel like a performance in and of itself. Get rid of that and ignore the expectations and figure out what you want to post. It’s your social media, so make sure it’s what you want it to be. 

Post Your Passions

In a similar vein, you should share things that you love. Not only does posting about what you love make creating content easier, but it will help your nerves diminish. If you already love something and are passionate about it, sharing content about it will be easy. You’ve already got plenty to show off!

You don’t even have to do these professionally or most of the time. Zuko doesn’t do aerial work full-time: it’s one of the many things she has on her plate. 

“I’ve got two high school aged kids, so they often need lifts here or there. I work a couple of different casual jobs that I fit in around my kids and other things so I might be going to one of those. Currently I’m doing trapeze class on a Thursday night. The rest all depends what I manage to fit in. I have a million hobbies that I cycle through, because I get bored quickly. My schedule changes day to day.” 

But on a 2nd, just as important note, don’t worry about being perfect. No one is perfect, and we all know that social media is best when it’s real. Zuko knows that, too. 

“I think it’s important to show that nothing is perfect and things take work but knowing no one is watching in real time does really take the pressure off and make me feel less anxious.”

Don’t Be Embarrassed 

You may be at the very start of your journey and think your work is juvenile, amateurish, bad. Or you may think you’ll be embarrassed to look back on your early practice and see where you started. That feeling is unavoidable. And you should feel that way! It’s only natural to cringle a little when you see what you were like a long time ago. The same goes for your hobby or passion project.

Don’t let that stop you from posting. Embrace that fact and use it to your advantage. Go back and look at your starting point, spend some time revisiting the things you were proud of. Especially if they’re skills you’ve honed recently. That cringing feeling might not go away, but it’s proof that you’ve grown and developed so much. 

“I think it’s important though to go back and see how far I’ve come. Sometimes when it feels like I’m not making progress that perspective is super helpful.”

The last part of that quote is another reason to revisit. If you’re getting a bad dose of imposter syndrome or feel like your skills are lacking, looking at where you’ve come from can be so inspiring. You can actually see how your hard work has paid off, even when it didn’t quite feel like it.  

Do It Scared

Even if you take away the idea that posting on social media isn’t a performance in the traditional sense, it can still be scary. We said earlier that you’re still inviting people to consuming your content and have opinions on it. You’re still sharing it with everyone, still putting your passions on display for people. It’s a lot. It’s okay to be nervous. 

Do it anyway. 

“I think once I started posting publicly it was a pretty slow start and I was definitely nervous but not enough not to post because by the time I’d worked up to that I felt I’d worked hard on the things I was doing in my classes and was proud to share it.”

Great things happen past your comfort zone, and the things you love deserve to be shared with the world. And you’ll find that most people want to see what you love.

“I’d say do it, even if it’s just for a collection of your progress. Sharing it on Clapper for me has been very positive. Everyone’s been really supportive and at times seem more interested in what I’m doing than I even am!” 

So it’s okay to be nervous and to see feel a little shy about posting, but don’t let that hold you back. If there’s something you want to post (even if it’s just for you to watch later) do it. Do it because you want to and don’t worry about anyone else. 

At the end of our conversation, we had one final thing we wanted to know about Zuko: did you overcome your stage-shyness?

“Honestly? No. I’ve still to this day never performed live.”

That still doesn’t stop her from sharing her progress and posting her work. Even her nerves or hesitation at the beginning wasn’t enough to stop her. And now she has 17k followers on just one of her many platforms. That wasn’t the goal when she set out, but it has to be a great bonus! 

“The amount of people who found what I was doing actually interesting and took the time to like or comment really blew me away. I still feel so lucky to have people just so positive about me posting things I’m doing. I’m honestly just in shock every time I post something. It sounds silly but I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it. I feel really supported by a community that is largely on the other side of the world. It’s really surreal!”

To follow along with Zuko’s journey, check her out on Clapper. Her content is mostly aerials and fire work, but she’s not afraid to share music covers and anything else fun she gets up to! Maybe 1 day she’ll post videos of a performance…