Candace Aliké Smith — A Writer's Self Care Journal

“I’m going to make everything around me beautiful. That will be my life.”

Elsie de Wolfe

My favorite content creators are depressed.

Depression. Burn out. Writer’s block. Your favorite creators are tired, y’all. 

A few months ago I hopped back on YouTube as a consumer for the first time in several years. I subscribed to the content creators I once looked to for makeup tutorials and skits. I binge-watched commentary videos on the latest celebrity news. I watched podcasts. I partook in the drama. I fell back into that space for a little while, and for a little while, it was good. 

Photo by Nadeena Granville on Unsplash

But now, my feed is riddled with videos from creators — mostly creators of color — sharing how tired, uninspired, and depressed they feel after a decade of content creation. 

A few announced breaks to take care of their mental health. Some switched their subject matter to lighter topics to help mitigate the pain of constantly researching race and gender. A few expressed that they entertained thoughts of no longer being alive. Some felt, and still feel, trapped by niches they no longer feel passionate about, but for financial reasons can’t switch gears for fear of angering the algorithm. Many if not all want to create for the sake of creating again, and miss the earlier days before monetization corrupted their motivations. 

Creating as a Means of Escape

For many creators, the very act of creating once provided a means of escape. For some, creating YouTube videos became a necessary distraction from the toxic relationships they were in. For others, blogging provided respite from an unfulfilling job or lackluster routine. Writing became an outlet. Dancing, relief. Comedy, in the beginning, was the socially acceptable way to laugh at the unfunny aspects of their lives off stage. Creating content once felt like healing. Why, now, is everyone so sad?

Many of these creators have amassed hundreds of thousands of followers, lucrative brand partnerships, and six-figure earnings from their work. They’re living in their dream houses, driving their dream cars, and are now in a place financially to decide who has access to their immediate circles. But the word of the day is still depression. Somewhere along the line, creativity became linked to their prosperity and creation transitioned from catharsis into a cage. 

After many, many, many years of being fueled by the applause from onlookers, and being handsomely rewarded by the algorithm, many creators began to feel like they created distance between their hearts and past hurts. The thought they buried their demons in likes, shares, and comments. 

But the demons didn’t die. Ten years later, for many of my favorite creators the trauma is still there festering, aggravated further by an insatiable audience and a crazy-making algorithm that wants them to create, create, create.

Photo by JoelValve on Unsplash

For all of them, it became too much. 

Some of my favorite content creators haven’t created content in several weeks. Some — months. A few feel duped by social media’s constant urging to trade in their 9-5’s for the laptop lifestyle, and now wonder if they’d be happier with a steady paycheck every other week and a vacation every year. They’ve fed the machine for ten years with no break, and now feel physically, spiritually, and emotionally starved. As a consumer, it has been a hard thing for me to watch. I want to support them with my views and engagement without supporting the very system making them feel unwell. 

You can’t out-create a lack of inspiration.

Even the most successful creators are bound to a machine that doesn’t allow for the very things that healing and creativity often require: rest, reflection, and periods of productive isolation. The algorithm wants you on camera, on time, and on topic. Always. No room for growth. No changing your mind. You must create, create, and create some more in an environment that stifles creativity and starves every human aspect of your being. How could anyone remain well surrounded by that level of sickness?

For those who have experienced healing through creating content, some have simply outgrown their niches. That’s natural. Many of my favorite creators want to talk about something else. They want to be good at something else. But, when you have 200k+ people subscribed to your channel expecting one thing, switching things up is easier said than done. Many creators felt they had to neglect themselves for other people, and now they want out. For some, they want time to heal the broken places that led them to create in the first place.

What I noticed after watching dozens of these videos, is the shared desire to return to creating for the sake of creating. To be happy. To share because it feels good, and not to pay the bills. 

In a strange way, I feel fortunate that my content doesn’t pay my bills. I have the privilege of creating because it feels good, and I don’t take that for granted. From where I’m standing, if you have 10 people at the top of the mountain yelling down about how much the view sucks, maybe the focus should be on enjoying the climb. Maybe if enough people had the option of creating when and if it feels good, the algorithms of the internets would recalibrate to allow humans to act more like humans and less like machines. 

Until soon. 

Featured image by Tan Kaninthanond on Unsplash

Candace Alike Smith is a Las Vegas-based content creator, womb warrior, and matcha enthusiast. Candace founded this site in 2015 to help women of color reclaim their vitality. Follow Candace’s content on holistic beauty, mental wellness, herbs and essential oils, non-toxic products, healthy libations, wellness travel, and self-reflection. Green is her happy color.

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