Ben Durham

My Creative Struggle and 5 things keeping me from creating content

Ben on the peak of a mountain in Quebec, looking out into the vista with rivers in the valley

Before you get reading, I made a video version of this blog post in case you like watching things instead of reading:

This is the very personal story of my creative struggle – a struggle to be happy, content, and live a fulfilling and meaningful life

It’s a struggle everyone can relate to in a world so connected that we’re all so very disconnected from reality. My creative struggle is something that I’ve always faced because of…

The five key factors

  1. I’ve always struggled to find a community of like-minded people (lack of peer pressure)
  2. Extraversion can actually be a curse (lack of team-mates.)
  3. I’m very curious (lack of focus)
  4. Perfectionism (80/20)
  5. Faltering motivation (lack of discipline)

I’ve thought about this a lot, and as disjointed as these factors sound, they work together to create my worst nightmare, my “Creative Struggle”. This Struggle has prevented me from doing what I love most for the last 10 years, which is to create more (for several reasons). Let me first explain where I’m coming from and then I’ll get back to these 5 points.

Early life & losing close friends

I grew up in Aylmer, Quebec… right across the river from Canada’s capital, Ottawa. My amazing parents did the best they could with what they had financially… which wasn’t much at all. 

I made some of my best friends there, but at the age of 12, my family moved to London to further my Dad’s career and lost those friends. Sadness overtook me for years after because I never really re-made friends that were as tightly knit as the OG Aylmer crew. I felt like I didn’t fit in (and most of the time that was the case) and didn’t have any close friends to turn to when I had problems. Gradually, that changed… but incredibly slowly. Facebook and Instagram weren’t something that existed as they do now, so I couldn’t just chat with my old friends. 

Social *click!*

Then, this one day -and I remember this vividly- my Dad and I were at a Shoppers and I needed to find something but didn’t know where to look – so I asked my Dad. Normally, he’d know the answer or find out… but this time it was different; he said, “I don’t know where to find it, how ’bout you go ask someone who works here?” 

CLICK! As stupidly simple as that suggestion was, it opened up a whole new world to me. Maybe it was something would’ve happened eventually anyway… but this is when it happened for me.

From then on, no matter if I was surrounded by strangers, I had the permission to talk with anyone around me. So I took that permission and ran with it. Over the following years, I built up confidence and charisma, learning to love talking with people, learning about what they knew, and eventually debating opinions from both sides of the argument. 

I became more outgoing, cared less about what anyone thought of me, and did what I wanted to do. I had a loud voice and attitude that I can thank my mom for and I would use that every moment I could. 

Deciding a career path to take

Near the end of high school, I needed to decide what career path I wanted to take. I chose filmmaking because it was an amazingly sneaky way of being able to learn so much and “do every job” by proxy. 

Becoming a storyteller

So there I was, at the start of my career. And here I am now, at the age of 25 years. And I feel like my goals are less around pure filmmaking now, and closer to “storyteller” and “problem solver”… But I digress.

After 10 years of working on my filmmaking skills and having run a video production company for the last few years and generating some amazing work, I’m employed full time as a Digital Content Specialist and Video Storyteller. I literally look forward to my biking commute into work every day and engaging with coworkers. The structure that work provides me is important in that it provides me stability so I can do what I want to do on the side, without worrying about being paid for it.

Happy, but yearning for more

Yet I’m still yearning for more. I’m happy, but in order for me to thrive, I need to be creating my own passion projects on the side – projects with heart and soul. This is where we go back to those five factors that are preventing me from moving forward. 

  1. I’ve always struggled to find a community of like-minded people (lack of peer pressure)
  2. Extraversion can actually be a curse (lack of team-mates.)
  3. I’m very curious (lack of focus)
  4. Perfectionism (80/20)
  5. Faltering motivation (lack of discipline)

5-Factor breakdown

1. I’ve always struggled to find a community of like-minded people (lack of peer pressure)

When I began at Fanshawe College in 2012, my primary goal was to “meet like-minded individuals that were interested in starting a business together”. This wasn’t the place for that. Seemingly everyone was into partying it up. So, I learned how to have fun! I became one with the herd of students and rarely saw people working on developing their business skills.

During this time, I started diving into photography. College was the time that I really figured out visual composition and the technical details of videography and photography.

Throughout the last seven years since then, I haven’t found many places that are the place for what I was looking for. Networking events and business hubs -especially in London, Canada- don’t really seem to offer a real way of moving creatives forward and focus more on other types of businesses. 

I quickly realized that if I wanted to start a business and do what I loved, I’d have to start on my own.

Which brings me to Factor #2…

2. Extraversion can actually be a curse. 

When you get energy from being around other people, it’s dangerous when you spend most of your time alone, without anyone around. 

Although my dad and I created a business where I would head most projects and he would assist with planning, script-writing, and the backend administration, it was still a very solitary experience. 

While pursuing leads and attempting to pump out videos, I was very aware that I would love to be working with a team of even a few like-minded individuals. Occasionally it turned into a team atmosphere and was amazingly fun when I hired contractors… But most of the time it was just me, myself, and I sitting around waiting for leads. And if you know anything about business, sitting around waiting for leads is a huge mistake because leads don’t just come waltzing into your business without a strategy or hard work. But because of the lack of teammates, I didn’t really have the urge to hustle and do what it took to make this business succeed. 

That’s where extraversion is a curse: when you thrive by bouncing ideas off of other people, when I’m on my own, I quickly turn into an uninspired mess of non-productivity. It’s a fact that I haven’t yet been able to overcome.

3. I’m very curious.

Curiosity is GREAT to have. It makes everyday life interesting and eventful… but it’s also something that we as humans tend to lose as we age. At least some of us. 

I haven’t lost ANY of that child-like curiosity. Where this comes to bite me is that I’m unfocused with my interests. As anyone who knows me will tell you, one day I’m interested in one thing, and an hour later I’m interested in something else. Just like I said earlier, this is why I got into filmmaking in the first place: to do a bit of everything. 

At first glance, it seems like a good thing… and it is… until I need to stay interested in subject matter long enough that I see a project through from beginning to end. This rarely happens… and is why I am so very inconsistent with the output of my content. 

The two remaining factors are minor character flaws that some might think are issues for me: perfectionism and faltering motivation. 

4. Perfectionism 

Perfectionism used to be a problem until I learned about and fell in love with the idea of the 80/20 rule. Just being aware of it made finishing projects that much more achievable. It doesn’t mean that I’ll never put in extra effort… but it does mean that I’m aware of how much time and effort I’m putting into each and every project… and which ones I choose to tackle. Along the same lines, the concept of “good enough” is an important one to learn. I think Casey Neistat has this down to a science because he conveys his message in ways that are “good enough”… and he’s able to pump out content left, right, and centre that is of pretty high quality and conveys his messages really, really effectively.

5. Finally, faltering motivation… 

I’m immediately going to out motivation as a stupidly ridiculous emotional feeling to rely on. Burnie Burns of Rooster Teeth puts it the best: 

“I don’t believe in motivation, I don’t believe that motivation actually exists and I don’t think that it is something that you cultivate. Motivation is just an emotional component of inspiration, fickle. And if you cultivate discipline, forcing yourself to do something even if you don’t want to, that’s how you get things done over a long period of time. And it is so much more reliable than the emotional component of motivation.” 

So you might say that I’ve had faltering motivation… but everyone has that. The best way to solve this is to stop relying on motivation to get things done! I -and everyone reading this right now- need to realize that this is the most important factor to fix in the Creative Struggle: discipline

Developing discipline – TOP PRIORITY

Out of everything in this post, I’d say that developing discipline will be my top priority going forward. I know it’ll be worth it because I know that when I consciously sit down at my desk with purpose and without distractions, I’m rewarded with forward progress and progress – just like this blog post.

Why did I leave the most important factor to #5?

Now, if you’re still with me, I’d like to tell you why the most important factor is number 5 on the list. How I see it, is if I work backwards from factor #5, towards #1, each step will come my way easier as I master it.

For example, if I master Discipline (#5) and don’t let perfection get in my way, staying focused will get easier. Once I’m focused, I’ll be able to overcome not talking to people because by then, I’ll have produced content, which will -in turn- allow me to finally find a group of like-minded individuals who are also creating. Because right now, I’m not creating and that’s why I don’t have a group of creators around me… because they’re busy out there creating while I’m sitting here doing the opposite. It’s kinda like a chicken or the egg situation.

Author’s note

I hope you enjoyed this post… which was originally a video script but ended up being too much work. It was going to fall into the depths of my “never put online” projects that are as good as dead. Instead, I made a few tweaks here and there, added headers, and posted it as a blog post to mark this time of struggle.  

With that said, if you’ve made it this far subscribe for more great content! Cheers, Ben.

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ben in red shorts on a yellow ebike in a snow storm with a bright yellow jacket on, laughing

Ben Durham

Professional storyteller

Just an average person on a bike who’s focused on getting more people out of their cars and on to bicycles or electric last-mile micro-mobility solutions!

That, and rooting for active transportation infrastructure upgrades in North America (we need to catch up)!

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