For most people, focusing on academics or their professional careers is not enough to satisfy them and they need a creative outlet in addition to their more professional nature. Finding this balance between freedom and control can be challenging for students, and some might think it to be out of reach. After introducing the FSView audience to Alex Casanas as a student, YouTuber and filmmaker, he is back to discuss how he stays creative while also focusing on academics. To gain more insight into how to better balance the ordinary with the creative, he offers some advice on maintaining a type of work-life balance.
As a full-time student and part-time creator, Casanas has many responsibilities, with relationships he needs to maintain and a community of over 150,000 individuals he needs to manage. So, how does he do it? First, he looks at his more significant projects and assignments and prioritizes them in large blocks of time. Rather than scheduling every minute of the day, he keeps it simple. For example, he will do three hours of homework, and then he will allow himself to work for three hours on a personal project or vice versa. While he did specify that he can work on a personal project without making much progress in his schoolwork, he cannot complete his schoolwork if he has not made enough progress on a video.
Now, we know how he prioritizes his time to work on both school and YouTube, but how does he switch mindsets from homework to thinking about creative ideas and implementing them into the film he is working on? As he was finishing season two of his video series Monument Mythos, he explained how he surrounded himself with inspiration by placing iconography from his favorite movies around him. Having figures, such as the neomorph from Alien: Covenant or Neo from The Matrix, keeps him fresh with creativity. It may also influence him to watch a clip from a particular movie and accumulate inspiration and ideas that he can execute into his own films.
Although even when work is being done on multiple different projects, a person who works on two seemingly different tasks can have a hard time thinking they are making good progress in either of them.
By not looking back, he keeps himself from feeling static. When he wants to work on an idea, it is because he wants to, which keeps the process fun and engaging, usually leading to satisfying results. While this seems to be a healthy strategy, his community is ultimately what makes the process extremely enjoyable.
What is unique to people like Casanas is his responsibility to manage a community of over 150,000 different people, which can occasionally lead to large amounts of stress. Still, Casanas tries to turn negatives into positives. For example, whenever he gets a critique on how he can only do certain tropes, his next film is an opportunity to prove that person wrong and defy others’ expectations as well as his own. This pressure also allows Casanas a feeling of progress and an opportunity to improve his abilities.
While some negative criticism can lead to positive consequences, other messages are agitating and hard to ignore. Like a teacher that only tells a person what they did wrong without ever offering a solution to fix it, some messages do nothing to add to the discussion within the community, or even worse, perpetuate misinformation. To confront this reality, Casanas relies on a support system.
First, Casanas has a Discord server for the Monument Mythos, with moderators that throw events and keep the community engaged. The moderators may celebrate a birthday related to a character within the series of Casanas’ films, such as James Dean, and then watch movies like Rebel Without a Cause. The ability to share responsibility with others allows Casanas not to worry about keeping the community entertained alone. It also keeps him focused on creating new content for them to enjoy. Second, he relies on constructive criticism from his friends, which drives him to do better. Lastly, if there is anything that Casanas has learned, it is that his support system is essential to his mental health and creative ability.
Having such a support system translates to doing better in many different areas of life. Whether it’s school or a hobby, having a support system allows a person to focus on what matters. In essence, it is not necessarily what a person does, but it is why they do it and who they do it for that truly matters. If a person can at least answer the why, it is much easier to find a way to balance whatever two things it is a person wants to accomplish.