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In which John discusses some vlogbrothers videos he didn't make, why he abandoned them, and what he learned along the way.

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Good morning Hank, it's Tuesday.

I've made a lot of vlogbrothers videos over the years—like, almost a thousand of them. But I've also not made a lot of vlogbrothers videos. Like, for every video I make, there's at least one I abandoned because it's too personal, or too self-indulgent, or because I can never arrive at the point I hope to make. And today I would like to share with you some of those vlogbrothers videos that never got made and what I learned from trying—and failing—to make them.

I've been thinking about this because last week I tried to make a video about the idea of nation states and how international sporting competitions can both strengthen nationalist ideas and challenge them. Mostly with this video I just wanted to explore how weird nation states are. Like, it's weird that England and Scotland are different nations when playing international soccer tournaments but the same nation when leaving the European Union, which Union definitely is not a nation even though it does most of the things nations do.

But that's a pretty big topic for a four minute video, and more than that, it's a topic where failing to acknowledge certain nuances, like that for instance, many nation states did not choose their own borders, can kind of deceive via distillation. The lesson for me in that one is that I can't really make a video about something I don't understand, and I don't understand nations.

And then there are the videos I make that turn out to be for myself. Like, a few years ago I wrote a video about how one symptom of both panic attacks and heart attacks is a "sense of impending doom," which is a hell of a phrase. The video was about how terrifying it is to sense impending doom, and how difficult it is to know how to respond to that feeling, especially since body and mind problems are often presented and imagined separately even though, like, our minds are made out of meat, and our bodies contain all of our thoughts and feelings.

And for me, that sense of impending doom has at times been so powerful that it's difficult to sense anything else, so I wanted to write about that. I think there is meaning and power in talking openly about mental health and strategies for improving it, but I also think that it's okay to write something raw and personal and not for public consumption.

Now, of course I do write a lot about my personal life and my mental health both here and especially in The Anthropocene Reviewed book, which by the way, I should say thank you. It has been on the New York Times bestseller list for seven consecutive weeks which is just astonishing. Thank you.

But anyway to me there is a difference between writing about yourself to try to build points of connection with a reader or a viewer, and talking about yourself to process your own grief, fear, dread, whatever. And I often don't know which I'm doing until after I finish something.

And then, there are the many times when my long-time producing partner Rosianna Halse Rojas reads a script, or some notes I've written, and says, "Oh god please don't make this" either because it contains undercooked hot takes, which is one of my great weaknesses, or because it's something that might divide or weaken this community.

It took me a long time to understand this, but in the end vlogbrothers videos are not about whatever they're about. They are about nerdfighteria. They are all about nerdfighteria being a productive community where people can feel fulfilled and make connections. Any video that weakens that sense of community is, by definition, a bad video.

Like Hank, over the years, you and I have had a few public disagreements, but they've always been about exceptionally silly things, like whether Batman is a good superhero, and whether butt is legs. And this is reflective of our real-life relationship. We almost never argue, and when we do it's about things like whether Batman is a good superhero.

But years ago I wrote a video trying to be funny talking about all these differences between us and how the factions of nerdfighteria might line up in a civil dispute, and Rosianna was like, "This is gonna get views, but it's gonna make the community weaker." And that was the moment I belatedly understood that maximizing views was not the point of this YouTube channel.

That's just one example of how usually, I end up learning more from the stuff I don't make than from the stuff I do make. And also, sometimes those unfinished videos do eventually feed into a video that does get finished. Like this one!

Hank, I'll see you on Friday.