So You Want to Write? Better Check Your Sound and Lighting

In a World with Too Much Text, the Written Word Needs a Boost

Rebecca Raney
3 min readAug 18, 2021
Photo illustration by Rebecca Raney

When I dreamed up the idea to start a YouTube channel and an essay series about playing the violin again, I never planned to delve deeply into the video editing. I was focused on the writing.

In fact, I was so focused on writing that for the first six months, I produced all the videos with the free, bare-bones software that came with my phone.

This month, I “leveled up,” as they say on YouTube, and invested in a higher-end video editor. Why?

Because I’m not going to let my essays die in written form.

I had expected that the audience for the essays would grow faster than the audience for videos.

Instead, with the exception of one article in the last six months, the audience has dwindled to nearly zero. I’m not taking it personally; I’m seeing other writers comment on dwindling numbers as well.

As they say in the South, we’re “drinking from the firehose” in the attention economy, and right now, we’re bombarded with too many words.

In recent weeks, to keep my words alive, I’ve run experiments with the “video essay.” At first, I didn’t put much effort into production, and yet . . . the pieces still attracted audiences on YouTube. What if I invested the time and money into making them better?

That’s what I did for my piece today, which delves into the physical pain of playing and the anguish of wondering whether I chose the wrong career. Here’s the link:

I feel like I’ve spent my entire career learning to meet audiences where they live; for years I worked as a curriculum coordinator at the University of Southern California and developed a program that taught journalism students how to write across platforms.

Based on that experience, this week I started drafting an essay about the trajectory I’ve seen in media — from the little novellas we wrote in the Golden Age of newspapers, to Web writing, to cross-platform writing, to short video.

I didn’t finish writing the piece. I decided my time was better spent producing video.

Screen capture from Raney’s video editor

I love how the video dashboard looks like an orchestral score.

As you know, I’ve written recently about how I would have loved to have been a composer. Perhaps I’ve found my calling.

This short piece ran in my newsletter, which deals with money, music and merit in the turmoil of America. Along with those themes, I’m writing about connecting with audiences in the “attention economy.”

Here’s the link: Rebecca Raney — The Reckless Violinist

Rebecca Raney (



Rebecca Raney

Respectable journalist. Terrible waitress. Reckless Violinist. YouTuber/Novelist. Contributor at The New York Times. Follow at