top of page

Making a Cardboard TV + Imposter Syndrome



Many years ago I took a screenwriting class and the instructor opened with this line: “nobody knows what they’re doing.”


Or maybe it was “nobody knows anything.” I’m not sure of the exact quote, but you get the idea.


The instructor’s point was that you can do anything because, basically, everything is made up.


Everyone is just doing stuff the only way they know how, but none of us really knows what we’re doing. Sometimes we don’t even know why we’re doing it.


Imposter Syndrome and my jerk brain


I get a lot of ideas and I write my ideas down as much as I can but sometimes they escape me.


The ideas all require some execution, as ideas do. It’s the follow-through part that is a struggle for me because my brain likes to sabotage me.


I’ve had an idea floating around in the back of my head for several years, and it recently circled back to the front of my head. I wanted to build a cardboard television with a projector inside. The TV itself would be a painted cardboard box but you can turn it “on” and “off” like you would a TV. On the screen would be a real moving image.


I could see it clearly in my mind. I knew it would work. I can build, draw, and paint and I happen to own a tiny 2-inch projector.


But my mind decided I needed a “reason” to follow through and make a cardboard TV.


It also thinks I need to know what I’m doing, like I’m some sort of cardboard TV making professional.


It will say, what’s the purpose, exactly? And who are you to create that when someone else could probably do it better? Where will you put this thing when you're done?


Classic imposter syndrome!

Sketching out my TV, despite my mind trying to sabotage me

This is the reason that these ideas float around inside my head for a long time instead of materializing through me working on them. I’m constantly being berated my my own dickhead of a brain.


The nicer half of which is coming up with really neat things.


This time I decided it didn’t really matter what the TV was for. If the only purpose of a cardboard TV is for me to enjoy the process of inventing it, then that is enough.

After painting it and installing the screen

I also knew I could post a video of me operating it like a real TV, and maybe another video of the process of making it.


Those end-goals helped to cut through the negative noise.


But fighting that negative voice is like swimming through molasses.


Making a TV out of a cardboard box

One small task at a time I managed to put the TV together.


I started with an Amazon box and cut out one side of it with a box cutter.


I knew I would need to get into the box to install the projector and that I could angle the TV for video so you wouldn’t see missing side.


By creating a little hinge for the largest knob on the TV, I made it so it could turn.

Tiny projector inside the box

The pio projector needed to be placed so that the edges of the image didn’t appear on the TV screen. I carved a projector-sized hole in the back of the box and slid the projector in.


A little bit of video editing, image reversing, and testing later, I had a working cardboard TV!


Nobody knows anything, but now I know how to build a TV out of cardboard and I enjoyed the heck out of doing it. Take that, jerk brain!


The video of me operating it like a real TV is here and the time-lapse of me building it is over here.