Updated: Apr 14, 2020
IN FEBRUARY, I stopped.
The world had begun to crowd around me. The digital spaces I occupied no longer brimmed with creative potential, but instead began crushing my spirits. The problem with being a writer on platforms such as Wattpad and Instagram is we become susceptible to the ding of a notification. Our eyes rake over the number of likes, pleading for the number to go up. Cursing as to why no one is reading our posts or checking out our blog, even though we are working hard on connections and networking and promoting.
I was in a negative headspace. It had a lot to do with being online and posting updates of the second draft of my book, which I had grown weary of. Readership was down. I had been working on this project for two years straight and I was exhausted. My writing on Wattpad felt stale. Instagram felt like a race to catch up to other writers. Your aesthetic isn’t nice enough. You aren’t getting enough comments. Your advice is so contrived. These thoughts marched on through my mind, stepping in time with university pressure, work, and other responsibilities.
I had a long talk with a friend about this. She told me that I was experiencing burn-out and that I needed to take a break. Although her advice was amazing, I was hesitant. I’m the kind of person who pushes and pushes herself, even if she isn’t sure why. I was scared that if I dropped off social media, people would forget who I was. It was the awful fear of becoming irrelevant.
Well, a nasty thought said to me, as I sat on my bed and wondered what to do, Who said you were even relevant in the first place?
“Shut up,” I replied.
I promptly wrote a quick note to my social media followers, telling them I was going on hiatus. I let my readers on Wattpad know that the second draft would remain incomplete, because my inspiration had wandered away. Then I deleted the apps off my phone and promised myself I would go months without logging in.
I lasted less than three weeks.
It was because I missed the connection I had with other writers. I loved talking to people all around the world. So, I thought of a new aesthetic and theme. I turned my personal account into my blog account, then created a second account. I said hello to everyone again and settled back into things.
Now, during my three weeks off, I had a great time. It is so freeing to be away from your phone and not worry about how many comments are coming through. I still haven’t picked up my second draft again, but I’m outlining a larger vision for my series and having a great time doing that. A little bit of the pressure has lifted. I don’t feel the need to post everyday or stick to a really tight schedule.
However, I still don’t think my theme is good enough. I am still checking the number of likes and I get so excited when someone comments on a post. When I lose a follower, it stings. I get jealous when other accounts are doing better than me. (Not jealous in a mean way, but jealous in a “why them, not me” kind of way.) It’s always a give and take of figuring out what works for you and what works for others.
Sometimes being online and building yourself up is like when someone waves at you, and you wave back, but then you realize they were addressing the person behind you. (How many times can I use “you” in a sentence?) You ask people what they want to see. You get answers. You make posts in response to those answers. You feel as though the reaction is not enough.
It could be because I’m selfish and I want people to respond to my writing, yet I absolutely hate this rat race I’ve put myself in. I think sometimes I’m the only one running. I want things to look nice. I want to be professional. I want to say worthwhile things and engage in discussions. I seek validation and it saddens me. Why can’t I just post and be happy with whatever comes of it?
My hiatus saved me, while at the same time it failed me. I came back from my break feeling happier, lighter, and more creative. I had high hopes for my books and my blog. I also started feeling a little lost again. I don’t have any wise things to say about this, it’s just a sense of being lost in a sea of people you really admire. And wishing you had better graphic design skills.
Let me be clear, these problems are not big or important. There are much bigger things I’m currently concerned with, but these thoughts have been on my mind for a while. At the end of the day, Instagram doesn’t matter. What color my posts are really doesn’t matter. It’s just a feeling I’ve developed and wanted to explore.
I want to build a brand for myself. I want my blog to reach more people. I want to be successful and as of a few weeks ago (probably even up to a few minutes ago) that meant having lots of views and shares and likes. It meant feeling like someone. Having 6,000 followers versus 600. But that’s all bullshit.
I am someone. I have friends in the writing community who are very dear to me. I love seeing what everyone is working on and participating in challenges and growing as a writer. Perhaps my hiatus didn’t totally cleanse me of my desire to see the notifications light up, but I think I’m slowly learning my lesson. It’s all trial and error. It’s all supposed to be fun. There are so many real issues in the world, that instead of putting pressure on something that doesn’t matter, just let go and have a good time with your creative pursuits.
The hiatus was a much needed vacation for my brain. I got my writing inspiration back and that is a wonderful thing. I’m going to keep changing and pushing forward with other online activities, because slow and steady wins the race. I’m not one of those people who can gather a thousand followers in a day and that’s alright. This is a moment to not be selfish, to realize that the world doesn’t revolve around your feed, and to appreciate what you have.
I appreciate every pair of eyes that comes across my work and I hope my thoughts resonated with you. If they didn’t, that’s okay too. Thank you so much for reading.
Until next time,