I’ve started writing in the dark.
Writing in — and for— the bright, glittering world of social media has, more often than not, stolen my words from me.
I remember when I started my first blog, back when I traveled to spend a semester abroad in India. It was just me, my words, and whomever happened to stumble upon the pages that were soon laden with beautiful stories of an exotic place halfway around the world.
Stories that now, more than 10 years later, seem surreal.
Had it all been a dream?
But no. It was real. And the words that flowed from my heart to my fingertips as I sat sipping chai in tiny cafes were probably some of the truest I’ve ever written.
They were my focus, and nothing else mattered.
But now… now things are different. Get on Instagram to promote your words. But first you must post photos to promote your Instagram to promote your words. While you’re at it, post on Twitter to promote your Instagram to promote your photos to promote your words.
And now? Well… now those words are hardly written!
After all, the time that used to be spent creating is now spent focusing on numbers and hashtags and SEO, and being active and attentive to everyone else in that bright, glittering world, all in the hopes that if you follow the rules and do everything just so, the numbers will go up and then people will know.
“Ah. She’s a writer to be taken seriously. People follow her. Let’s pause the frenetic pace, the endless click and skim of our daily web browsing to read what she has written.”
But what would they read? The pages are blank.
The quest for readers had instead made me question myself as a writer.
“Am I a writer?” I wonder.
I look at the presented success of others in the online world and feel ashamed at what I feel — it’s not the supportive “good for them!” attitude that a confidant woman is supposed to exude.
Instead it’s, “Why them? Why not me?”
How does the momfluencer who doesn’t even know the difference between they’re, their, and there have so many readers? For them, writing is an afterthought — “Let’s start this blog to make images we can pin on Pinterest to lead everyone back to my Instagram ad infinitim, so I can keep posting filtered photos that show just how authentic I am, and review products shipped to my door for free with a sidebar that notes ‘I got this for free, but I’d never give a dishonest review!’ to prove just how authentic I am.”
And then, after all that it’s, “Oh wait. I guess I need to put some words between these photos,” and in goes a hastily written fluff piece filled with grammatical errors about decorating a playroom.
…but the joke’s on me, because everyone gobbles it down.
For me, writing is ripping open my heart; it’s inhaling inspiration and exhaling words.
And so, the thief of joy—comparison—has a field day, and I’m left shaken.
“I’m doing something wrong.”
Maybe I need different photos. Maybe I need to find more interesting topics. Maybe I’m using the wrong hashtags. Maybe everything has already been said. Blog posts are too long. No one has the attention anymore. Maybe you’re just not good enough. The internet is saturated. Why even bother?
My breath catches as the inspiration I inhaled becomes stuck. I’m too exhausteddizzyoverwhelmeduncertainanxiousinsecure to exhale the words, and it leaves me feeling heavy and breathless
Tears spill down my cheeks, not for the first time, at my frustration.
Perhaps I’m not a writer, after all.
This time, the thought arises that perhaps these tears and thoughts have less to do with what others are doing, and more to do with what I’m not doing.
And so, I turn away from the expectations of the bright, glittering, noisy, crowded world of social media.
I sit down at my desk.
For a moment, I close my eyes and think of hot chai and a tiny café.
I take a breath.
I open my eyes and allow my finger to hover over a symbolic light switch.
I press down.
In the next instant, sitting in the darkness, I exhale.
And I write.
Because I AM a writer.