I've frequently heard from creative folks that a key to success is regularly producing content while working on bigger projects--keep that blog updated! Tweet links to helpful articles! Instagram books that are kind of like the ones you're writing! If you're a creative trying to cultivate an audience, you MUST:
1) Say something NEW! (And in a reasonably short word-count. Everyone has ADD!)
2) Make content NOW!
3) NOW! repeats every 5-7 days, at the very least.
If all that just gave you anxiety, I think this post is for you. I'm not going to tell you that the need to produce "extra" content is a myth. I AM here to tell you that it's maddening and ridiculous.
I haven't updated this blog since May. It's October. I intended to update it weekly, but the summer and fall have been pretty busy. I've been finalizing my second book, working with Voters Not Politicians to stop Gerrymandering in Michigan, spending time with my niece and nephews, and teaching three classes. My back pain is atrocious from lack of proper exercise, and my diet's pretty much gone to hell. Does this sound anything like your life? Probably. Weekly blogging and reaching out requires brain space that not many of us have. And when we do go through spurts of consistent blogging or writing-related tweeting or whatever, do we actually see amazing results? Which leads me to...
...some questions. Out of the other creative folks you follow, how many of their blogs posts do you actually click on? Now out of those, how many do you actually read all the way through? Now out of those, how many do you comment on? Now out of those, how often do you respond on the actual BLOG, not in a Twitter or Facebook comment? (That's one of my biggest pet peeves, y'all!)
It makes me think of that old saying, "the only way to have a friend is to be one." This is true. We can't join or create creative communities if we only toot our own horns. But it's hard to dedicate time to *your* content when I feel constant pressure to create *my* content, and when we *all* feel that way, we just end up vomiting out content for literally no one.
Do you remember learning about your favorite writers in college? About how they spent their days in a big house in Maine or wherever and wrote at this one desk by this one window and hardly ever spoke to anyone? Remember how you thought this would be your cozy writer life? You probably didn't think about how today, most people can read, and education is prevalent, and the human population is increasing, and literally amazing writers are emerging every other hour. You're not the talented farmer on the hill living in a mostly illiterate country; you're just one in a billion.
It's getting harder and harder to stand out, especially if you expect help through social media. All platforms have their frustrations, but ever since the Facebook demons bought out Twitter, I'm so exhausted from seeing things other people "hearted" that I just close the app, missing out on people who I actually follow and like. Yet, when I don't scream out my writing-related content into such voids, I feel like I'm doing it all wrong.
Look, I admit, I need to be better at keeping my writer's blog updated so that potential readers don't think it's inactive or that maybe I've been hit by a bus, but I want to write when I actually have something to say-- and only when I have something to say. I write slow and I write long (that's what she said), and those facts have the odds stacked against me in today's world, but if I try too hard to change myself into a quick & dirty writer, what I produce will not be authentic, and it probably won't be any good. It will just be adding to the noise.
Fellow writers and creatives, what are your thoughts on the pressure to create constant content in this social media mess? Does it also piss you off, or do you think it's helpful? Where are you at with this whole self-promotion, community-building thing, and how do you navigate it?