In this modern, social media obsessed world, beginning authors are constantly warned that they absolutely must have social media – which they must keep constantly updated – in order to get noticed and Make It.
Have a twitter. Have a facebook. Have a blog. Have a goodreads. Have a youtube channel. Have a website. Have a, have a, have a, have a, have a. Update, update, update, update, update. Write, write, write, write, write – but never on your projects, because you always have to be on your social media. You will gain readers, publicity and network by constantly being on social media, the advice goes, even though you are aimlessly shouting into nothingness and ignored by the world because you don’t have a social base to read all the things you write about on your social media. The advice always ignores the possibility that you – as a writer, all too often naturally tech-bane and hermit-like – won’t be able to gain a following because you have no following to start with. Somehow, magically, if you keep chattering into nothingness instead of writing, you will magically gain a following. Somehow. That’s always how the advice goes – step 1: make social media, step 3: make it in writing by telling your social media base about when your next book is coming out. The unspecified “They” of popular wisdom don’t even realise they’re missing step two.
Worry is not conducive to writing. To any truly creative process. Yet the popular wisdom is always the same: post regularly and often, and slowly go mad from the anxiety of trying to get the impossible goals of each day met so that you “stay relevant” – even if you never managed to be relevant in the first place. You can never have the peace of mind to write, really write, because you constantly stress that you have to come up with something for your next blog post or you’re behind schedule.
It crushes your heart from beneath your rib cage – squeezing and squeezing, day after day, enough to hurt but not to kill – until slowly all the joy and creativity have been pressed out, because in the shrivelled little heart that’s left when worry loosens its grip, there is no more room.
Come up with an intelligent topic. Write a little essay/blog. Hope desperately that the universe will, for a change, send some tiny acknowledgement that you exist. That the space you think you occupy is not vacant. That someone, somewhere, noticed you. That you are at least made of cellophane, rather than being so non-existent that even cellophane cannot notice you. That there are 7.4 billion people in the world and surely, surely, one of them will notice. Just for an instant. Will confirm that you are there. That you can be heard. But it never happens. And week after week you stress and stress because you worry you’ll disappoint someone if you are late to post – even as you know that it is impossible because there is no one to disappoint – and you’ll miss out on the chance to not be alone anymore. If you are truly alone. Can something that doesn’t exist be alone?
Stress and stress, on and on, worrying about making sure you get something up regularly, so that you can stay relevant (something that has never been relevant and has never existed cannot stay relevant, but the anxiety that you might fail – or disappoint – remains all the same, crushing from the inside out. Always the inquiry of why giving up is not an option is beaten down with the all powerful chant of Have to. Have to stay relevant. Have to have a blog. Have to tweet. Have to goodreads. Have to, have to, have to, have to.
Eventually the nails of anxiety’s crushing hand have dug in so deeply that crushing, stabbing pain beneath the ribs – pain from the inside out, attacking from where you are supposed to be safe – is a constant companion. You get used to it, but you never get numb to it. The anxiety makes it hurt too much to write, and every day that goes by without writing anxiety digs its claws in deeper, and the hurt becomes greater as creativity bleeds out uselessly from the shrivelling, aching organ. Even when you manage to keep tabs on everything you go unnoticed, as if you were never there, and each day nothing is achieved you have failed. Indeed, you have failed before you have even begun.