I decided the other day to stop writing. Blog- done. Book- forget it. Just done.
I made this decision because the deeper I get into the blog world and the publishing world, the ickier it makes me feel. And I couldn’t quite decipher what has made me feel so icky about the whole thing.
Of course, you know me. I didn’t stop there. I had to dive in to my dark little soul and figure out what the heck was really going on. Why am I cringing every time I see certain blog posts come up in my reader? Why do Instagram posts make me mad? Why do I feel so holier-than-everybody?
Well, part of that is just my dark little soul in all of its grossness. I am not as kind as I wish to be or as generous to others as I’d hope they would be to me. That is not a problem with the digital world; it’s a problem with me.
But there is something going on in this digital world that makes me feel icky. And I think the reason I hate it so much when I see it in others is because secretly I know the propensity in myself to do exactly the same as they are doing.
The ickiness factor of the blog and publishing world is this: it is all about the image. And there is no system of checks and balances to ensure that the image is true to the reality. Something in me so desires truth that I feel uncomfortable in a world where authenticity isn’t valued.
I see health and wellness bloggers post endless selfies with the underlying message that if you live like them, you’ll look like them. Or I see bloggers who post photos of themselves with their “friends” who just happen to be the most influential or noteworthy of their acquaintances. The people in their everyday life don’t make the cut, but their pseudo-famous acquaintances pop up frequently.
Some of those people may really be true to the image they project, but I’ve lived in the real world long enough to know that probably isn’t the whole story. Maybe that’s why I roll my eyes every time something like this rolls through my Instagram feed. But if that were all it was, I just wouldn’t read blogs I didn’t like and move on with my life.
But as I said, the thing that bothers me most about others are the things I’m secretly fighting in myself. The reason I feel icky about all of this is because I have noticed that I, too, am cultivating an image.
We all have the opportunity to use social media in this way, to make ourselves look better, to show the best parts of our lives and leave out the rest. But there does seem to be an extra impetus pushing us toward the image over the authenticity when you lead a more public online life.
I have a reason to not be myself anymore because being my authentic self just doesn’t please everybody. And to be successful in this business, I need x number of Facebook likes and x number of Twitter followers, Instagram followers (the list shall go on forever and ever amen). To be granted the privilege of writing a book, you must wear these numbers like badges of honor. You do more and more and more to try to attain the numbers you need, and I think every single time I have chased the numbers I have let a little piece of myself go.
Somehow, those of us who share our thoughts with the world begin to believe that our words are really important. We forget that it is God who gave us this gift and entrusted it to us, and we start to buy into our own image. That image is in danger of crumbling every single second, so we gotta keep propping it up. We think that we have been given a responsibility to lead others into all truth, but we forgot that blogs are just online popularity contests, plain and simple. Popular doesn’t mean truthful or meaningful or worthy. Winning a popularity contest doesn’t mean you’re smarter or better or more capable of leadership than any other person who is living a more private life.
I’ve started to see how my perspective has changed over time, and it sickens me. No longer do I value a small moment encouraging someone in need. I want my story to be bigger, to share it with others, to get Facebook likes and comments. Except I am pretty sure that Jesus always worked in small moments, in one-on-one interactions with real people in the midst of the mess of everyday life.
So that’s how I came to the place where I wanted to quit writing altogether. And then, a third option came to me that I hadn’t before considered.
Maybe I just keep writing because I like writing and let go of all of the rest of the crap. I don’t have to engage in popularity contests that require the cultivation of an image I don’t want to uphold. I can’t control whether the powers that be bestow the honor upon me of publishing a book. I will never accomplish all of the “shoulds” of successful blog writing- the number of tweets you have to send, the number of blog posts written per week- because I have some more important things that need my attention every day. They call me Mom.
Maybe the small moments that happen in my life- with my kids or my spouse or my neighbor- are just as important to God as the bigger story I have been lusting after.
Maybe I just do what I do because it is life-giving to me, not because it will ever put any money in my pocket. Because chasing the dream has somehow turned it into a nightmare.
I want my dream back, and I’m not willing to give it away to the fear of not being enough in someone else’s eyes. I don’t want to work at my image anymore. I just have to be me. And if that means that just me, Michael and Grandma are reading my blog posts, that is okay.
Grandmothers think everything you do is fabulous, anyway.