Something has felt “off” in my writing life for over a year now. It took me a few months to discern the exact problem and a few months more to experiment with solutions. But today I’m ready to try something drastic and walk away from Instagram indefinitely.
My writing is a ministry and a calling, so my goal has always been to steward it so it can be sustainable throughout my lifetime. My reason for writing is not to ultimately make a profitable income, it’s primarily to be a creative outlet, better my craft, and encourage others by what I create.
Although I love connecting with other people on Instagram, the constant pressure of what to post next has been draining my mental energy and not serving my writing goals. I would like to devote more time to deep work, focusing on crafting articles, and books/ebooks in an effort to serve my readers in a more meaningful way than what I can fit in a caption.
Take a break or quit?
In the past I’ve just taken breaks: a week here, a rare month there. But I’d always come back, accepting the necessity of actively maintaining a presence on Instagram without questioning it.
“Maybe this is just part of the job of being a writer that feels hard. Doesn’t every job have some aspects like that?” I asked myself. And I would go on, experimenting with different boundaries around my Instagram use to keep me sane, such as:
- Deleting the app on the weekends.
- Making the app harder to access on my phone.
- Setting a time limit.
- Not setting up a business account so I wouldn’t be tempted to obsess over my numbers.
- Reusing and re-purposing my own words from elsewhere.
- Batching my posts ahead of time so that I wasn’t constantly thinking about what to post next.
All of these measures have been helpful, but the truth remains: it takes time and mental energy to post thoughtful and meaningful content on Instagram.
The Joy of Missing Out (JOMO)
I can’t help but wonder how much more progress I could be making on long-form articles and on books I want to write if I didn’t have social media tapping me on the shoulder every step of the way, demanding my attention. I can’t help but wonder about the mental space I could free up if I just walked away from Instagram. Maybe there’d be more time to read beautiful stories, to follow my own curiosity, to find more truth, beauty, and goodness in the world. Maybe there’d be more time to engage with my in-real-life friends and neighbors. Maybe I would be more present with my family.
My world would become much smaller, but maybe that would mean a chance for my roots to grow deeper, to be more present in my everyday life.
The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)
This might be a terrible decision. After all, how will people find me, engage with me, and support my work? All the industry experts expect your social media presence to be part of your platform. In fact, I’ve attended several high quality, valuable trainings about how authors can best use Instagram. These are credible experts, and I have a lot of respect for them, and I’m thankful they’ve been willing to share their expertise.
But all of their advice is for “the successful author” and I’ve come to question the premise of what it actually means to be a “successful” author. In terms of the writing industry, it seems to mean getting a traditional book publishing deal, continued growth and engagement of your audience, and the number of books you’ve sold.
I’ve spent many months reflecting on my personal goals for writing, and my definition of success looks different than what it might mean to others. My version of success doesn’t depend on the gatekeepers of the traditional publishing industry, it isn’t contingent on how many books I sell, and it’s not measured by how many followers I can accrue.
These goals aren’t bad or wrong, and I’m not saying that it wouldn’t be nice to get traditionally published, to sell thousands of books, or to boast large platform numbers… it’s just that I’m not willing to do what it takes to get there.
Still the FOMO gives me pause. Leaving Instagram will mean missing out on writing opportunities, collaborations, speaking and podcasting opportunities. The loss of that potential feels heavy at times. The only way I know how to overcome FOMO is with JOMO. My hope is that I’ll be able to devote more time and energy to long-form content, that I’ll be better able to feed and replenish my creative soul, and that being more present in my everyday life will translate to having more to pour out on the page.
So, what does this mean in practical terms?
Will you delete your Instagram account?
Nope! All the content will stay but I’ll no longer be updating it.
What about Facebook?
I’ll keep both my personal page and my professional page but I don’t plan on updating them very much. I’ll stay marginally active in a few writing groups I’m a part of.
Is this decision permanent?
I’m not sure! I’ll leave the door open to the possibility of returning should my writing goals change.
Will you still write?
YES! My hope is to continue publishing articles here on my website as well as on other online platforms. I’d like to create some short ebooks (like this one!) as well as take on some larger book-length projects in the future.
How can we connect with you?
I’ll still be sending out my newsletter “The Scoop” and that’s the best way to keep tabs on my writing. And you can always contact me directly through email (sarahbutterfield @ gmail dot com) I love hearing from you and I always reply!
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