I Signed Up To Create Art, Not Content Marketing

I was supposed to take the day off today because over the past 3 days, I’ve:

  1. handed in a beast of a book to my editor, after 18 months of hard work;
  2. discovered that I do not, in fact, have [a private health issue] to contend with on top of my already-existing disability; plus
  3. I’m tired.

But I found this Feb 1 Vox article this morning and it sparked a need to write down some thoughts here. (More on that below. Also—thanks for coming to my blog!)

Here’s my takeaway in case you don’t want to read the article yet: Artists are forced to do way too much marketing, the gains are a total crapshoot, and TikTok is the latest tool to help us feel bad about ourselves when we fail at marketing our brand.

I nuked my Twitter account in August and have drastically decreased my posts on Instagram. I noped out of Facebook back in 2018 and have only ever regretted it because I wasn’t able to accept an invite to a particular sooper seekrit writers bitch group. (We don’t bother with Threads in these digital streets.)

I joined Bluesky, hoping to approximate my experience of Twitter, which was my primary socials platform, and by far my favourite, for 11 years. But building community on Bluesky so far means building a following totally from scratch. Literally, combing through others’ followers/following lists and manually clicking Follow. And only after vetting people’s feeds to gauge what they post and whom they repost or if they never repost. Well, that’s how I do it anyway. (More on why later.) 

Here’s where you might expect me to humblebrag about the tens of thousands of Twitter followers I gave up and how arduous the task of rebuilding to that number and beyond on Bluesky.

For my 11 years on Twitter, I think I might’ve ended up at 2070 followers or thereabouts..? Or it might’ve been 2030. Give or take; I honestly can’t remember anymore. On Insta, I have just over 1100 now. Small potatoes. Tiny. Plenty of people would call me a failure in this respect.

I used to think that I could simply curate my way to social media brand success.

Instead of mass-following, to get a calculated percentage of follow-backs, I did my slow careful best to build a community on my Twitter filled with readers and authors and publishing nerds and social activists and IRL friends, with a sprinkling of scientists and journalists in order to be a good citizen by keeping au courant with reputable news. And yup, I also added in some just-for-fun follows, too, because I would always rather laugh than cry. I decided on kindness as a guiding principle, instead of outrage. Though of course, I also sometimes shared my outrage, too.

What I didn’t do was build a massive follower count. Oh well.

Anyway, I will never join TikTok. There’s way too much work that would take away from my creative writing. Way too much work for very little, if any, tangible return. Plus, the content I’d be creating would exist purely at the whims of a corporation. It’s the same situation with any socials platform. That’s partly why I barely post anymore on Insta, and why this wee ramble is here instead of (wonkily) threaded on Bluesky.

I will never join TikTok because I can’t build a community there. I feel like I’d only be pushing out content, for the sake of pushing out content so that people will remember that I have content they might like to watch. IF I can keep up daily posts. IF the feared and opaque TikTok algorithm deems my content worthy.

There are vanishingly few things I can control in my career as an author. One is my creative work. Which is also the most important. Another is how I choose to spend my time, and where. And anyway, my time isn’t always mine to parse out. I have children still living at home. I have volunteer responsibilities. I have considerations related to living with a chronic illness.

Today, I’m spending some time writing this blog post. Because it might help someone else to know that there are people like me out here. That it can be okay to go your own speed. To create your art instead of “content.”

I also acknowledge that I don’t have to depend on my writing for a livable income, and I have decent healthcare; those are incredible privileges I never, ever take for granted. Because of those privileges, I can scrape out some breathing room for myself. I can opt out of, or decrease my part in, the never-ending cycle of content creation in order to keep my brand—my self—scrolling before people’s eyes. I can choose to post on my website and to share through my newsletter. Because I’m still hoping to create community, but on my terms.

I hope that, if you don’t have those same privileges, you can still scrape out at least one break a month for yourself. Build in regular social media / promotional posting breaks by letting your followers know when and why. Train them to respect your boundaries. I dunno, sorry for the unsolicited advice lol. You’re likely already doing this stuff. Anyway, I hope that you design something that works for you.

Nothing’s 100% guaranteed. I figure we may as well choose joy and creativity, love and kindness, as much and as often as we can.

If you’ve read all of this ramble, I hope that means you’re interested in what I have to say. If that’s the case, then please subscribe to my Mid-Monthly Musings. I started it as a marketing tool, as we’re taught to do. For the past few years, though, I’ve been trying to see what sort of community I can build there. Join me?