Writing around a full-time job and juggling your social media accounts can take a toll on your productivity
Instagram can be an amazing place to grow your audience and readership. It may be the perfect place to find the people who are willing to read your work. And, even better, to post about it on their own feeds.
Many authors seem to agree that it’s never too soon to start growing your own following on social media.
I tend to agree with them. But experience has taught me this is not always the case.
I started my bookstagram account almost one year ago. Since then I’ve watched, in amazement, how the effort of taking decent pictures and writing thought-provoking captions has captivated more and more like-minded readers to my page.
It is definitely rewarding to see something that you’ve put so much effort to grow.
But there’s one thing about growing that I’m only now beginning to realize: it’s not linear and sometimes you’ll have to face setbacks that will make you rethink your priorities.
The pains of non-linear growth
A few weeks ago something happened… my likes and comments started dropping for no reason whatsoever.
I’ve asked countless people if my content become terrible all of the sudden and all of them told me that no, the quality of my content was the same as before.
I scavenged the internet in desperation looking for answers.
I’ve promoted posts in absolute despair only to see my organic engagement dropping even more. Suddenly, the page I’ve put so much effort in became a shadow of what it has once been.
And you know what I learned with all of this?
I was focusing my attention on the wrong things.
The right and the wrong and the obvious
It is true that, if you’re a writer, it’s worth to invest some of your time growing a following on Instagram or other social media platforms of your liking.
But the keyword here is time.
Time can’t stretch to our liking. And neither can our energy.
At this point, the problem is obvious. When you spend more time growing a following than actually writing, then you’re creating the perfect conditions for a burn-out. Your foundations will shake and your motivation will flounder.
That is why, when you face tiny setbacks, you’ll feel miserable and you’ll want to give up.
This happened to me.
I found a wonderful day job with a great schedule. I could finally come home at decent hours and could still invest some of my time and energy to my writing before dinner.
But you know what I did instead?
I sat down to prepare Instagram posts, create stories and answer to comments. I would obsess over my stats and feel miserable and complain about my terrible engagement rate. And I would write absolutely write nothing at all. Not even articles for Medium or my blog.
I wrote before about how Instagram can make us anxious. But this was something else entirely.
On those weeks that I tried to keep up with my publication schedule on Instagram and still make the time for an active social life, I found that I couldn’t keep up. And the last thing I wanted to do in the evenings was writing.
After all was said and done online, I had no more energy to do anything else.
So when my engagement dropped, it really took a toll on my motivation and my health.
I felt so terrible after posting and watching the terrible engagement my posts generated, I started considering giving up Instagram and writing entirely.
Instead, I gave myself a few days break to think about it and, at some point, I realized the obvious: writing should be my main focus not growing a premature fan base.
There’s nothing to see here!
At the end of the day, it’s your body of writing that will give substance to your career and a purpose to your followers. Not how many likes and comments you can amass on social media.
It’s writing consistently what will teach you to become a good writer. Everything else is secondary.
There’s such a thing as starting too early promoting your work. Social media can distract you from your writing to unprecedented levels. Especially when you start gaining some traction and popularity.
Once you catch the popularity train on Instagram, prepare for letting it take entire chunks of your time without bothering to give you something valuable in return.
In a few weeks, you’ll give up writing entirely because writing is hard and because social proof can become an addictive replacement for your writing dreams.
Just wait a bit more and you’ll see.
You may start Instagram as a writer and leave it with an invisible hole in your soul. At some point, you may even stop talking about writing altogether. You may even pretend you that you are happy with your popularity and engagement rate… but if you’re a real writer, at the end of the day, you’ll feel an emptiness you cannot fill.
A cloud of confusion you cannot dissipate. A pain so severe you’ll try to cover it up with all the wrong things.
So, should you give up on Instagram?
That’s not for me to decide.
I can tell you what I will do. But it doesn’t mean you have to follow my footsteps. If you want to copy anything from me, copy my stubbornness to listen to other people and to still do whatever the hell I please.
I’m not giving up on Instagram. Not entirely.
But I’m keeping my account because I made too many friends there to even consider it giving them up. But I will drastically reduce my posting frequency, so I can learn how to manage and prioritize my writing time around my day job.
I’m not telling you that you should do the same. Every person and every writer are different. My pains and difficulties might not be the same as yours.
I told you my story so that, every time you feel Instagram is draining your energy, you’ll know that you’re not the only writer out there feeling like this.
It’s never too late to start your page. But starting too early may cost you too much. Starting too early may steal you the time you need to actually write.
And for a writer, writing should be more important than anything else.