I’ve started a Twitter break until next year.
My brain was too noisy. I was feeling stressed, frustrated, and a little bit angry. I couldn’t hear my own thinking.
It’s gotten hard, these past few months, to prioritize my own work with so many other demands on my time personally and professionally. Never mind art and writing – those things were just speedbumps on a never-ending to-do list – speedbumps which tended to send me careening into the curb and scratching up my rims.
Overwhelm is not a great place from which to create.
Stepping away from the algorithmic hamster wheel is among the easiest ways to reclaim time and space. When you’re deeply entrenched in a creative community that’s easy to overlook. You feel like the moment you step away you’ll be forgotten and worse, when you return, the algorithm will make sure you stay forgotten.
This last bit – the fear of being forgotten – is what I want to talk about. Because the things we do to make sure we aren’t overlooked are often at loggerheads with our creative practice. They look like:
- Putting the needs of others before your own.
- Giving too much.
- Hustling for approval.
- Creating drama.
- Being dependent on external validation for dopamine.
Before we get into this, though, we need to take a giant step back and examine those feelings of being stressed and overwhelmed.
Stress and overwhelm aren’t facts. They’re stories we tell ourselves about how we feel. It’s convenient to have a name for them. But sometimes we get so hung up on the words we forget to pause and examine the feelings beneath them.
There’s gold in the stories we tell ourselves. When we stop and listen to them often the answers for how to move forward are right there waiting for us. Feelings like these don’t come from nowhere. What is their origin?
When I dive deeply into how I feel right now I notice I’ve allowed my boundaries to get a little loose. I haven’t been working on purpose and have a wicked case of shiny object syndrome. The things I used to do to support my energy levels and emotional wellbeing have fallen by the wayside…again.
This level of understanding is the gold.
You can’t eliminate feelings of stress and overwhelm by sheer force of will. But you can do something about your actions (or inactions) that contribute to those feelings. Sure, there are other things — work, family, holidays, covid — which aren’t as simple to untangle. Let them be for a minute while you work on the things that are under your control.
(I promise I’m not going to tell you to do more self-care, we’re all self-cared out thank you very much.)
Stress and overwhelm are often rooted in feeling like you’re not doing enough. We’re driven by the Protestant work ethic and a hungry capitalist machine that keeps us scrambling to keep up. This comes easily to some people. I haven’t met an artist yet who is among them. Creativity requires time and space and room for our brains to breathe. Most systems aren’t set up for those sorts of shenanigans.
And so, we ceaselessly scramble without considering whether the maze we’re running through leads anywhere. We’re so busy we overlook the fact that most paths are dead ends. There’s no cheese at the end of the social media maze, just a bottomless pit.
Which brings me back to the Twitter break I’m taking which literally no one will notice but me. (I miss you!)
I talk all the time about how engagement and follower counts have no correlation to the success of your creative work. Social media is busy work, not deep work. Yes, connections are helpful. Sometimes you can become so overconnected, though, that you grow disconnected. It becomes difficult to build relationships with anyone on a meaningful level unless you turn that into your full-time job. Even worse, the people who are most important to you begin to feel like they’re competing for your attention.
I don’t want anyone I care about to feel that way.
Those five things I listed up there? They’re all things I’ve struggled with at one point or another and are on the little rules of engagement note to myself that lives in my planner. Hustling for approval is my biggest nemesis of the five. I catch myself doing that All. The. Time. It’s a really awful one, yeah? When you’re creating (or Tweeting) for other people’s approval, you’re missing out on doing the work that truly connects you to your core. That’s such shallow work it’s not even worth doing.
Taking a big breath to evaluate what and who are most important should be a regular priority for all creatives, especially as to social media. It’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to connect with as many people as possible as quickly as possible. That’s one strategy, but it’s one that leaves you without the deeper relationships you can nurture when you take your time. And when you do decide it’s time to take a social media break your support system evaporates. You might end up feeling too insecure to take the rest you probably need.
(Spoiler: if you’re on Twitter, your brain needs a break from the firehose of information.)
This blog post: brought to you by a Twitter break, and hopefully is ever so slightly more useful than anything I could have said in 280 characters or less.