No, I am not going to give a spiritual talk. Please don’t run away just yet. To be fair, I may be pretty good at a spiritual talk and then you may regret having missed it.
Anyway, the reason for this post is because that’s what I have been practising for the last few months and technically, for the better part of this year. Do you recall when you first started blogging? Many years ago? I do. It was 11 years ago and I wrote a post about it right here, on this blog, if you recall.
That post, written in November last year, was a reflection on how I began blogging without a care in the world for page views, comments or likes. I then moved on to actively pursuing the very things I had never cared about. That’s when the trouble started. And I mean that without any disrespect to those who pursue these things.
I tend to read a lot, mostly newsletters and articles by thought leaders and writers whom I follow. One such article was this one on ‘Addiction to Achievement.‘
I really do want you to read the whole post (warning: it’s a long article), but this line leapt out at me:
“Social Media amplifies our Achievement Addiction”
As a blogger who promotes content on social media I know this to be true. As a strategist who studies numbers and engagement metrics, it isn’t something I can run away from. I don’t want to, either, since I believe in the power of organic engagement.
However, the one thing I consciously started looking at was going back to the basic principle of all creative work:
Do it for its own sake.
When I write a piece of content on the blog, it’s because I want to. Always.
Every single thing that happens after I hit the ‘Publish’ button is not, technically, in my power to control.
For instance, here are some things that could happen:
- Your audience may read the post
- Other people will read the post
- Other people may comment on the post
- Readers and fellow bloggers will/may share the post with their audience
- Their audience may read your post (although more likely that they will read only the headline of this post on social media)
- If your content is really good and of a high quality, it may begin to rank on Google
- Weeks later, you may get a fresh set of eyes on the content when you re-share the post on social media
But, if you notice, from the entire list above the only thing you have any control over is the actual writing of the post; not the things that happen afterwards.
People don’t like being forcibly sold something. They would much rather find their way to it on their own. Wouldn’t you feel the same way? Just as a writer cannot force people to buy her books or leave favourable reviews, you can’t expect that everyone who reads your blog will think favourably of your work.
And here’s the thing: They don’t have to. Nobody has to.
Once we understand that, we let go of our attachment to our work’s outcome.
That, my friends, is the art of detachment. The only thing you can fully pour yourself into is the creative art of writing the post. That’s why it’s important to enjoy the effort of writing, not what will happen once you’ve written the post.
This habit, of detachment, is not easy to practise. Many of us fail (self included) on multiple occasions, simply because the very nature of social media validation keeps us hooked to the cycle of addiction.
So what can you do? These tips may help:
- Once you’ve written the post, don’t share it everywhere right away. Take a day or two to share it across all platforms. This helps with being intentional and mindful, thus taking away the drug-like high that can come from immediate ‘likes’ and ‘retweets’.
- Leave your phone in a different room for most of the day. I guarantee this helps.
- Walk away from the post soon after you publish it. As in, physically get up and walk away. This helps you process your feelings about the post before other people have had their say.
- Uninstall social media apps on your phone, especially the ones with notifications that tell you that someone has ‘liked’ your post.
- Turn off your phone’s push notifications. Any kind of validation can wait without getting you addicted into a loop of checking your phone.
- Bonus tip: Send your written piece to a critic, a friend who will critically look over the piece and point out any flaws. Not only will this keep you grounded. It will also remind you that not all ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ are created equal.
Do you know that a month ago, I was toying with the idea of shutting down this blog? Because I felt that I wasn’t doing justice to it? Today, I’ve made my decision.
I will keep this blog running for the simple reason that it is a place that I come to write when I feel like it and the truth? There is no addiction to achievement when it comes to this space and that makes it all the more important for me to keep this space of expression alive. For its own sake.