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.

A nostalgic trip down blogging lane

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:

  1. 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’.
  2. Leave your phone in a different room for most of the day. I guarantee this helps.
  3. 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.
  4. Uninstall social media apps on your phone, especially the ones with notifications that tell you that someone has ‘liked’ your post.
  5. Turn off your phone’s push notifications. Any kind of validation can wait without getting you addicted into a loop of checking your phone.
  6. 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.

Laptop on a table with an open notebook and a pen placed on top of it.

13 thoughts on “Practising the art of Detachment as a Writer

  1. I am glad you are staying. I resonate with most of your points and those tips might come in handy. I miss those days when I had the option of choosing when I want to blog.

  2. First of all, I am so glad you aren’t discontinuing this blog. This is YOUR SPACE–the one that gives you such happiness, it reflects in every word that you choose with such love!
    And, about the topic of the post–I need to practice the art of detachment. I can’t lie to you about not being obsessed with the kind of response my post gets! πŸ˜›

  3. I hear you Shailja. I write when I want to, though I have now assigned days for writing and commenting. All thanks to your scheduling tips. I take a break from blogging the entire weekend. I treat my blog like I would, if I were to go to work Monday to Friday. I write for the pleasure of writing and not to grab eye-balls. Great if people enjoy my posts. That is a bonus. And we all love it, don’t we. But I mostly write for the joy of writing and what I feel passionately about.

    As for the Social media bit, I’m so thrilled to have deleted Twitter and Facebook apps off my phone, before my birthday in August. I therefore have more time to read books, bond with my family and dogs, to just be, mindful. I have no urge to reach out for the phone when I have nothing to do. I always keep the notifications option on mute on my phone. And I have no fear of losing out. I also have tried to incorporate the tip from Vasantha, of putting the phone on airplane mode 9 pm onwards. I have failed the last two days, but will try to be mindful from now onwards. I therefore have one whole hour to read in the night. πŸ™‚

    I will use your last tip of sharing the post with a friend or family for feedback. I used to share my posts with my husband earlier, but not in the recent past.

    The first tip is a it hard to do, as I almost forget about the post once I have published it. And then, that would also mean more time spent on posting it later. Not sure.

    Thank you for this food for thought and valuable tips. We are lucky to be able to read your blogposts, so please never consider shutting your blog down. Never, ever. Love. <3

    Hope the cough is receding and you are on the mend. Put your feet up and relax. πŸ™‚

  4. Probably after 4 years of blogging I can proudly say that indeed I am on the path of detachment. I agree I share it on all platforms immediately, but this is also becuase, I forget about the post(more or less) after sharing and let the content to the talking, and get going with other things I love to do.

  5. I convince myself that it is this very detachment that keeps me writing without sharing them anywhere, but more often than not it is because of my diffidence and fear of being judged by the audience. Blogging has become infrequent for me, the statistics of the readers have fallen. I yearn for more feedback but stay dubious about sharing my writings. Although I do write out of interest, I can’t help but always wish for a responsive audience for them.

  6. While writing fiction, this advice comes in even more handy. Nothing at all is in the writer’s control other than the creative process.

  7. No one but you could have put this so brilliantly. It is very important to be detached, especially with all the pressures Social Media puts on you. Earlier, I used to want to have a certain number of posts on the blog every month and was bothered about the number of comments that came in. Now, I only write when I want to and do not care much about the readership. I know a set of people will come in, read and comment. That’s enough for me.

    Thankfully, I’ve been successful in staying away from SM for most of the days now. It sure is an awesome feeling. If I didn’t have a blog, I probably would have deleted all my SM accounts by now.

  8. Interesting post, Shailaja. I find that I can be quite detached after putting my work out there. To be honest, I forget to share it on social media apart from the automatic shares and I think this is partly due to having so much else going on – my writing outside the blog but also, life in general. I remember years ago I was more invested in comments etc and while I still love blogging and the community, I’m not as cut up about not receiving as many comments as before. If that changes, I will definitely keep your post in mind! πŸ˜€

  9. Ahh the art of detachment… So hard to practise. But what I have realized is that as soon as I target something more important in real life, the virtual world feels trivial. It becomes easy to not look at stats or be bothered by declining instagram followers. I am going through that phase right now and it feels so relaxing to not constantly check phone for updates or wonder why people are not reading my blog ? I seriously hope this phase lasts longer.

  10. Interesting tips there, I do not have any push notifications on my phone, but I can’t keep it away, my bread and butter comes from it. πŸ™‚

    Thankfully I didn’t understand social media much when I began blogging, I was in the middle of post-partum/pregnancy depression and wanted someone to listen, anyone out there.

    Even today I do not give much heed to statistics, I write and throw it away to the universe, whatever comes back is a bonus. I write only for myself and maybe some day my daughter, wherever she is can look back and read, that’s all.

    Thank you for writing this.

  11. I can totally relate with the post. It is so important to be detached. I am to a certain extent with my parenting blog. I only update it if I have anything to say. In a way I only care if a few close friends and my kids have read the posts there. I have rediscovered the joy of writing there, totally uncaring of likes, shares and comments.

Comments are closed.