An ironic thing has been puzzling me lately, as I continue the struggle to find balance between all the elements in my life (parenting, working, writing, travelling, to name the most prominent at the moment). That is the seemingly necessary, yet difficult, relationship between doing creative work and then using social media, as we are directed to do, to promote that work; create a ‘platform’, gain ‘followers’, develop a ‘voice’, etc. And by 'creative work' I am referring to the old fashioned kind, as in creating something new from scratch, not launching an ad campaign. The need to draw the distinction is real, as the word 'creative' has been co-opted and morphed to refer to everything commercial, including new ways to appeal to consumers.
My forays into social media, aside from connecting with old friends on Facebook and sharing embarrassing photos from the early 1980’s, and using Twitter to promote my blog, have been less than stellar so far. It’s not that I am some kind of Luddite who disputes the value of the whole enterprise. Inarguably, people have used it for both good and bad – to start social revolutions or spark looting, to promote a book or project. It’s just that, well, maybe I’m not very good at it. When I log onto Twitter, the temple of all things uber-current, I am always overwhelmed by the detritus of insipidness that confronts me.
I had a lesson in using Twitter from a friend I respect greatly when I launched my blog. He talked me through tweeting, re-tweeting, being generous in your promotion of others tweets, so as not to seem too blatantly self-promotional, and how to use it while travelling to meet like minded people in the same place (haven’t tried that one yet). Yet, most of what I see is thousands, no doubt millions, of people flogging their own agendas, or thinly veiled promotions of others in order to, once again, flog their own agendas, endless ‘free giveaway promotions,’ and just mindless chatter.
Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.
I think Einstein probably had something else in mind when he referred to reading in the above quote. But I think it applies as much today as it did when he said it. If anything, the amount of material for us to read everyday has increased almost beyond measure. And we all know how easy and captivating it can be to go down the rabbit hole of Googling.
I heard an interview on the BBC’s Radio 4 show, “Desert Island Discs”, the other day that sparked this whole line of thinking. The format of the show, running since 1942, is to ask the guest what four records they would take with them to a desert island and why. The segment I heard was an interview with American crime author James Ellroy. While the entire interview was fascinating as he is such an unusual character, the part that struck me most was his admission that he does not keep up with news, watch movies, or TV or take in any other form of popular culture (definitely no Facebook, Twitter, Stumbleupon, etc) because he feels that it distracts him from the life of his own mind and creative ideas. He says that he wants to create work that is outside of time and culture, so that it is work that endures. By all accounts, it seems this approach has been successful, however extreme and eccentric most people would find it. I can’t help but admire it, though I do not think I have the fortitude to emulate it!
So I have not found the balance yet between a successful ‘virtual life’ that promotes and supports the creative work, and leaves enough time for the latter to actually happen, grow and flourish. Is there one? Has anyone else found it? No doubt some more so than me. I suppose I will keep trying, although I’m beginning to think there are a lot of smoke and mirrors and minefields, sorry for the clichés but they are apt at the moment, when it comes to this dance. But I think I will be opting for more work output, rather than daily increasing my followers on Twitter. And if you are taking time out of your busy life to read this blog…thank you!
actor-writer-director, improviser, mother, traveler, general renegade and rabblerouser.