Lately, I’ve developed a pretty intense Instagram habit. While it seems silly to take photography done from a cell phone camera and routed through any number of pre-set filters seriously, I’m sort of really into it. Photography is a thing I dig because of how it’s a form of pattern recognition used to freeze a moment and evoke an emotional response.
The thing about Instagram — and Pinterest or Tumblr or Facebook or any platform people use to visually documents their own lives — is that it becomes very easy to make your life look perfect. Today I zoomed in on a piece of gluten-free cinnamon cake so you couldn’t tell it got smushed at the bottom of my partner’s messenger bag and then stuck in the freezer for a few days. Last night, I posted an absurd picture of our black cat Smudge as if I’d failed at taking her photo in a hipsterish and intentional way. Nope, that was really the best I could do.
Like everything else I do online, Instagram is a very specific curation of my life, and one that can give a lot of false impressions. It’s a highlights reel, not a collection of outtakes. One that suggests I’m possibly a trendsetting world-traveler who cares about living a healthy lifestyle as opposed to a chick with a genetic disease who really likes cake and is terrified of flying. Also the black cat is an unsightly drooler.
But how is all of this relevant to the writing? Well, because it’s sort of exactly the same. If you follow this blog you see the stories we’re excited about, the things we’ve sold, and the events we go to. You don’t see the thing we’ve revised 27 times, the project we’re desperate to write but don’t have time to, the industry shenanigans that make us privately holler with rage, the struggle to write when it’s 97 degrees outside and my laptop battery is trying to burn my thighs, or the fact that the unsightly drooling cat tends to need my attention at the most narratively pivotal moments.
In the face of that reality, as a writer and an Instagram user, curating my life is often the sort of thing that keeps me from curling up in despair. But it’s also important for me not to drink the Kool-Aid, about my own curated life or about anyone else’s.
If you’re struggling to make words and/or get yesses — and we all are at least some days and probably most days — you might want to take time to remember what everyone else tends to cut out of the frame. Or how totally awesome your life looks to other people with just a hint of curation.
(Want to follow my instagram? It’s mostly food, cat pictures, and cemeteries and you can find it at https://instagram.com/rachelinem/)