Last week I decided something regarding social media. But before I tell you what the decision is, let me tell you why.
Ever since I told the story of my decision to stop taking pictures of life and start writing about it, I’ve gotten rather consumed with writing. And that’s not bad—a writer needs to go to his or her far-off-land-place to generate ideas. Sometimes we need to drift off for a while and live in another world, and then come back to write down all our adventures from the other world.
But then there’s the question of how to get those words in front of readers. There’s no use in writing something helpful if it never helps anyone, right?
So I did something I do quite often: I went after information. I needed to find out how other people made this thing called writing work in real life.
I was on my phone constantly, watching other writers. I was watching them tweet, Instagram, blog, and everything else for that matter. Anything they did online, I wanted to learn and apply. I felt like a stalker of sorts, but this is how we shadow people we admire. We can’t just post-up in their houses while they clank away at their keyboards. So we watch them online. We watch and we watch and we watch and then we do something else: we copy.
I’d write for a while, and I’d (sort-of) like what I ended up with after a few edits, and then try to promote it the way they did. I’d copy their efforts.
But it didn’t feel like it was working. It didn’t feel authentic. And Cole was noticing a shift in my focus.
He finally called me on it one day after an outing with friends.
“Ash you’re on your phone all the time. I get that in today’s world, you have to market your message in order to get published again. I get that you like blogging and you need to circulate some of your posts. I’m all for that because I believe in the lessons God is teaching you. But you’re consumed. You can’t finish a conversation without checking feedback or stats or responses from people. Where did the real Ashley go?”
It was an unexpected blow. I could see his point: the writing itself wasn’t the culprit. In short, the words were not the issue; promoting the words was the issue. I saw where he was going, and I got defensive, per usual.
“You make it sound so simple, Cole. People love your pictures because photos are easily circulated. I’m not saying it’s easy to shoot, but it is easy to simply look at a picture. Think about it: if people have the choice to scroll through pictures or read 1000 words, which will they choose? The pictures. It takes less effort. Writers have to work harder to be taken seriously!”
The expression on his face communicated that he was not biting at my argument in the least. Blasted. So I went on to further persuade him.
“Okay. Fine. A photographer and a writer work equally as hard on their craft, I’ll give you that. But the ‘getting seen’ happens so much easier for photographers. People like to mindlessly scroll. They don’t like to stop in one place and just read for a while. It’s not fair. The average social media user is lazy. They don’t want to read, they just want to scroll. A story has to be ten-times more interesting if it’s going to be read as opposed to seen.” I assumed my argument had won him over. There we go, done with that conversation.
But, again, he was nowhere near capitulating. So I started formulating better arguments, but he started speaking first.
“Ashley, this conversation was never about whose skill set is easier to manage when it comes to marketing. This conversation was about me telling you that your actions toward people are hurtful when you ignore them in favor of your phone. These people are here, in our real lives. But you won’t show up to real life anymore. You care about some online life that doesn’t offer you any peace or help. Who cares about the average social media user when you’re offending your real-life friends.”
The thought that he was dead-right crossed my mind. I quickly dismissed it for no other reason that my pride was assaulted and I needed a better argument to avoid dealing with the truth.
I took a deep breath and thought for a second. I organized some diverting points in my mind and let them loose.
“It’s not fair, Cole. You got to have a year before we were married to start your own dream. You had a year to stay up till midnight editing and blogging and promoting your craft. You got to have the ‘consumed season’ because you had no other commitments! Your work was your life and it took that amount of effort to get your dream off the ground. You were just as consumed as I am! And then we got married and I joined the dream and we added on another year. So we were both consumed with it for a while. I know we regret being that over-committed, and yes we have come a long way in making course-corrections, but it still stands that you had some time to figure all of this out, to make mistakes, to realize what was good and what was bad and what was healthy or not.”
My anger heightened, and I realized that deep down, I was truly angry about this. I continued.
“You’ve had two years to figure your dream out and finally place it within healthy boundaries. You went through whole seasons of doing it wrong in order to finally find out how to do it right. And there was grace for that, as there is for any business owner or dream-starter. But I’ve been at this, what, a month? And I’m supposed to have it figured out and placed in healthy, perfect boundaries? Do I not get a season to figure this thing out and make mistakes too? You get two years and I’m allotted a month. I don’t get late nights and unrestrained time with no commitments. It’s not fair. It’s not equal. It feels like the grace doesn’t go both ways.”
He looked at me (to my surprise) empathetically, but (not to my surprise) overwhelmed with all my words. Then his face turned sad. After a few minutes, he finally responded in a wise way, which made me even more angry.
“Ash, I really understand what you’re saying. But I can’t help that God had started me off single when the business started. Yes, He gave me that season. I can’t help that He didn’t give you the exact same season when your dream started. But if you spend all your time comparing our stories, you’ll be miserable.” He took a breath, thought for a second, and continued.
“He gave you this particular dream in this particular season of life. There is no undoing that. You want to write and you’re married. There are responsibilities in both those roles that cannot be ignored. You cannot simply abdicate your commitments because I didn’t have them way back when. This is the season God has planted you in. You can’t change that. You can’t close your eyes and make yourself single again, with all the time in the world to write…. And honestly, it hurts me that you see marriage as such a hindrance to your passion.”
He got emotional when he stated that last sentence. And I immediately sensed the white-hot embarrassment settle in on my heart, along with a large handful of humility. I didn’t see marriage as a hindrance. I loved being married. But my passion was taking over and it was hurting him in the same way his had hurt me in the past.
We were more equal than I thought.
He started to reason with me instead of staying in emotion, knowing that I’m better-won that way. I hate when he does that. It’s sneaky, and it almost always works on me.
“Why do you demand a season to do things the wrong way? Just because I learned my lessons that way? God doesn’t work with each person the same way and in the same seasons. It’s bad logic to think that way, and I know that’s one thing you can’t stand. You can either bloom in the garden God purposefully planted you in, or shrivel up in bitterness. I want to see you bloom. In a healthy way. All I wanted to say is that you’re not choosing healthy patterns in promoting your writing. Anything that consumes our heart more than God is not good for us. I want to see God consume you. I don’t want your stats or your phone to consume you.”
And then he finally put the nail in his argument that sent me silent.
“I think it would be a blessing for you to come to these conclusions within a month as opposed to two years. You’ll save yourself a lot of anxiety. It makes more sense to do it the right way for two years instead of knowingly the wrong way. Maybe it’s permissible for you to take the time I took, but I can’t see how it’s beneficial for you spiritually.”
My eyes widened. His argument was sound, pure, and reasonable. What?! Someone had beaten me using biblical reasoning? I silently cursed my seminary professors for not preparing me for these kinds of marital encounters.
After a couple moments, the thought that he was dead-right appeared in my mind once more, and I let it camp out for a while. Because the thought was a right thought, and we are to think on things that are right as believers. His reason had won over my attempts of diverting the issue. Well, I shouldn’t think of it as winning, should I? His reasoning helped me move toward God instead of self.
The truth was this: I was consumed with self-promotion and I needed to deal with God on it. We ended the conversation when I bit the bullet and admitted the truth:
“You’re right, Cole.” This is a difficult saying, but is trustworthy. I told him the true battle happening in my heart.
“The truth is, I don’t know how a marriage stays healthy when both people are crazy about their craft and impassioned beyond healthy limitations. What happens when the Brontë family marries into the Bressons? How do they value God and marriage above their work? How do they see anything else besides their work? How do they manage their passions and value their marriage? How in the world do we do this?”
Anxiety rose high and I took another deep breath. “I need to meet with God.”
I begrudgingly sat down with my journal and told God the God-honest truth: I knew I was consumed but I didn’t care. I wanted to care. I wanted to be so enchanted with God that I didn’t need anything else, but I was altogether disenchanted with all things apart from words. I asked Him if he’d help me think through it, love Him again, and have a restored peace. I begged him to change me on a heart-level, not just a behavior-level. I wanted to want the right things in the right proportions again. I didn’t want to abandon writing, but I wanted to love it in away that made room for all the other parts of life. And for the first time in a while, I asked Him for these things with gut-level honesty.
And y’all. He answered in the most miraculous way. But that’s another story for another day, yes?
*photocredit from www.boardwalksandboulevards.com