It’s been a while since I was on Instagram, even longer since I took a peek at Facebook, and you know what? I’m still here, and all is well. In fact, my voluntary social media detox has made space for the very thing I’ve been longing for: more time for creativity. But it’s not easy to remove oneself from a community, especially one that is filled with excellent and inspiring people. My fellow fiber artists on IG are wonderfully supportive folks from all over the world, many whom I’ve never even met, and yet we have all spun an interactive web of sharing and networking that can keep us all updated on who is weaving what and where the next great art show is. I can see how for some, social media keeps them humming along, nose to the grindstone, posting a photo of their latest masterpiece to share with their community. The scrolling newsfeed of inspiration can keep the imagination flowing, and everyone benefits from the participation and consistent updates of the other artists. For me, however, it ended up turning into a distraction, an excuse to not finish – let alone start – anything, and I only felt worse when I saw all of the beautiful work that others were creating and sharing and I didn’t have anything to contribute.
On top of that, I was going through a dark night of the soul, and my muse seemed to have disappeared beyond my reach. I counted the months since I had finished my most recent artwork on the big loom; 10 months. I’m used to doing about three larger pieces a year. I began to create more excuses; my day job was taking up too much time, I had to make dinner, I needed to knit a new hat, and there was my long Instagram feed to scroll through. I continued to play piano and thoroughly enjoyed that creative outlet, but I was secretly worried that it was the end of tapestry weaving for me. My imagination was blank.
I decided that since I wasn’t making anything, and I was checking IG way too much, I would do a detox from the app and Facebook and just see what happened. Around the same time, I began to pack up most of my things and temporarily live with just the necessities in the upstairs guest room in my parents house until I found a new place. The abrupt change in my physical space, along with the freedom from comparing myself to others on social media, resulted in the perfect recipe for returning to my own authentic creative voice.
In an article for Mindful magazine, Hugh Delehanty shares his experiences of getting back in touch with his creativity at an artist retreat. After several days of struggling with painting what he felt he should paint, what he would usually paint, he reached a point of awareness to what was holding him back from expressing his genuine creativity. I’ve read this article several times, and am continually fascinated with how so many artists share the same struggles of censorship, guilt, and trying to create what the world wants to see, instead of the visions that are stirring in their imaginations. I’m particularly in love with a quote from the retreat instructor, Barbara Kaufman…
“Everything leads us back to ourselves… Sometimes we have to go too far to see that. But what we usually do is play it too safe and close up. Once you start opening, you get a sense that you can stretch more, and then you begin to realize the potential that’s available to you at any given moment. The invitation of creativity is to move beyond the boundaries we’ve set for ourselves. To allow life to permeate those thick walls that we think are so secure.”
I can see now that I was attempting to create within a very rigid mindset. What would get me more followers and likes online? Instead I should be wondering, what is it my soul wants me to create? What images inside of me do I need to bring to life? What wants to come forward and play into my work? I got so caught up in posting content that I forgot about the process.
While I was working on my thesis in undergrad, smartphones had just come out and cost, like, a million dollars and I wanted nothing to do with Facebook. I instead stayed close and honest to the images and artworks I was creating for my thesis. I had no filter for what I thought the art world wanted to see and instead followed the inspiration and beauty that resonated most within me. My passion and dedication to this vision resulted in a moving body of work that was a hallmark of my college career. At times, I even surprised myself with what I was creating, and I know that it was because I stopped caring what other people would think. I instead opened up to the vast expanse of my own imagination, and followed it through the whole whirlwind process of completing a large body of work.
This isn’t to say I don’t think that social media is a useful and necessary tool. As I said earlier, it can bring like-minded folks together to share stories and ideas, and therefore add more beauty and culture to our world. I do think, however, that there are times when a break is imperative and healing for the soul. It allows us to get back in touch with who we really are beyond the walls and boundaries we’ve set up for ourselves, and even to dissolve the stories of who we think we are. Am I leaving social media for good? Probably not, but until I return I will be putting my energy into getting back in touch with that authentic creative force within me, and creating the artwork I long to make.
Stay tuned, and keep creating!