A big announcement about the way I communicate.
I've been spending the summer thinking and dreaming about why I'm here, what I'm doing on social media, and why I run this creative writing school in the first place.
It does feel remarkable to me that the Story Is a State of Mind community has grown the way it has. Who would have thought that a tiny writing workshop -- there were four people in my first class -- would ever turn into this?
One thing we all have in common: we are writers who care deeply about the quality of attention that creative writing reveals. We are devoted to making time for this attention, even when social and cultural pressures urge us not to.
Making time for solitude in your day for quiet reflection? Just to write about an idea for a story that nobody has even asked you to write? That nobody may ever pay you for?
Wow. You are a rare breed.
But spending an hour to catch up on your Facebook newsfeed, pausing during a picnic to post a picture on Instagram, or tweeting about the band you're watching at a music festival -- that's all understood as culturally appropriate ways to spend your time. Yes, it eats your time, but it's fun, and it can keep you very busy.
Every year, I have let my social media feeds go quiet in the fall and winter. This makes space in my psyche for much-needed reflection and creative thought. This seasonal schedule works for me.
But we won't be doing a social media blackout this year. This fall, the Story Is a State of Mind School will stay online, continuing to inspire you with thoughtful content even when I'm taking my digital sabbatical.
I'm excited about this, but it feels strange, too.
A big question I've been turning over in my head is this: how can I continue to inspire writers to take white space -- time away from their computer, especially -- if I'm using social media to occupy their time while I'm taking white space to write?
Social media abhors white space. But as creative beings, we must not be afraid of nothingness.
If we are to have creativity, we must have white space. Not just read articles (like this one!) about how important it is to have white space.
We need to make actual white space in our lives.
I care about getting you offline and into your real (non-digital) life. I want you to connect to your creative voice and write something that feels new. I want you to get carried away and feel time turning non-linear, the way it does for children, and the way it does when you are writing. I want you to sit under a tree and watch real shadows on the grass.
I don't really feel like encouraging you to post and share pictures of people in photo shoots who were paid to get their hair and makeup done and then sit under a tree because they are models.
I want to encourage you to actually turn off your computer and sit under a tree yourself.
I want you to go offline for as long as you want without feeling stress or guilt. I want to give you permission to live without distractions.
That's why I've mustered up the courage (and it really does take courage) to go off social media every year. To give you permission, I have to walk my talk, and give myself permission.
But here's the thing. I also care deeply about getting writers into The Story Course. Because I know that when writers are working in that course, they begin to understand more about how to write from a better place. They learn how to to be kind to themselves, so they can actually write something worth reading. And they learn how to be present.
They learn this from doing the course.
My friend Carrie is a talented writer who also knows a great deal about marketing. She's taught me that telling people about what you do is a kindness.
Somewhere right now, one of my subscribers is looking for an incredible, affordable writing workshop that she can do from home. She doesn't really know what The Story Course is all about -- or that she is welcome there. She doesn't know that she can enroll right now. Today.
If she can't find SSMind when she's searching online for writing programs, she might sign up for something else. A slick-looking workshop that promises publication, or a deal with an agent. She might pay thousands of dollars for it, because she doesn't know where else to go to learn how to be a writer.
If that workshop leaves her feeling alienated and unseen, she might convince herself that she should give up on her writing.
Same for the writer out there who is showing up to his desk every day with a punishing attitude. He's feeling more disconnected and tired every day. He doesn't know about The Story Course. It's my responsibility to show him that it's here.
That's why I put Story Is a State of Mind School on social media. We are curating special content and putting it out in a few different places, in the hopes that it will help bring writers back to their writing.
Story Is a State of Mind School promises to post things that will help you make white space in your life.
That means podcasts, articles and passages from books that will actively bring you a deep breath, a big jolt of insight, or direct you to go back to your writing.
Here's where you can find Story Is a State of Mind School on social media:
If you're already hanging out in any of those places, please follow SSMindSchool and take part in the conversation.
Daily prompts are on Pinterest and Instagram. Articles, podcasts and stories from our SSMind grads are on Facebook. Twitter will notify you about upcoming contest deadlines and calls for submissions. And more!
I know there's a fine line between connection and distraction.
Remember that you're in charge: social media is optional.
If it becomes distracting, you have my permission to turn it off.
Please give me feedback on the content. I only want SSMindSchool to be in your feed if it's nourishing you – so let me know how it feels, okay?
This is an experiment, and we're jumping in with the spirit that a first draft requires: open and curious. This digital world is so weird -- I'm going to keep playing with it to see if I can make it do what I want.
Thank you for being a subscriber, and for being a writer who cares so much about this life. I've got your back! I hope you can feel that.
Photo credit: Marko Kovic on Unsplash.