On Instagram Poetry and ‘Real’ Writers

A few days ago I posted a photo on Instagram of some poetry I was working on. It was only a few lines, didn’t give away much, and didn’t serve any ulterior motive.

By this I mean I didn’t post it to become ‘Insta-famous’. I didn’t post it to show off in some way, if you could consider writing poetry “showing off”. I posted it because I wanted to, because writing is a part of me that I don’t talk about much outside of this blog. Those who read my blog know that writing is important, because it’s the main thing I post about these days, but for those who only keep in contact with me through social media? They don’t know much about my writing.

So I thought I’d make it a bit more well-known.

In saying this, I don’t want to be considered an ‘Insta Poet’, which is the term used to describe Instagram accounts that post short poems or snippets of poems. Most of the time they’re so short, only a few lines, and would be considered to be a quote rather than poetry. But it’s advertised as poetry, and is making poetry accessible to those who don’t feel like reading Les Murray or Emily Dickinson.

I find the term ‘Insta Poet’ isn’t generally used in a positive light. It’s as though you’re saying someone who is an Insta Poet isn’t a real writer. It’s similar to the superior attitude of traditionally published authors compared to self published authors. I’m not saying that everyone thinks or acts like that, but it has become a bit of a culture to see one form of writing as better than another. Poets who are traditionally published are seen as true writers, while those who post writing on Instagram are in a separate category that isn’t quite as good.

On Instagram I do personally follow some Insta Poets, and the hype surrounding some of these people is immense compared to the amount of followers a traditionally published writer might have. Insta poetry has made writing accessible to those who don’t necessarily like traditionally published books. It has also given unpublished writers a platform to share their work and receive feedback and build a following so that if or when they get published, they know there will be people who will buy their work. Many self-published authors I know say their success came when they already had a lot of followers on social media or YouTube so they knew it wouldn’t be a waste of money to self-publish. They knew they could make a profit because the audience was waiting for the product, not the other way around. For instance, I would struggle to be self-published because my product would be waiting for an audience.

Back to how this started; I posted a few lines of a poem I’ve been working on, and have since submitted to an online journal, and I think it’s the start of something. As I said, I don’t want my Instagram to be fully quotes and poems and all-writing-all-the-time, but there is something appealing in posting some of my work every now and then.

My Instagram account is quite personal, and not made to be a business. This is because I consider this blog to my ‘platform’ while Instagram is a fun, personal app. Instagram is where I post photos of plants rather than book reviews, while I blog about reading and writing and less about, well, plants, I suppose.

Part of my reasoning in not becoming an Insta Poet is that I do want to be traditionally published, and I don’t want to be anonymous on Instagram. If I made an account entirely for my writing, my audience wouldn’t see who I am and connect with me in that sense. And as I’ve been submitting poems to various publications, I would rather focus on those submissions than working on things for an ~aesthetic~ Instagram account.

When I say this, I mean no disrespect to those who do post writing or poetry on Instagram, anonymous or not. Some people do want to market themselves on Instagram, some use platforms such as YouTube or a blog, some Etsy. I think we should be free to use what platform suits us while still being considered a writer.

Because that’s what this is about, isn’t it? Sharing your work, being taken seriously. Being known as a writer and writing and writing and writing. Not everyone gets the opportunity to become a best-seller, so I think it’s amazing we can share our work through the internet without being confined to an agent or publishing house. Sure, that’s my dream, but if that never happens, I still have the option of writing on my blog, or Instagram, or Etsy, or wherever.

My ultimate point is, if you want to write, write. If you want to share your writing, share it. Do what works for you regardless of what is seen as ‘real’ writing. If you write, you’re a writer. Congratulations.

Sarah xx

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