I’m a Writer in a Creative Rut. Can TikTok Save Me?
I’ve wasted plenty of hours scrolling the clock app. Now, I’m betting on it to reinvigorate my creative spark.
I used to write for fun. Then I grew up. I pursued my career as a writer with dogged persistence, determined to prove that I could make a living with my words. Now, over ten years later, that dream is a reality. As a professional ghostwriter, copywriter, and storyteller-for-hire, I’m able to comfortably support myself. Depending on who you ask, you might even say I make a good living. But the passion that drove me to this career—a love of creative writing—is gone.
I work a lot. When I’m not working, I’m traveling and spending time with loved ones. Oh, and then there’s those everyday odds and ends: preparing food, doing laundry, hitting the gym… After all of that, I’m never motivated to burn the midnight oil and just write for writing’s sake. I have a deep admiration for people who stay up late or set their alarms early to create. Somehow, I’m not able to do the same (I’ve tried). After writing all day for work, my soul sits quiet and tired. Suffice to say, the spark is gone. My youthful romance with creative writing has faded.
But, recently, my life took a turn. After a year of heavy work and some personal tribulations—a family health scare and a loved one’s depression left me helpless—I broke. Exhausted, I finally allowed myself a long overdue break. I sat on a beach by myself, with nobody to talk to, no work to do, and none of those day-to-day life tasks haranguing me (a privilege I recognize not everybody has). During that break, I picked up a book, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. In it, she writes about finding joy in creativity—about not making it a slog, the burden of the tortured artist, but rather making it fun. I’d been feeling like creating was a burden. Gilbert’s words reminded me: It doesn’t have to be that way.
I’ve decided that my creative muse, like any good relationship, is worth fighting for. I recognize that there is an integral piece missing to my happiness as a person—the happiness of being imaginative and of indulging in creating for creating’s sake, not for money or clips or recognition. Basically, the happiness of doing something frivolous.
That said, getting back into “writing for fun” has been challenging. Case in point: I have three unfinished manuscripts in my desk drawer. I have had more success with short stories: Finishing a creative work feels more attainable when I’m writing 10,000 words, not 100,000. Every story I finish is a small win. But the work is solitary, and the wins are few and far between. It takes me one to three months to complete a single story, and I can’t share my work until the volume is complete. Many days, I feel like I’m writing in a vacuum, which can be disheartening.
I’ve come to realize that I need smaller wins—wins I can share. I need something regular that gives me that tangible endorphin rush, that lets me say, “Hey, look at this thing. I made this thing. Ta Da!” I crave a bite-sized format that fits into my busy schedule, something that I can enjoy without feeling guilty that I’m not giving it “enough” time or energy. I need something for a short attention span.
Enter TikTok. Interactive, creative, malleable, buzzing with energy and connection, it’s made for people with the attention span of a goldfish. Like me.
I’ve resolved so post an ultra-short story on TikTok every day, for 365 days, for all of 2023. For the most part, I hope to find inspiration in my everyday life—the man at the bakery, the cat on the stoop, the stray shoe on the street... But I know some days I won’t find that inspiration, so I’ve purchased a book of writing prompts to help when my muse is missing.
Each day’s post will consist of three parts. I will:
Post a short "snippet" (an ultra short story) I've written;
Share the inspiration for that short snippet (e.g. "the beach," "new year's resolutions," "the pedicure.");
Invite others to share their own "snippet" based on that day's inspiration.
I’m planning to use the hashtag #UltraShortStories to share this journey with others. Maybe some people will join me. Maybe nobody will. Maybe just one person will—and that one would give me just as much contentment as 100. Why? Because I’ve mourned the loss of my creativity. I understand the pain that brings. And if, in my attempt to recover that creativity, I can bring one other person along with me—that’s a win.
I know this is likely to get lost in the great wide sea of social media and sink to the bottom, never to be noticed. That’s fine. This is something I have to do for my own happiness. Because I’m realizing that I won’t be content in this lifetime unless I am somehow indulging the frivolity of creating. I refuse to go through life not trying. I don’t want to keep telling people, “I used to write for fun. And then I grew up.” That’s something I can’t accept—I refuse to accept. Can TikTok save me? I’m willing to find out.
Want to join me? Let’s connect: https://firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for reading my blog! This is a space where I share personal thoughts — an opportunity for self-expression that has nothing to do with my professional writing. None of the thoughts or opinions expressed in this blog should be construed as anything but my own, nor should they be affiliated with any company or person I contract with or write for.
NOW that that's done... I'd love to hear from you about this blog post in the comments!