How Clickbait Killed The Creative Muse

UnknownToday I sat down and tried to write an article. It didn’t happen. This seems to be a regular occurrence of late, and while I can easily justify any number of reasons for it, the reality is, right now, I just have no desire to write an article.

There are many factors behind creative burnout – pressure, deadlines, expectation, exhaustion, perfectionism, the need to create with purpose rather than with joy, just to name a few. And while I can relate to all of these on some level, my current burnout can be summed up with one thing: I have simply lost heart.

I’ve considered the reasons for this of late as I’ve been journeying through this parched creative desert. For a brief moment, I contemplated the idea that staying up too late watching reruns of Grey’s Anatomy and drinking cheap red wine may be a factor but soon dissed this idea. Was it the busy demands of life with four children and a farm that has left little time and energy to write? Possibly. And yet, even with that I’ve always managed to carve out sacred and much-loved moments of creativity.

I made a cup of tea this afternoon and scrolled through various news feeds in search of well written, beautifully crafted articles that would inspire me. Instead, I was assailed with articles such as these: Want to Know His Penis Size? Look at His Fingers! 7 Best BDSM Sex Positions To Make Submissive Women Orgasm, What A Woman’s Chin Says About Her Sex Drive, 2 HELLA-HOT Sex Tips That’ll Make Your Man Crave Your Vagina, 10 Harsh Truths Your Husband’s Prostitute Wants You To Know, Is Anal The New Black?, 7 Ways To Make Him Want You For More Than Just Sex, Foods Your Man Should Avoid If He Wants A Blowjob Tonight – not to mention countless articles that informed me of how I will die, the type of man I should marry, how much sex I should be having, the type of orgasm I should be having, and what I should eat for dinner tonight, all based on my zodiac. Which, thank God for those or I might well have not had enough or too much sex this week and mistakenly eaten fish instead of steak tonight. Whew.

I sat and read the titles of these articles, and even dared to open a few of them hoping I was being all super Judgey McJudgerson and they actually contained quality writing. But the more I read, the more despair heaved itself upon me. That’s when I felt it. This is why I have lost heart. These are articles with hundreds of thousands of likes, comments, shares. These are articles I am forced to compete with, that I will never be able to. I don’t even want to.

Recently a well reputed magazine put a call out for two sex diaries that could be written about the fact that (a) you’re cheating, or (b) you’re into something kinky, with a note saying they want to know ALL the sordid, juicy details. What astounded me most about this call out was the rate of pay. It’s difficult for a freelance writer to be offered compensation in anything other than exposure, which, while all writers love trying to pay their weekly bills and child’s education in exposure, just doesn’t quite cut it all the time. At best, most writers are lucky to receive $20, $50, $100 per article that may have a required word length of 800-1500 words.

Yet here is a magazine offering $420 for 600 words. At that rate of pay, even I was tempted. In fact, I began to mentally compose some make-believe trash tale about doing something kinky while cheating in the hope that they’d offer to pay me $840 for covering both bases at once. I could even write it anonymously if I wanted to – oh what a delicious sell-out I could be just for once to make a decent income from an article.

This is what we as writers’ face when we sit at our desk. To want to write with meaning, with heart, with integrity; yet to do so means our voices will rarely be heard above the clatter and clang of garbage that is being dumped upon the busy superhighway of information where there is little interest to pick through our integrity with so much other unsavoury trash on the ground.

Part of my requirement as a writer is to spend numerous hours each week creating, building and nurturing my social media platform. And while I understand and agree with the necessity of this in our social media driven world, it’s time spent replying to comments, messages and emails at the expense of time I would rather use to write. I love my social media tribe and am thankful for their love and support, without them I wouldn’t be here, but lately I struggle with the motivation to spend time building numbers when I can’t help but wonder if all the numbers in the world even matter when they are unlikely to amount to actual readers because the titles of my articles don’t mention Sex, Orgasm, Blowjob, Vibrator, or How to Make Your Man Go Down on You in Three Easy Steps. As useful as that information may be. And while I believe good writing should confront and challenge the reader, there’s a difference between being prodded a little outside your comfort zone and having to double check that you didn’t just click a link to some amateur how-to porn site.

Last year I spoke at our local school during Literacy Week. My talk was based around this quote from the movie, Dead Poets Society, “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” I told those students these things: write about what matters, write with passion, and make your words count. That every word we write, we send into the world like a stone cast upon water; we have the power to create ripples that can either harm or heal, mend or break, sow love or sow hate. We have the power to change. To change minds, to change hearts. To change future generations. This is not just our privilege, this is our responsibility, and yet we prostitute ourselves for the sake of goddamn clickbait and our perverted, narcissistic fetish for numbers.

Maybe I sound like a jaded writer. Maybe I am one. Or maybe I’m just burnt out. Maybe I’m just tired of being part of a minority of writers who care. Who bust themselves to write with integrity and to maintain a standard of literature in our society. Who write with passion, with meaning, with desire for words to connect, for words to be music to the silent soul, to be the balm that heals the wounded, to pour light and warmth into the darkest corners, to bring change, to make a difference, to matter, only for those words to remain unseen, unheard, unnoticed.

Maybe I’ll just stop caring and stay off social media and go back to writing in journals that are kept in shoe boxes under the bed and hope one day when I’m no longer of this world someone will read those journals and think, huh, she had some good shit to say.

Or maybe I’ll just begin to speak a little louder from now on and pray one day my words will create a ripple strong enough that it will somehow change the world.

Charcoal Hearts

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I am bruised shades
Of dark grey and black
Like a charcoal drawing
I smear and I smudge
Outside of the lines
They draw around me
Your fingers touch me
And I stain their beauty
“I’m sorry,” I whisper
As I wash the blemish
From your pure hands
With my broken tears
“Stop,” you murmur
As you pull me closer
Your skin now tainted
With the same shade
Of darkness as on me
We are wondrous art
Stained upon canvas
My burden now yours
Your heart now mine.

~ @ Kathy Parker ~

Image courtesy gofigurative.com

Freedom


I will hurl expectation to the oceans of burden you drown beneath 

I will untie my hands from the duty you enslave your heart to 

I will dance upon graves of the buried obligation you die below

I will howl truths upon the mountains you lack courage to tread 

I will sprint breathless toward the deliverance you turn away from 

I will tear apart the walls of the prison you call protection 

I will revel in the abundance of life you deny yourself 

The life you denied me

For I understand now it was not 

My freedom you so feared

But your own. 

~ © Kathy Parker ~ 

Image courtesy deviantart.com

Names Carved In Flesh 


Today I stripped back my skin

And searched for the place 

Where your name was once carved 

Upon the rawness of my eager flesh  

You have fallen away from me 

Or have I fallen away from you?

Or maybe we are both misplaced 

Trapped beneath memories that collapsed

Under the weight of misunderstanding

I needed to know if you were still there

Below my skin where you used to live 

Where I had held you safe against my bones 

And you had held me safe against your chest

But the letters of your name were gone

Lost between the weather-worn gaps 

Of the bridges we never made

My flesh was blank; empty 

I was surprised to discover

I did not grieve the loss

Nor did I feel the despair 

Instead, I wrote my own name 

In the place your name once filled 

The letters aligned, side by side 

And I was breathless in their wake 

For I have never before noticed  

The way they looked like freedom 

And sounded like hope

I laid my skin down once more 

Upon the place you no longer exist

And in the beauty of that moment 

I am filled with promise

I am made new. 

~ © Kathy Parker ~ 

We Build Bridges Over The Ravine 

You saw the ravine that was my heart

But you did not fear the broken ground

Unlike the ones who came before

With their cautious feet

And feeble constitution

You are braver than most

You do not tiptoe around

These uncertain pathways

Instead you seek them out

Tread with purpose, intention

Though all too aware of the fall

I wait for you to lose courage

To turn and trace your steps back

To places that do not falter

But you are not of faint-heart

As you make your way down

Into the deepest crevice you can find

You are not fearful of the dark

Nor are you fearful of the thorns

That could well afflict your side

Your hands graze the rough edges

And I am made less abrasive

Your lips taste the hollow pain

And my flesh is no longer abandoned

You are strong in the places I hurt

You are not afraid of the cracks in my heart

I am not afraid of the cracks in yours

Together we build bridges

Together we heal. 

Haunted Houses 

And beneath my skin lie the graves

Of past lives I have laid to rest

But still, the ghosts of my sorrows

Emerge from dust-filled crevices 

And rattle the cages of my bones  

“Hush,” I tell them 

For I have been taught to fear my darkness 

To bury it with guilt, cover it with shame 

My corrupt flesh, my blemished soul 

Yet I cannot fear the ghosts 

That steal amid my tombs of anguish 

Instead, their presence reminds me 

We’re all just haunted houses 

Yet to understand 

How frighteningly beautiful

We really are. 

© Kathy Parker 

The Veil Of Shame

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Dear woman, pick up your heavy burdens
You have dwelled long enough
In your spaces of regret
In your shadows of remorse
Take off your clothes of mourning
Remove the veil from your eyes
And run barefoot through golden fields
Call out to the wind
Tell her to blow to the corners of the world
Gather all that was once yours
And bring it back to where it belongs
All you have lost
All you have given away
All you have sacrificed
All you have traded
In the name of the love you cast
To drought-stricken hearts
Feel it sweep upon you
Rush through your wild hair
Fall onto hungry skin
Filter through famished bones
Soak into hollow lungs
Until all the stars in the galaxies
And the particles of the universe
Are held inside your heartbeat once more
Then revel in your untamed beauty
And set the world afire with your glory
For you soul was not made to be hidden
Underneath a veil of shame
That was never yours to wear

~ © Kathy Parker ~

How We Are Changed In The Aftermath Of Trauma

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Morning sun radiates its warmth into my skin.

There is only me in this place where gentle waves caress my feet and golden sand stretches for miles, untouched in soft light and daybreak silence.

Once, I would have revelled in a moment like this. My hopeful blue eyes would have taken in every remnant of the scene before me, my heart unable to do anything more than burst wide open at the delight of it all.

But today, I am unmoved by beauty. Just as I was yesterday. As I have been every day for longer than I care to remember. Where beauty would have once soaked into my bones and renewed my soul, it no longer reaches me.

I am untouchable.

This is the aftermath of trauma; the way it has changed me, broken me.

My life now exists behind a glass pane. I see the world around me, but it is muted, dulled. Once upon a time I felt too much, I now feel too little, if anything at all. Emotions overwhelm me, I am not able to process them anymore. Behind the glass I am protected from the onslaught of them. I observe them. But I am not ready to feel them. Not yet.

I try to hear the words my heart used to speak but they elude me. My heart remains silent, as does my mind, both of them worn out from the fight, loyal soldiers who spent too long on the frontline and no longer have the will to persevere. “Courage, dear heart,” I say, but my heart is not ready to listen. It is not ready to trust. It is not ready to once again believe the world is good, people are good. In the absence of its voice, I hear only the faint murmur of disconnected beats. Though not dead, I am anything but alive.

Disoriented, I find no rest in the spaces my presence once filled. I wonder who this woman is. She is no longer who she used to be, yet does not know what she is supposed to become. I am lost and confused as I wander through this no-man’s land; homesick and in search of a place to find shelter and rest, yet I continue to find only paths lined with thistle and thorns and my soul longs for a place that is not promised to me anyway.

My heart no longer lies upon my sleeve, I am a patchwork frame, gaping holes roughly sewn with clinical sutures. No longer will I wear my heart for the world to see. No longer will the world destroy it with razor-sharp tongues and cruel-intentioned hands while I am left to pick up the mess though I can barely pick myself up off the floor. I am withdrawn. Insular. I trust no-one, let no-one close, reach out for no-one in the night when the silence becomes so frighteningly loud I cannot stand it.

I have forgotten how to create, for my creativity was nurtured through beauty. And while beauty no longer touches me, neither can creativity emerge. My page is filled with scrawls and scribbles, useless words with no heart and no meaning, angry lines drawn through even angrier words.

I am exhausted but never sleep, instead caught in this bitter paradox that only exacerbates my inability to function. I am preoccupied by thoughts that lack clarity, distracted by fears that lack certainty.

Trauma. The emotional response to an extremely negative event.

Those around me are uncomfortable with my response. They would rather I just find a way to deal with it, get over it. Mess on the floor makes people nervous. But I refuse to force myself to smile to please a world that likes everything to look pretty.

Trauma has no rules. We grasp our way through the darkness and reach for whatever we can to steady ourselves. We cannot rush the work of healing. We cannot rush our hearts to find their courage once more.

For now, life behind the glass pane is where I cannot be touched, hurt, broken. It is where I watch the world with cautious eyes until the day comes when I feel safe once more to exist within it. And on that day, I will step out from behind the glass. The sun will warm my weary limbs and beauty will graze my tentative soul.

And in that moment, I will know the healing has begun.

Image: Loneliness, courtesy mehrdadart.