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

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 

Dandelion Heart

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Your dandelion heart blows in the breeze
Pieces scattered amongst all you meet
In the hope a seed will fall upon one
Who longs to nurture the beauty of your soul
Instead the pieces land upon barren fields
And wither in the parched soil
Of shallow hearts and thoughtless hands
Dear heart, gather the seeds back to yourself
They were never made for those who trample
Their careless strides upon fragile birth
Place them inside your empty chest
Until once more your heart is complete
Until all you are set apart to be
Begins to burst forth
In the rich earth of your glorious flesh and bones.

1.42am

You found me in the deep
My infinite soul untamed amongst wild oceans
I called to you, beckoned you beyond comfortable shores
“Shhhh,” you hushed my heart
“Come with me to the shallows, for there we will not drown”
I took your hand and followed you
To the place you felt safe
The place I felt alone
Ankle deep, we barely tasted salt upon our skin
Here, you were content
While I gazed upon ink-blue water
And yearned to immerse myself within its weather-beaten waves
“Come with me,” I whispered against the warmth of your flesh
“Come deeper, for there we will feel our passions, our emotions, our fire.
Come deeper, and let our souls discover these unchartered waters together”
But you did not move, did not follow as I stepped toward the horizon
Instead you stayed, skin deep
I dove into the cool water, surfaced, glanced back to where you had been
But no longer were
And in that moment, I knew
You were not afraid of the deep because you didn’t know how to swim
But because you didn’t know how to feel.

~ © Kathy Parker ~

How To Pursue The Creative Life, Even When It’s Hard

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This morning I saw the sunrise.

It pretty much killed me. I couldn’t be less of a morning person if I tried.

Nonetheless, I stumbled downstairs at 5.30am, made coffee, wrapped myself in a blanket.

And then I wrote.

I did this, because for weeks now I have tried to write in and around the distractions of the day, the clutter in my mind, the interruptions from those around me, the demands of life. I’ve struggled to write. I’ve struggled to make it a priority. I’ve struggled to believe the creative life is justified in its pursuit, and have believed my time would be better spent elsewhere. I lost the faith, the vision, the love. My writing dwindled, slowly, until it withered completely.

And with that, I felt as though I did too.

I lost motivation, lost joy, lost the feeling of connection with something greater than myself, the life force that feeds my soul. I couldn’t stay like that. I wanted – needed – myself back.

I remembered back to my best writing days, when I first started writing, the days I would crawl out of bed before the rest of the world woke. Bleary, I would write. Not think. Not worry about whether it was good or not, right or not, enough or not. Just write. Here, I would find my treasure, in this lonely hour before the day started, before the first hint of colour caressed the sky, before my girls would stumble in with eyes half closed and crawl into my lap, signalling my time was up – which was always okay, for I’d nurtured creativity, and creativity had nurtured me in return. I felt full, complete, content, inspired for the day ahead.

Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic writes that we need to consider our creativity as something we fall in love with, something we consider ourselves as having an affair with – not because she advocates affairs, but because she uses the example of how people who have extramarital affairs always manage to find the time to spend together – even if it means losing sleep or missing meals. She writes, “They will make whatever sacrifices they have to make, and they will blast through any obstacles, in order to be alone with the object of their devotion and obsession – because it matters to them.”

It reminds me of the guy I liked when I was fourteen. We had a clandestine friendship; his parents weren’t so keen on the idea of female friendships and I was by far considered the least favourite girl in his life due to being the most likely to lead him astray. I was actually a pretty innocent fourteen year old – but not the first time, and definitely not the last, I’d been misconceived based on where I came from, not who I was.

So, this guy and I would find ways to hang out together, away from the watchful eyes of the small town we lived in. He was a football player, athletic, and used to get up early and run laps of the oval. By choice. I hated running almost as much as I hated early mornings. But I pretended to like both just to spend some time with him.

I’d set my alarm for some ungodly hour so I’d have time to shower, then take half an hour to decide what to wear, another half hour to do my hair, another half hour to agonise over whether I looked okay, before I’d sneak out the front door as the sun came up. We’d meet at the oval, I’d run a lap to try and make him believe I was sort of fit before I’d die on the grass with exhaustion and watch as he continued to run lap after lap with ease, until he’d come and sit with me and we’d hang out before the world came to life.

He probably could have run all day, just as I could have stayed in bed all day. We both sacrificed in order to spend time together. We both risked in order to spend time together. We both did that because it mattered to us. 

Our creative pursuits matter to us. We need to find them within us, find what it is that gets us out of bed in the morning, even when mornings are our nemesis. We need to find the passion of our hearts, pursue it, grab hold of it, let nothing come in the way of it. We need to treat our creative pursuits like lovers, to make time for them, to sacrifice for them, to selfishly indulge in them, sometimes at the expense of our family and friends and social lives and demands of life we must learn to ignore.

Those demands will always be there, but if we allow them to steal our time away from our creative pursuits, we will live, but we will not be alive. Our creative pursuits bring us joy, they bring us meaning, they bring us life. They bring us to ourselves.

This morning felt as though I reunited with an old love. One who had never given up on me. Who called me back, who reminded me of the importance of my creative heart and mind. Who brought me back to myself.

The pursuit of a creative life won’t always be easy.

But I know, for me, there is no other way.

Photo courtesy Evan Clark via unsplash.com