~ Hazel Harps On

The Public Image... and a large pinch of salt

It’s strange what social media does to you. I am living proof. Never in a million years would I have thought that I’d end up on Twitter every day. But it’s happened. (Well, most days I’m there. Some days it doesn’t work due to our snaily-slow broadband, which is the most frustrating thing IN THE WORLD. However…)

I was told a few years ago that if I wanted to be a writer I had to build up a Twitter following, so that’s what I did. Mostly I engage with the writing community, and I have to say what a lovely and supportive bunch they are. It’s lonely sitting behind a computer, trying to be inspired. Communicating with other writers eases the loneliness considerably. But I'm also aware that what we tweet and what we blog is a form of self-publicity. As such it isn’t always one hundred per cent truthful. It tends to show us in the best light. I’ll admit that a few times I’ve been guilty of using the #amwriting hashtag and I haven’t actually been writing at all. My sum total of writing for that day is the tweet.

We are led to believe that writers follow a rigorous pattern of self-discipline. Every morning they get up at 6.30, write for three hours and go for a run. The afternoons will be spent reading and researching once the household chores and dog-walking are done. A necessary quota of time is spent with the family, then in the evening they’ll manage yet more writing. This is the public image writers often put across. But the reality of a #writerslife is a different matter. I’m sure I’m not the only one. My #writerslife involves endless staring into space, surfing the Internet, coffee-glugging, cat-stroking, cake-hunting and almost every other displacement activity known to the human race. Then a sudden spurt of inspiration, then nothing again for ages. The nothing is accompanied by huge amounts of guilt and desperation. Exacerbated, of course, by the belief that every other writer has completely nailed the daily discipline thing.

Something similar happens in the music world. To be successful we have to ‘big up’ our achievements. I might tell you, for example, that I played the harp on the main stage at Bude Festival in May, which was true. What I might not reveal is that the day involved five hours-worth of driving for only half an hour’s-worth of performing and pay that scarcely covered the petrol. Such is the sad truth of a musician’s life.

May also brought many opportunities to play in idyllic outside surroundings – and doesn’t the spring day and rustic shed make us look fetching? BUT I am much more likely to use this photo in which I am looking slim…

... rather than this photo in which I am am apparently about to give birth to a whale!

I’m now in the enviable position where can call myself both a writer and a harpist. In spite of all the faffing I do write a lot and I do play the harp a lot. That much is true. But is being a writer/musician as glamorous as it sounds? Is it anything like the image I’m trying to fit myself into? Shhhh, don’t tell anybody but no. Not in the least!

Social Media can make you feel woefully inadequate when you compare yourself to others. But nobody is as perfect as their Twitter/facebook/website profile would seem to suggest. The reality is in there somewhere but you are shown only selected highlights – and they should be taken with a huge pinch of salt.

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