As a writer, you spend a good part of your day sitting—or better, standing—in front of a desk. Behind closed doors. Alone.
Maybe you break the isolation with a walk. Or a trip to the gym. Or visit to the virtual water cooler of social media.
But Twitter and Facebook are notorious time sucks. And for a writer, they’re something of a busman’s holiday, aren’t they? Social media isn’t a respite from writing, it involves more writing.
What if there was another way to take a break and check in with online friends? An easy, fast, fun way to connect without composing an update? A means to stop telling people what’s happening and start showing them—with a series of stunning photos?
That would be Instagram. A free iPhone app, Instagram lets you snap photos on your iPhone and quickly edit them with a variety of filters, focuses and frames. The application also provides a number of ways to share your artful images with friends, family and online social communities.
Of course anyone and everyone can use and enjoy, Instagram. But I believe the app provides special benefits to you, the writer.
5 ways Instagram enhances writers’ lives
Writers expend a huge amount of time and energy coaxing and contorting words. But in focusing so obsessively on text, we tend to neglect other forms of creative expression. Instagram addresses our remissions, by letting us…
- Connect more meaningfully. Remember the Mad Men episode where Don Draper explains the Carousel slide projector? He speaks of the potency of nostalgia. “It’s a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone…it takes us to a place where we ache to go again.” Photographs are imbued with nostalgia. And Instagram photos—with their saturated color and moody filters—magnify nostalgia. Far more than text updates about work, home life and travel, Instagrams open a window into the heart and soul of your online community. Angela Montague is a UK copywriter whom I “met” through Twitter. She lives near Sherwood Forest—yes, the Sherwood Forest. Angela adores her family, old buildings, vintage finds and “the green, green landscapes of Lincolnshire.” Lucky for us, she shares her world on Instagram…
- Cultivate your inner visual artist. Commercial writing—copywriting, journalism, technical writing—requires analytical thinking, a left-brain consciousness of words’ meanings, nuances and usage. Visual art-making exercises the opposite side of the brain. It requires us to use non-verbal communication, emotions and metaphor to tell a visual story. Ann Handley is MarketingProfs’ Chief Content Officer and co-author of Content Rules. A seasoned journalist, editor and blogger, Ann is also a gifted memoir writer and storyteller. But she’s also a visual artist…
- Get instant emotional gratification. Social media makes an enticing promise: Use technology and you can connect meaningfully with friends and business associates easily and instantaneously. But it ain’t so. As anyone who’s lost hours on Twitter or sweated over a blog post can attest, social media takes a lot of time. Instagram takes the grunt work out of sharing. It makes photography—framing, shooting, editing—so effortless and pleasurable, you’ll find yourself snapping photos constantly. Few people are busier than Bumble Ward. An “Englishwoman, displaced,” Bumble is also a writer, blogger, horsewoman, mother and Hollywood PR executive, but she still finds time to tell visual stories on Instagram:
- Let go of words. Writers have a love/hate relationship with writing, alternately wrestling and massaging words to make them surrender to our will. Over time, deadline-driven writers cook up shortcuts to wrangle the unwieldy word mess. But formulas can become tired and trite. We forget to imagine, free-associate and mentally meander. Instagram encourages us to tap into our dreamy, fanciful selves—without the imposition of text. Toby Neal is a Hawaii-based mystery writer, blogger, therapist and school counselor. I wonder if she sees the connection between her exquisite photos of tropical flowers and the broken-blossom lives of the abused children she counsels.
- Experience daily doses of truth and beauty. More than anything, Instagram reminds you that your life is a work of art. Instagram helps you see your daily routines as a series of beautiful compositions: ordinary objects, events and people made extraordinary by your eye and Instagram filters. These digitally rendered still-lives let you return to the place you “ache to go again”…to see a dog’s soft eyes behind a screen…a carpet of fall leaves…the locker-lined hall of your kid’s high school…afternoon shadows on your living room floor.
Instagram’s detractors and “the Malick-ing of the Mainstream”
Instagram democratizes artistic photography and makes it easy for anyone to share creative vision. And that seems to be exactly why some people pooh-pooh the app.
In The Malick-ing of the Mainstream, Noel Murray discusses Hollywood’s “beauty boom”—filmmakers’reliance on technology to create ravishing images. Citing Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life and a half dozen other films and TV shows, Murray asserts, “The problem with the relative ease with which filmmakers can capture beauty onscreen these days is that it makes beauty seem less hard-won, and thus less special.”
Some photographers feel the same way about Instagram. “In my opinion,” writes pro photographer Olivier du Tre, “it [Instagram] allows every uncreative individual to turn his/her uncreative and bad framed shots into shots as if made by a ‘Creative Genius.’ These apps just apply some cliché filters to your shot, make it all look like some sort of ‘retro’ colour wash fiesta… Tell me, what is so ‘artsy’ about that? …[T]hese apps don’t make you a photographer, at all.”
Maybe not. It’s true, professional photographers didn’t snap the Instagrams in this post. The images may not reflect the perfect form, composition and light/shadow play as works by trained photographers.
But you can’t convince me that this….
…aren’t the work of writers and artists.