Have I really been doing this for fourteen years?
This is beautiful, Ashlee. Also, I feel the need to say thank you. All those vulnerability hangovers and all the labor you've poured over your words through the years has served up such precious gifts to me as your reader. You have put words to my experience on countless occasions when I couldn't.
Also, I'm not sure if this relates here (and selfishly I hope it doesn't :P ) but thought I'd share: Years ago, when my husband and I were in the process of leaving a church, a church we had loved like our own family, a friend once said to me, "Sometimes the Lord makes the place you're in so uninhabitable that it's less painful to leave when you do." I sure hope that's not the case here but regardless, you are modeling what it looks like to listen closely and walk faithfully with your God. <3
I would love a coffee and crumbs magazine. We could all use a break from social media I think.
This spoke to me in such a deep way, thank you for sharing another piece of you. I was also thinking about Erin Lochner, who I adore and respect so much.
Ive also been creating online since 2010 and slowly starting to creep in to influencer territory (barely) around 2017 before a handful of things occurred that made me step back and ask, “wait, is this what I really want?” I started to play with social media detoxes in 2018 and then in 2020, after the arrival of my daughter, I said goodbye. As a photographer it seemed absolutely insane to delete the account I had worked on for so long and built a following that both felt like friend (most of the time) and foe (rare but why are they the loudest voice of all?).
It is still the best decision I made. Sure, I felt a little lost and aimless for a bit but found my grounding eventually. I am still creating, creating for myself, creating for others... but I’m no longer under a microscope. I feel like I have more breathing room. I also feel like I’m less distracted by the noise and creations of others that make me second guess what I create. I also feel like I can just make a decision and not feel like I owe an explanation to thousands of people.
If you go to print magazines. I will be there.
If you go to photography. I will be there.
If you decide to go offline forever and publish here and there in print, I will be there.
Weather you weigh this option publicly or silently, I will be there rooting you on.
It’s ok to say goodbye and it’s also ok to always come back. It’s ok to rest. It’s ok to take a few years for yourself. It’s ok to do what you want and follow Gods voice along the way.
Hearing this and wrestling with the tension, too. I'm in the middle space of finishing a book and waiting for it to publish...and feeling exhausted. Heather's death drummed up many of these rough waters just under the surface. I'm listening to "Momfluenced: Inside the Maddening Picture-Perfect World of Mommy Influencer Culture" by Sara Petersen on audiobook....woosh. Thought-provoking, to say the least.
I’m not a writer (I’m a lawyer which is different type of writer but no one likes to read legal “prose”) but I do want to say thank you because I eagerly await the moment a new article or piece from you hits my inbox. I know your work is hard but it’s also feeding so many people! Trust me
I will be the first one to subscribe to a C+C magazine! I think the “collection” format you’ve begun is a great first step towards that. I also love the idea of tearing the magazine apart and sending the essays to my favorite friends via snail mail, which is always so much more fun than texting a link.
Several of the women writers I hold dear left social media last year. One after the other - at a time when I too was deeply questioning my role in it and somehow their choosing their sanity and safeguarding their energy gave me permission to do the same. The community and connection that social media provided during the pandemic was a lifeline and I truly loved what my small community created. But that has all changed and the extreme "busyness" and immense amount of content from every direction is causing overwhelm and burnout, in me for sure. But mostly, I am witnessing how important it is that my words are consistent with my actions in terms of parenting and that modeling healthy tech is significantly more effective. I want our boys unplugged as much as possible - we laugh more, we sleep better, we have more fun, we create more, we connect more. And amazing, right, what eating breakfast does? I am blown away that I forget this for myself.
It’s such an odd thing. The desire to share and also the wondering if how you’re going about it is going to defeat the point. I do wonder if the people we need to still be sharing are the ones who are conflicted about it - the reluctant prophets. With you in the wondering. I hope you’re able to find rest and enough space to hear clearly where you’re supposed to go.
Oof, all of this relatable. I've been reading everything I can on incarnational living lately. How God come to earth in Jesus and the act of creation itself has infused every last physical element non this earth with holiness. I am yearning for a life that is more embodied... and less...unreal, cloud-based. In tension with these desires is the very real fulfillment that comes from writing and connection with others.
This tension - all of it. I have been more and more offline and pushing into the embodied relationships around me, and that has been hard *and* a gift. Yet, I see value in sharing words online for so many more to be touched and reached. Keep writing, but also, live the life God has given you, in whatever spheres that may be!
Before the internet, writers would gather in circles. Like the days of C.S Lewis and J.R. Tolkien, they would write together and read together and drink together. Instead of giving themselves away, they brought people to themselves. I, like you, have felt the strain of internet life. It doesn't feel "real." It isn't the kind of connection we are really looking for. But it mimics connection. We take those hints of connection hoping it will fill us, but we are left tired, drained, thin. After nearly 15 years on-line... I ask myself the same question... is it worth it? For me, because of the absence of real connection, I would have to say- no. No, it's not. I have to shift. If my words leave me breathless and gulping, I'm doing something wrong. I need my words and the words of others to give me breath. What does that look like? I'm not entirely sure, but I think it starts with me saying- I don't want to live like THAT anymore. Also, do you want be in my writing circle? - hehe.
Thank you, as ever, for your words, Ashlee. I haven’t been sharing my writing consistently in recent years (which brings on its own kind of writer existential crisis) and only became a mother in 2021, but I’ve been blogging since 2008 and wrestling with so many similar questions. All this to say, you’re not alone in our questions and confusion and increasing desire for an embodied, offline life. I’m totally here for a C+C magazine, but will always be grateful for the words you share online for however long you choose to. :)
So many people are talking about so many similar ideas! You writing about this reminded me of this podcast conversation about smart phones and what they are forming us toward... Which could translate to social media and what it's forming us toward.
I got off popular forms of social media nearly two years ago and can't say that I miss it, but I dabble on Substack and a couple of Mighty Networks and my brain still feels overwhelmed and my attention scattered and just how to do this well? Can one? Can a life be lived congruently when trying to teach little kids about best ways to interact with technology and I'm still not sure I am interacting with it well?
Appreciate these words and thoughts. A hearty yes to a magazine or other print work. :)
Just saying amen through tears streaming down my face while holding my youngest. I felt every single word in my own way. Thank you for sharing tour heart these past 14 years. It has come with a great deal of sacrifice on your end. May you find rest from your burnout this summer and beyond.
Loved this piece, Ashlee. I appreciate your vulnerability in sharing this. I've experienced similar kind of season before, and the last time it happened I found relief in taking a break from writing publicly and simply writing stories. It was amazing how it revived my creativity to simply write for the pure enjoyment of it again without any pressures of it being perfect or publishable.
First of all, if you hosted an in-person writing retreat I would be there SO quickly. Second of all, please don't take any life hacks from Aaron Rodgers--as a Wisconsin girl, I can confidently say that man is cray-cray. Lovely words, as always! ✨