Kerane Marcellus On Writing In The Age Of Social Media
To post or not to post one's work? That is the question.
Since moving to New York City last year to do what everyone does when they move here — follow their dreams of fill in the blank, I’ve noticed the writing community, specifically journalists, are screaming out into the void about their careers. Rightfully so, there was little to no warning at how difficult it can be in this industry whether you’re a freelancer, full-time, or a little bit of both with extra gigs on the side, like myself.
I went to a women’s networking event last year at Dumbo House, still so new and enamored by the magic this city had to offer me, and that fun question, “So, what do you do?” was asked of me. I answered, “I’m a writer,” and immediately I’m given phones to type in my Instagram handle. They asked me what other things I’d worked on and said that I needed to post my work more since some of the projects weren’t on my grid. “You need to be posting everything on Instagram and TikTok and build a personal brand!” I said, “I don’t know, I just want to be an arty girl and stay in my corner.” They laughed but kept telling me all the benefits I would get from posting more.
For a while, I would post fun little monthly photo dumps with a screenshot of an interview I was proud of but, in hindsight, that wasn’t even to build momentum. I met a good friend of mine last year, Julio. He's been telling me forever that I need to post all my work at least three times a week. He’s a designer and a Virgo so you can imagine he’s quite particular about the importance of imagery and what posting on Instagram can do for your career. I started posting more frequently on my stories but again, that wasn’t good enough to keep eyes on me—I needed to post on the grid and let my work be seen.
Eventually, I went back to not posting as much because truly my heart was not in it. The momentum was gone and so was my confidence. To make matters worse, I went through my first loss of a close relative and it shook me to my core. My world shifted and shattered and I was left with an existential crisis I never knew would come so early.
My monthly dumps stopped for a few while and my work posts too because at the time nothing really mattered anyway. I didn’t feel right moving forward with life, I needed it to stop for a moment but, the world doesn’t work that way. Then another shift occurred, this must be the 5th stage of grief they talk about, acceptance. I finally accepted what I couldn’t change and kept going, for her.
My auntie was the cool one out of the three sisters. She was level headed, funny, stylist, and gave the best advice. When I wanted to move to New York she was the first to cheer me on, any story I posted on Instagram she would actually read and she would tell my parents about how good I was doing. She encouraged me to take on my own path rather than the life my parents wanted for me, even when I was younger she’d always say I’d be successful. When I first started writing, she said, “Oh you’re gonna be famous!” and to that I smiled and held on to that. I think deep down, that’s what I wanted. And she knew that. I want to be known for being a beautiful writer.
I started posting a bit mostly for her, knowing that she would’ve seen my stories if she was alive brought me some comfort. My first feature in print at ESSENCE magazine almost made me cry because that’s a magazine that every Black woman knew no matter where they’re from. I wanted to call her and tell her that I did it. When I got asked to do a digital cover on Victoria Monét that would also run in print, I felt how proud she was of me. I had taken my time posting that story and fell behind on posting because I’m just not that consistent with it. My boss at ESSENCE, Devine, said that I don’t always have to post everything, that some things can be just for me. I guess I wanted to hold onto it for a moment, have everything stop for a second, and truly revel in how far I’ve come.
I’m in a space now where, post or no post, I think I do good work and that’s enough for me whether someone sees or not. My auntie would be proud either way.