By Simon Heywood
Based on the image above, you might be thinking this is another “Letters to Stories” article. However, the title may make you think otherwise. And you are right for thinking so. This won’t be just another “Letters to Stories” article. In fact, it’s going to stray more from that type of article. In today’s article, I want to more than anything reveal to all of my active supporters, and to the world what has been going on in my life and in my mind.
Hello everyone, it’s Simon Heywood, and if you’re new here, these types of articles are not common on the site. Let’s start with a little backstory.
I began my try at blogging and my attempts at growing and sharpening my passion for journalism back in August of 2018. I had a free trial site using the platform Wix, and the site had the name of this site now, The Hummingbird. I wanted to write about things that mattered to me, as well as post poetry and short stories on the site. Soon after, I realized that I wanted to do more, involve more, and opened my site up as a publishing space for other artists and writers to have another platform for their work to be spread and known and recognized. However, the reality of that time was that my passion for writing, and sadly, supporting, experienced a huge decrease, and I wanted to reassess why I opened up a site in the first place. I loved the sentiment and my original reasons for running a site, but my intentions and missions evolved from the original base of the creation of the original Hummingbird site, so I decided to take a step back officially in December of 2018 to figure out my next steps, because I still wanted to keep pushing myself to maximize my potential as a site creator and continue to grow my deeply buried potential as a writer and a journalist.
In May of 2019, I officially restarted my blog site, now using the platform WordPress. The site was now renamed The Olive Branch, taking after the event in history of the Olive Branch Petition, such that the symbolism of the new site was to do what the petition was meant to do; heal divided lands and spread peace. Things were up for awhile; my first self-assignment was to learn as much as I could about what happened in Sudan during the time of the country’s crisis and the civilian struggle for a civilian led democracy, and I felt so invigorated and alive when covering it.
At the same time, I wanted to veer away from having a creative-heavy site and lean more towards an editorial and news type of site, having more reviews and news articles rather than a literary webzine full of poetry and short stories. However, I quickly learned the taste of my readers.
As much as I promoted the truth of Sudan and my attempts to call out to the international community to support the Sudanese civilians, those articles ended up not doing so well. What I did notice, was that around the same time, I released my reviews on beauty-supplements from the brand Halo Beauty. Never had I experienced the numbers those reviews received. Even the CEO of Halo Beauty, beauty blogger and now dual CEO to TatiBEAUTY as well, Tati Westbrook, read my article and shared it on her Twitter. Alone, she helped my site gain so much attention, though temporary.
To this day, the article with the most views is my review on her brand’s supplement “Kiwi Seed Booster.” While I am proud of that success and so enormously grateful to have caught the attention of Westbrook herself, it doesn’t change the fact that I wanted those types of views consistently. However, throughout the mix in content, trying to really evolve my site into an editorial site, I constantly ignored the need for a mutually supportive base, a base that wanted the news I wanted to report. I’ve built a small base of around 672 total supporters across Twitter and Instagram, and I wanted to retain viewership numbers, so I decided to add other projects onto my site, including transforming my Instagram into a poetry account so that my site can be used to explore the meanings behind the poems, and also contacting artists when I could to show their talents, diving more into their lives to give them more of a spotlight, and give people a reason to know and support them.
For my site and from what I was taught, the way to grow your site is to post consistently, and that was the main reason I started my “Artist Spotlights” — aside from the bigger reason of giving underdog artists the support and spotlights they deserve — and my “Letters to Stories” article series. However, something was still missing. I was still straying away from connecting my passion for writing and my passion for journalism and social advocacy and growing that into activism. With that, I felt my activity was not living up to the name of the site, and decided to reconstruct my site to yet again change the name. This time, though, the name reverted back to what the original site was way back when on Wix, back to THE HUMMINGBIRD.
With this change, I surrounded it in as much passion and excitement as I possibly could, trying to get everyone who silently supports me to feel the excitement to take part of this “launch.” I released an article on “launch day” that detailed the whys and the whats and the what nexts. Even so, with this new passion, my continued activity still didn’t feel right.
I was still denying that I was appealing to the wrong people, mostly because the people I follow on my social media are people in the beauty industry, the beauty community. I spend all of my time loudly supporting all of the people I follow, while at the same time letting their silent support go right over my head, subconsciously wishing they would return my active support for them with loud support for my creations. My analytics would probably be much different and my activity would probably feel more fulfilling if I had a YouTube channel and was able to do the things that the community I found myself in would want from me, but I knew that for my own created site, it wasn’t something I wanted to do.
A sad truth for this moment right now is that my site still hasn’t evolved from its literary webzine base. I love writing about my own poems to promote them more, because it allows readers to understand me more, but it’s still all about me, and I don’t want it to be. What’s even worse is that I’m still doing my best every day to loudly and actively support all of the people I follow and their creations, and being pettily heartbroken when I don’t receive the same type of support.
What I really want to do is create the content I truly want to create, write the articles I really want to write, but at the same time have those articles be more about the world, rather than about my world. I truly want my site, my blog, whatever it is now, to not be a literary webzine and be a true editorial and news site. I love writing reviews and articles about artists who deserve more spotlight, but I also want to write more articles about the truths about different parts of the world. At the same time, while I love sharing my truth, that’s what a personal blog is for, and that’s not what I want my site to be.
I wrote poems and articles for the purpose of trying to gain a following, taking part in “monetization culture,” exploiting my creativity for numbers and analytics, when I should have been creating for the purpose of creating, for the love of it, and for the intent and hope that my creations could help someone. The sad truth of this world that actually heavily warped the intention of my desire to create is that the success of one’s passions is now all based on numbers and “clicks.” The more clicks, the more views, the more your creations are spread, known, and recognized. And overall, it’s so sad that the success of our passions is so constrictingly tied to numbers, and therefore so is our self-image. The capacity at which we value others and our own worth is now quantified.
Soon, I, and my site, will take another, as well as a truer and bigger, step back to really take part in true insight and reflection, to reassess purposes and intents, and perhaps there will be another massive change. Personally, I am going to make it a “New Years Resolution” to not fall back into the rabbit hole of checking analytics, opening those “insights” apps and acting on impulse and unfollowing those who unfollow me. Although minor, that plays a part in placing value in numbers and not recognizing the boundless value of people themselves. Just because someone hasn’t interacted with your posts in a while, doesn’t mean they should be labelled as “useless.” People aren’t meant to be used, and people aren’t meant to be “follow for follows”. People are not meant to be numbers.
In this final round-a-bout, I want to take this time to close this article by sharing a message of hope and gratitude.
To everyone who is growing their own base to become materially successful, remember that in the long run, it is better to disassociate your passion and craft and the worth you place in it, from the numbers they receive. If you feel so strongly about one of your creations, and it doesn’t do so numerically well as a half-baked creation (according to your own perspective), then it’s not your fault. Keep talking up the creations you really love, and share your love so radiantly to the world that they have no choice but to see and praise and love. But also make sure you give yourself that love too. The love and support of others is not enough; you have to love yourself too.
Lastly, the message of gratitude. I want to thank everyone who has witnessed my site in all of its stages, and know that your support, though seemingly swept away, does not go unnoticed. These are just heavier times and sometimes it is so much easier to focus on what is lacking rather than what is already there.
Thank you for reading everyone, and until next time, keep growing all that makes you happy and free.