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Ask a Freelancer: How can Instagram help my writing?

From promotional materials to inspirational quotes, you’d be surprised at what the simple photo-sharing app can do for your work.


Melissa Chadburn

Internet Culture

Melissa Chadburn is a lover and a fighter, a union rep, a social arsonist, a writer, of color, smart, edgy, and fun. Her work has appeared in Guernica, Salon, and the Rumpus, among others. In Ask a Freelancer, Chadburn fields questions about writing, the blogosphere, platform-building, and all things scary. She doesn’t presume to know everything, but she knows people that know more things than her, and if there’s one thing she’s learned, it’s that there’s nothing to be gained from withholding information. Reach her at fictiongrrrl(at) or follow her on Twitter. She loves your whole outfit right now.

Dear Freelancer,

I’ve noticed that a lot of my friends have Instagram accounts but I’m just not sure how this can be useful to me. Can you tell me ways that other writers use Instagram?

—Doltagram in Delta

Dear Doltagram,

That makes the two of us. I tell ya, there are so many different things to keep up with these days, and I’m not sure what each one does what. But I do know Instagram allows you to post cool photos and follow people and stuff. This is another instance where I am in no way an expert so I asked writer friends of mine what they use Instagram for, and here’s what they came up with:

  • You can post photos and links to publications and make them link together.
  • You can post photos of poems.
  • You can post videos; use it as a promotional tool by posting videos of your book trailer.
  • You can take photos of books and authors and then connect with other like minded literary lovers that way, then maybe one day meet in person and get married or edit each other or talk dirty or something.
  • Use an image as a prompt or an opportunity to write flash fiction.
  • Post images of your favorite quotes.

And of course, it’s another good way to waste time not writing. But then there’s the more abstract things that Instagram can do:

I spent most of my life feeling like I’d been forsaken. I was left to fend for myself in some pretty heavy duty situations, and as I grew up, I made some choices like someone who believed she was unlovable. Then about a month ago, I got a message from a childhood friend that found me on Facebook. He was an upstairs neighbor actually. He said he and his parents wondered whatever happened to that spirited girl downstairs.

It was such a gift, to get found by these people, because suddenly it all came back to me. I used to hang out with the family upstairs. They listened to classical music and ate health food and read books before bed, and I spent so many wonderful safe days and nights with them. The dad of the family took us out rollerskating and to a bakery that had chocolate chip cookies the size of my head. And he was always documenting. He took photos and made home movies. My childhood friend posted one of these movies on Facebook.

When I saw the movie, I did not think that girl was unwanted, unloved, and alone. She looked really sure of herself and free-spirited, actually. So I guess what I’m saying here is that Instagram can function like any other inspiration, and it can breed love.


Photo by mpclemens/Flickr | Remix by Fernando Alfonso III

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