The World Inside an Instapoet’s Head
“I try to be real and honest in everything I write,” says Umar Alam, well known by his Instagram handle @itsumarrwrites. Not quite instapoet and not quite author, Umar’s pieces live in that in-between realm. Picture the intersection of a Venn diagram; part prose, part poetry and part musings.
He captures ‘moments and feelings,’ frames them into sentences and yet, somehow, it’s just the kind of content you would stop to read as you endlessly scroll down your Instagram feed.
Relatable. That’s what it is. For an audience of over 2000 people.
In a world where writers and poets have found a new home on social media, it’s difficult to stand out — to be remembered. But the 22-year-old says, “For me, it’s all about being real. I try not to romanticise things in my writing. I write about issues that matter to me and the people who read my page, with words that everybody can understand.”
In literature, there is a tendency to portray an elite image, from hexameters to enjambments and big words that widen a page. But the rise in instapoetry introduced shorter poems in basic English, to attract the masses. Writers on Instagram can convey relatable experiences, simply because they use language that is also understandable.
“My writing has been described as reading words from a close friend and I kind of like that. I started writing because I never understood what poetry was trying to say. So, I thought I might as well say it myself.”
Umar has since independently published his own book titled, Pretty Much It: Short stories, musings and other stuff. Contrary to what I would expect, he hasn’t let it get to his head. “I don’t think I’m the best writer, but I do believe that my writing makes people feel less alone. Well, that’s what I choose to believe in anyway.”
However, this wasn’t always the case. As a social media writer, the thought of putting yourself out there, for people to read and critique your work, can be incredibly unnerving. It takes courage and guidance. “I never would have started writing if someone else didn’t believe in me. Sule (@Sulewrites) on Instagram showed me the ropes, he taught me everything I know. Everybody needs someone like him.”
From short stories and pieces built on what he terms as ‘mysterious fires’, Umar collaborates with all kinds of art. From musings on Bollywood movies to songs and people, his written pieces will have you wondering and wandering. Filled with new perspectives and yet, those that feel close to home, he calls it ‘Real, raw and relatable.’ “The words will make you feel. All you need to do is take a chance and read,” says Umar candidly.
His writing journey began in December 2017, as an outlet for his feelings and emotions and a safe space to share and connect. And that’s exactly why he is not looking to turn it into a career. Growing up, we are often told that if you commodify your passion, it becomes a chore. And if you are looking to commodify Instagram likes, it becomes a burden. Content matters on social media applications and increasingly, we have begun placing a value on ourselves based on the value our posts get.
Umar confesses, “I lost my individuality when I started writing to please other people. And I felt hollow inside. If you write for the likes, the words don’t mean anything. And if you don’t get the likes, you feel even worse. Now, I write for myself and only myself. My individuality and relatability are why people read.”
Author’s Note: The conversation doesn’t end here. Often we don’t get the time to stop, contemplate and reignite our souls. In times like these, our individuality has the power to change our mood and in Umar’s case, that which he shares for others too. Campaign MEA @meamdx sparked a social movement that has since turned virtual, for people to recognise, preserve and value their individuality. By starting a conversation, we hope to get the ball rolling. Check out our Instagram page! Our virtual journey might be all the convincing you need to stay true and stay you.
Rapid Fire with Umar:
The Writer Behind the Words
1) A word that you’d use to describe yourself.
2) An odd trend you’d like the world to follow.
Being honest about yourself.
3) What’s the one thing you wish you had in your closet right now?
A nice bomber jacket.
4) What do you do to feel most like yourself?
Write and hit the gym.
5) A hobby not many people know you have.
I love to draw to relax.
Interview by: Varun Vinod