I Failed

I failed.

I tweeted. I changed my Facebook status. I commented on my sister’s status. I tweeted again. I failed. I lose. No cake for me.

But I got no pleasure out of it.

I failed and it was completely anticlimactic.

What do I do now? How to keep focus?

I might have to institute Yaddo-inspired quiet hours.

I might have to do something drastic.

I won’t fail at this novel. I refuse.

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Trying to Stay Off Twitter and Facebook Is a Losing Battle

I wanted to spend the summer off Facebook and Twitter entirely. I made a vow to myself, I made it public, I wished it true, but alas, I keep logging in and aaaargh!

Why it’s difficult:

  1. Some people communicate solely through Facebook messages, status comments, and Twitter DMs!
  2. Some people do not email you when they need to reach you… even if it says on your profile you’re not logging in! (Why I’d assume anyone would pay attention to that is beyond me.)
  3. My mom is on Facebook now and I miss my mom!
  4. I’m worried about my baby sister and this way I can obsessively check on her without her knowing!
  5. Some close family members only announce important news like new girlfriends on Facebook and if you don’t see it there you won’t ever know!
  6. There are book-related things I want to be able to share by clicking this little button called “Share” on external websites… and then suddenly I’m logged in and I’m sharing and I can’t help it!
  7. If you add me as a friend and I don’t add you back for three months then you might be offended!
  8. Nobody cares when you’re not there—it’s a surefire way to find out how many friends you (don’t) have!
  9. Not to mention all the surely fascinating and amazing news I’m missing about books and publishing especially from Twitter, and since I no longer work in publishing either it’s like I’m living on this little island with one tree and no one visits ever, which is fine, sure, fine, but… I’m curious! Like who’s read MATCHED by Ally Condie? I want to read it! Like who’s read LUCINELLA by Lore Segal? I just started it. What books are coming out that I should know about? What is happening? What is going on? Not to mention the lack of advice on my little one-tree island. Like what’s a good book on how to make a fast-moving plot? I went to the bookstore and can’t find one. Like who’s been a mentor at Girls Write Now? I’d love to know details. Like what are you having for dinner? There are some days I’d like to know.
  10. I just miss it—and some of you—that’s all.

Sigh. I’m still trying to keep myself away until I can make it through the next couple of months, as I have a lot of work that needs done and I am too easily distracted to add one more thing to the mix right now. But, who knows, I may crash and burn and start tweeting about the mosquito in my apartment that I can’t seem to catch (it’s bitten me 5+ times; it thinks I’m delicious).

This has quickly become a far more depressing undertaking than I expected. Is this a normal stage of social networking withdrawal, or am I just facing up to the reality of living in 2010?

After You Disappear from the Party

Sometimes I cheat and log in to Facebook, like to wish my mom a happy birthday. I’ve got this blog automated to tweet my posts… so it might sometimes seem like I’m on Twitter, though I’m not. I’ve realized that, when you take the plunge and unplug a few distracting lamps in your life, very few people notice you’ve gone a little dim unless there’s a big announcement about it. And then, when you log back in quietly, just to see, you realize… maybe it’s not so essential to be constantly aware of the conversation. Because, look: it’s gone on without you and no damage done. It’s like when you slip out of a crowded room during a party. You could wonder if, at any point, anyone turned and asked, What happened to her… wasn’t she just standing right here? And would it be worse to discover no one did?

It’s like what happened yesterday. I went to the shore, and I had no internet access all day, from morning until I got home at past 1:30 a.m. What will I miss? I wondered. What if something important gets emailed to me and I don’t answer right away and I miss out and there’s a big problem and what if?

Guess what I missed?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Someone needed to reach me about a freelance project, but she didn’t email, she picked up the phone and left me a voice mail.

In my email inbox, I came back to various announcements from arts organizations. Junk messages, deleted, all of them.

And I think this is the lesson I’m forcing myself to learn right now. Something I thought—still think—is so important may very well not be, in the scheme of things. What happens if I unplug, entirely, for a day? Nothing of consequence! How horrifying.

So what have I been doing while being (partly) invisible? Freelancing, yes. Swimming in the ocean, no (the Atlantic was freezing yesterday). Writing, yes yes. I’ve been working on something that could turn into SOMETHING. Sometimes I’m so excited about it I want to log in to Twitter and tell everyone all about it and then I realize: telling other people doesn’t make something real. Doing the work makes it real. These pages, right here, every minute I spend with them instead of talking about them only makes them more real.

So I’m trying to work harder.

But, all around me, there are people who work harder than I do, with far greater obstacles. I watch them and I’m amazed. Sometimes I wonder if there will ever be a moment when I stop and pat myself on the back and say, You’ve done all you can. I sure haven’t, not yet.

Without Distractions… I Discover More Distractions

So I’m working. Lots of work. Work all month, work next month. Deadlines, freelance. Deadlines, writing—but those are the fun ones. Life though, it piles up. Woke this morning to THE FEAR. We know each other well, THE FEAR and I, but we’re not friends. The lack of a Twitter stream does help me, but I’m not cured entirely of my bad habits. Not yet.

My mom says it takes something like four months to change your daily routines. Must. Keep. Trying. It’s been, what? Not even a week?

For example, I’m right now (1) reworking some facts in chapter one of my novel while (2) listening to Space Oddity while (3) taking breaks to read Dear Sugar columns while (4) looking up old Liz Phair songs while (5) keeping a running list of possible title ideas while (6) looking up Borges stories while (7) checking in on Jezebel while (8) wishing a dear friend happy birthday while (9) mapping out my freelance schedule while (10) texting with my baby sister while (11) signing a book to send off at the post office while (12) wishing I’d brought a Band-Aid while (13) rereading chapter two while (14) IM’ing with E while (15) cracking my neck while (16) thinking of The Road, which I just saw and which I thought was the most brilliant dystopian while (17) wondering if I could ever write a story that important while (18) instead just writing this blog post.

It never ends, does it? Social networking is not the problem. The problem is dear old me.

For my next trick, I’ll shut myself up in a discarded refrigerator without cell phone or internet and… write a couple novels or something. When I come out, if I come out, I’ll be a whole new me.

I would like to learn to meditate. I regret not learning at Yaddo when I had the chance. You may think it’s simple, but for someone so addled it’s near impossible to sit still for a half hour not-thinking. It was recommended to me to try going here.

So add (19) wondering if I should learn how to meditate, if that would help?

Back to (1).

Weekend Inspirations

Here are some things inspiring me this weekend:

Tayari Jones always has a great honesty when it comes to writing and publishing that I tend to drink up from her blog. This post, “Tough Love from Tayari,” speaks to those insecurities that flutter in your gut and must be smashed for you to write the best you can. She says, “…Writing is what makes you a writer. And when you feel like a writer, you are less worried about the latest celebrity book deal. Your mind is on your characters, on your poetry, on your art.” Read the whole post here.

My editor has inspired me to reread a book I haven’t read in forever, The Haunting (or The Haunting of Hill House) by Shirley Jackson. Erase from your mind all thoughts of any recent movie and return to the book, to the words on the page, as I did, and you’ll find yourself caught up in the growing, crawling unease that breaks out into pure fear. The intensity, and the way it builds, is amazing. There is a moment in that book, which I won’t type up because I don’t want to spoil it, that had me gasping out loud in my empty apartment just the other night—terrified, absolutely terrified, though I had all the lights on. Now that this book has been devoured, what else should I read or reread for inspiration? A trip to the library is in order.

This is a post from some days ago, but I still love coming back to it (and you’ll see my response to it in the comments), where Molly O’Neill ponders what you can belong to and feelings of connectedness. As I pare down my life this summer, I keep thinking of this. Do I belong here, or do I belong elsewhere… maybe somewhere I haven’t let myself go yet? Her must-read post can be found here.

If you’ve come across anything inspiring, let me know. I’m starting up a collection from both real life and online. This summer feels like the time to do it.

Making Way for Something Amazing

As you may have seen hinted at in my romantic post all about “going dark” and thus learning the secret to becoming a writing genius (um, haha), I’m flirting with the idea of becoming a whole new person. Maybe. Just for the summer. Yes, I know part of being an author is learning graceful and confident and somehow not annoyingly intrusive ways of promoting yourself and your books (if you know how to do this, do tell), but I’m on a bit of a break here. My book isn’t out until next summer… It’s not the time to be promoting. I have this pocket of time where I can just focus on writing new stuff*, and so why am I reading blogs about publicity and worrying you’ll forget me forever and ever if I disappear off social-networking sites? Why do I spend so much time distracting myself with every clickworthy link on the internet?

* Side note: I like calling my writing “stuff.” It sounds less intimidating.

I don’t yet know how I’ll handle this, but I feel like I could do anything with my time this summer. Anything at all. Do I want to come away from these next few months with a polished and awesome novel that my editor loves? With pages for my next novel? With a WHOLE NEW BOOK that you don’t even know about yet, but one that I have enough chapters of already and maybe it could even interest a publisher if I could just gather my wits together and write a synopsis?

Or do I want to know what all the authors and editors and agents I admire are tweeting?

I think I know what I’m choosing. I just don’t know how drastic I’m going to be about it yet.

I’m only thinking of trying out a little experiment this summer. What if my head’s more clear…? Will I, could I, might I write something amazing?

I’ll let you know.

I guess this is the warning that if I don’t answer your message on Twitter or Facebook, it’s because I’m not logging in. So email me or something.