Talk to me about your experience with social media, the good and the bad.
I’m just back from California, where I worked on my book with some truly brilliant people. (Special thanks to David Ulin, the best line-editor I know.)
I have been unplugged from social media since April of this year. It’s been good for me in ways I’d hoped and in ways I never expected. My goal when I made this decision was to take back the time I frittered away online and apply it to my novel-in-progress.
What I didn’t expect was to find out that social media did not steal my time so much as it clogged my head.
Let me explain what I mean.
Whenever I signed on to FaceBook or Twitter, I would scroll through feed. What I liked about this was a quick sense of catching up with friends and writers and the world. What I didn’t realize until I let it go of this habit was how much it affected my thinking and my mood.
Every time I checked in, I would absorb the daily happenings, medical scares, triumphs, political rants, looming deadlines, vacation photos, linked articles, world news, and so on of the roughly 5,000 people posting in my feed. And I would respond as best I could, hopping between congratulations to a friend who’d won an award and sympathy to a friend who’d hospitalized a family member. I fretted about my responses. They always felt rushed, but I had to move along. That list would grow hour by hour and never stop.
When I moved from the online world to my novel, my head was so full I could no longer find the thoughts and feelings that were mine before I’d opened the computer. I didn’t even realize the effect of this until I stepped away from it.
And so, when I unplugged, it was not so much that I gained time but that my thoughts and feelings were uncluttered. More accessible. I could be more present with my work, and more importantly, with the people sitting across from me in real life.
So just quickly, for those of you wondering how I’ve been… Mr. H and I are feeling all the newness of our now-empty nest. We miss the boys and their friends and the noise and the chaos of a much busier life. We eat on the front porch more, where there’s only room for two, and watch storms and walk through museums and see cheap afternoon movies and plan trips to visit the boys. Right now we’re all dealing long-distance with the deep grief of losing one of our beloved pets. Something that doesn’t feel real yet and still catches me by the throat. I’m relieved we’re seeing both boys this month. I want to hold them so badly.
I know many of you are also curious how the book’s going. I want to talk at length about the writing process, and the process of writing this particular book, but not now, not while I’m still in it. All I can say is I’m working deeply on it. I’m allowing the process to be what it is, one of discovery, of digging, of circling back to early pages after I know more. While I keep loose deadlines in mind, my real goal is not to finish at a certain speed but rather to make this book the best it can be.
Before I go, I’ll share with you the books I read since going off-line:
Lidia Yuknavitch, The Chronology of Water
W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage
Kate Atkinson, Life After Life
Vladimir Nabokov, Speak Memory: An Autobiography Revisited
John Steinbeck, East of Eden
Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See
Sara Gruen, At the Water’s Edge
William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury
Annie Jacobsen, The Pentagon’s Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA
Saeed Jones, Prelude to Bruise
Harold Michael Harvey, Justice in the Round
Kent Haruf, Our Souls at Night
John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell, March: Book One and March: Book Two
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
David L. Ulin, Sidewalking
Ford Maddox Ford, Parade’s End
Saeeda Hafiz, The Healing: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Yoga
Jen Grow, My Life as a Mermaid
Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward Angel
Monica Wesolowska, Holding Silvan
Therese Anne Fowler, Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
Brett Easton Ellis, American Psycho
F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise
Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes
Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood
And I re-read these books:
Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying
Flannery O’Connor, A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories
So that’s a little about my world. Would love it if you’d catch me up on your life and your writing and your experience with social media before I disappear again.