Ever wonder what taking a break from social media would feel like?
I needed to devote more time to the new book I’m writing, and cutting back on FaceBook and Instagram seemed the easiest way to find an extra hour or two each day. At first, I limited the time I spent online. Then I thought, Maybe I should just log out for a few months.
What happened was a startling discovery in what social media had been doing to my brain. But first, let me tell you some of the places I’ve been since we last talked…
In December, just after Christmas, David and I traveled to Japan. We took a bus to the bottom of a big mountain in Nagano. And for 45 minutes, we rolled this suitcase uphill, through the snow, toward Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park. It’s one of the prettiest walks I’ve ever taken… tall pine trees and sometimes heavy snow fall.
And then we reached our hotel (Yudanaka). It was all traditional… shoes off as soon as you walk in; a room with a sliding door, thin mattress on the floor, little pillows that were like sandbags, and a hot pot of tea waiting for us.
But this is why we chose the hotel…
Imagine it’s 18 degrees, and you’re in the hot springs with this guy. If you click here, you can see more photos.
David is standing outside a restaurant in Shinjuku we loved so much we went two days in a row.
My favorite city in Japan was Kyoto. (I could totally live there!)
Of course, the reason we were in Japan in the first place is because it’s on the way to Vietnam, where my brother-in-law lives. Packing for both snow and 80-degree weather was complicated, but it was also fun to go from one extreme to the other. Check out the view outside my brother-in-law’s place in Ho Chi Minh City.
This woman sets up a noodle truck in the alley six days a week, beginning at 4am. Yes, we had noodles for breakfast.
We did lots of tourist-y things (the War Remnants Museum, antique shopping)…
but also normal things like buying groceries and cat food.
And then we took in two days at a gibbon sanctuary, where they rescue and rehab abused or neglected gibbons, returning some to the wild. Some are forever damaged and so will live out their lives in this place.
If you want to hear what gibbons sound like when they sing each the morning, click here.
Back in New York (and sometimes in Boston), we had some pretty glorious times with our boys. We also have enough downtime to watch The Passage and Samurai Champloo. We’ve seen a number of plays, and I’ve had time to hang out with writers in the flesh.
But mostly, I’m fully immersed in writing the new book… with Douglas usually at my side. Sometime later I’ll talk about the book (set in this building), but for now it feels good to keep it private.
Let me say a little something about unplugging. The hour or two I’ve gained back each day is the least of what’s changed.
It was scrolling through feed, interesting as it was to me, that had created a never-ending ticker tape of clutter in my head. It left no room for my imagination, for the robust brain I once counted on.
After about a month offline, I started to remember what it felt like to have my fully-functioning mind back. I had time again for quiet, for my own thoughts, and for a life free of wondering, How many people will like this thought I just had?
I am deep in the process of creating something from passion and a blank page. Writing a novel is hard, hard work, but infinitely easier when you have head space. And I’m going to keep at it. I will be back, but it will be a while. So thank you for everyone giving me the space to think and write without distraction. And if you’ve ever considered unplugging, I suggest you give it a try.
Let me end with some news and some thank you’s.
I was so honored to receive news that The Flicker of Old Dreams won the Western Writers of America Spur Award in the category of Best Western Contemporary Novel, and was chosen as an Honor Book for the Montana Book Award.
And I’m grateful to these folks for mentioning me or my books: Western Writers of America, Belmont Books, The Philadelphia Tribune, KPVI News, The Missoulian, LitHub, Benzinga, Idaho State Journal, Erie News Now, Cision PR Newswire, America Reads, Syosset Library, The Doubting Writer, Turn the Page Podcast (Turn the Page is also here), Literary Speaking Podcast with Crystal-Lee Quibell, One Mom’s Musings, The Island Now, Bookish Lifestyle, Otter Down, Oh The Books She Will Read, Broken Teepee, Cover to Cover Cafe, The Spoken World Podcast, More 2 Read, The Doubting Writer, and Reading in the Dark.
As always, I’ll end by sharing the books I’ve read since my last post (this list does NOT count books I’m reading for research):
Debra Magpie Earling, Perma Red
Anne Korkeakivi, Shining Sea
Bridgett M. Davis, The World According to Fannie Davis
Jeff Lindsay, Darkly Dreaming Dexter
Annemarie Ní Churreáin, Bloodroot
Kim Chinquee, Wetsuit
Ann Patchett, The Patron Saint of Liars
Kristina McMorris, Sold on a Monday
Donna Baier Stein, Sympathetic People
Robert J. Gordon, The Rise and Fall of American Growth
How are you? Tell me in the comments section before I’m off again.