Tag Archives: social media

Hiatus Update-us

Long time readers over here will remember the time, when I’d only been blogging for a few months, my daughter and her BFF sat down to warn me about the dangers of talking to people on the internet– specifically referring to what my kids called my “Imaginary Internet Friends.” It was pretty funny, go read it if you haven’t.

I mention this as context for a message I got from her yesterday:

I laughed so hard.

In other news, July is gone and we’re well into August and, yes, I’m still on hiatus from social media. Mostly.

It took me a good week to get over feeling “deprived” of input, but the days since then have been calmer and more peaceful. I’ve been spending less time online, in general. The only thing I keep open and respond to in real time is messenger, and only because that’s mostly how my kids communicate with me. I don’t ignore them. Ever.

The strategy has been effective, although I can’t say I’ve been absolute about it. It’s not quite the extreme of “head in the sand.” It’s more like sitting on the sand and contemplating the ocean while chaos reigns inland, occasionally glancing at it over my shoulder.

I do sometimes check in to see what friends are posting on FB, since very few of them post angsty political things. Every once in a while I’ll briefly skim to see what the outrage du jour is over on twitter. But I set a timer and am strict with myself about shutting it down once time is up.

It’s been refreshing, this feeling of detachment and the lack of noise.

What have I been doing? A lot of reading. A wee bit of writing. Catching up on small non-urgent stuff around the house that I’d been neglecting, as well as a couple big things. Being more mindful about getting in my steps every day. Listening to the thunder and rain during what has been an unusually wet summer. Enjoying my granddaughter.

She’s so expressive for her age.

In fact, she expressed all over her diaper just before this was taken, explaining the satisfied smile.

[My daughter said I could post ONE pic, so if you’re seeing more than that it’s clearly a trick of the light. Or your eyes are crossed. Or something.]

And really, I’ve been doing a lot of sittin’ and thinkin’ — which is death when characters in a novel do it, but is apparently quite necessary for the writer. This writer, anyway.

The upshot is, I’m starting to feel little sparks of creativity amidst moments of nascent optimism. So I’ve decided to continue along these lines for a while longer.

 

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Filed under creativity, health and well-being, social media

Self-care, or donning my own oxygen mask first

I saw this image on facebook the other day and laughed:

I realized, some hours later, it was the first time in a very long time that anything on social media had made me laugh.

That’s a problem.

I wrote a post way back in 2009, when I first started using twitter, titled Creativity, Laughter and the Element of Surprise. It was about how unexpectedly and delightfully fun twitter was and how important the fun of play is to my creativity. In it, I wrote:

“So for now at least, Twitter has become my place to play. I’d forgotten how much I need that, how imperative playfulness is to imagination.”

Twitter stopped being fun or playful a long time ago. It has morphed into a place where information is shared– and that’s a good and helpful thing, as much of that information is about writing and publishing. But increasingly, it consists of information and opinion about world events and politics and civics. My feed is currently a stream of unrelenting rage and despair. For good reason.

Facebook isn’t quite as depressing and people do still post entertaining tidbits, but it has become something I almost dread, never knowing when I’ll read something that simply enrages me. Again, for good reason.

The thing is, feeling this rage is neither helpful nor productive. For me. It doesn’t change anything for the better. I’m already doing all I can, in my own small ways, to improve the world. Getting angrier and feeling more helpless every day doesn’t change that.

In fact, the constant onslaught of rage and despair is, slowly but surely, destroying my imagination and my creativity. Destroying me.

Am I being too sensitive? Probably. But I consider that sensitivity an asset. It’s certainly not something I can turn off and on at will.

I’ve tried cutting back, limiting my time on social media to small bites. It has been less than effective. So I’m stepping back, making a clean break. Taking a hiatus, if you will, for the month of July. Maybe August as well.

I need to focus exclusively on my offline life for a while. And on my writing. Because stories are one small way I can contribute, to provide a brief respite when those who struggle mightily take a much needed break to escape into fiction. Perhaps one of the stories that entertain will be mine. But that won’t happen if I’m too outraged to write, as I have been recently.

I’ll leave you on a positive note, with a few daughter-approved pictures of A Most Adorable Granddaughter.

 

 

 

 

 

Take care of yourselves while I’m away. Be strong and brave and thoughtful. Be kind if you are able, especially to yourself. And laugh, without reservation, every chance you get.

 

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Filed under creativity, deep thoughts, health and well-being, social media

And sometimes, it feels like you did just fine

As a parent, I have a constant low-level anxiety running through my head, a nagging persistent combination of dread and hope. And guilt. I think all parents do. This is completely separate and different from the constant worry that your kids will get eaten by BEARS.

It’s the worry that you have managed, somehow, to completely screw up your kids in spite of your best efforts. It alternates with the somewhat desperate belief that maybe you haven’t done too much damage, after all, in their journey from infancy to adulthood. This has nothing to do with any evidence one way or the other. It doesn’t mater how happy and successful and well-adjusted your kids seem to be. It has no basis in reality, unlike that whole BEAR thing.

It just is.

But every once in a while, your kids do something or say something and the constant cycle of dread/hope/guilt pauses and lightens for a moment. The sheer relief and welling of emotion are almost overwhelming.

I had two such moments recently.

My son and I were texting back and forth the other day. He was sending me funny (and slightly inappropriate) pictures of various internet memes. He shares my dry irreverent sense of humour and I was laughing (and groaning) at all of them. This was probably the least offensive:

IMG_4713

Me: “LOL. Yes, my hermit self agrees with this sentiment.”

Him: “You’re so weird.”

Me: “I can’t believe you’re not on twitter or facebook.”

Him: “You can’t? I think that shit is stupid.”

Me: “But FB is great for that kind of thing.”

Him: “I just like laughing at these funny pics. I don’t care if anyone sees that I think it’s funny.”

What a refreshing attitude, compared to the people I see online whose sole intent seems to be getting ALL THE ATTENTION. Ahem. Yes, mea culpa. And I realized that my son has a very level head on his shoulders. Plus one hell of a lot of self-confidence, to enjoy the things he thinks are funny or interesting and not care whether other people “like” or “favorite” everydamnthing he says.

It was impressive, all the fucks he did not give.

Did I teach him that? I don’t know. Not intentionally. Maybe I could stand to re-learn that lesson, myself.

And then my daughter (who lives in Boston) posted these before and after pics on facebook yesterday:

BEFORE

BEFORE

AFTER

AFTER

Yes, of course, I was proud of her for tackling that impressive accumulation of snow. This wasn’t the snow from last week, when they got 20 or so inches. They’d already dug out from that, thankyouverymuch. This was new snowfall, more than a foot of it, that fell on Monday.

Thing is, I know she’s physically strong and mentally tough. She’s more than capable of shoveling snow. I certainly shoveled enough of it myself, growing up in Minnesota. So I know it’s hard work, but I also know it’s manageable for someone who is young and physically fit.

That’s not what had me all choked up. It was the hashtags she added to her caption:

My lunchtime activity today: snow shoveling. Pre and post pics. ‪#‎likeaboss ‪#‎likeagirl

Yeah.

Sometimes, in spite of our best efforts, our kids turn out to be pretty damn impressive people.

Sometimes, you just hope you can live up to their example.

 

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Scrutiny

Well, that was fun. Most of you reading this know, or at least suspect, that there was quite the uptick in visitors over here this past week. Due to someone else’s blog post Saying Nice Things and linking to my review of Bill Cameron’s terrific new book COUNTY LINE.

Are they gone yet? Good. Because that kind of thing, while very nice and flattering and ego-boosting, can also be fucking terrifying. Seriously, it will mess with your head if you let it. And I’m telling you, as a writer: you can’t let it.

I don’t usually give advice to other writers, so I’m making an exception here. I’m going to say this once and then we will never speak of it again. Because we have better things to do.

This post is for all the relatively inexperienced writers out there, in the event they ever wander back this way. The ones who came over here last week hoping to identify some elusive quality that attracts or is supposedly worthy of attention. If you’re a successful published author, this is not for you. Go write another book or something.

Writers are a strange bunch. We spend so much of our time in these days of internet access obsessed with visibility and popularity. Twitter followers. Facebook friends. Blog hits. We jump up and down, flailing our virtual writing-cramped hands saying, “Me, me, look at meeeee.” And then people unexpectedly focus their attention on us and we’re all, “Whoa. No, don’t look. Wait, don’t leave. Hell, I didn’t wash my hair today. Come back! Just, OMG, don’t look. I mean, yes, look here!”

We’re psychotic. And horribly vulnerable. But mostly psychotic. Or maybe that’s just me.

This is not the first time that some random “something” out there on the internet has led a bunch of people to my blog. Far from it. It’s not even the first time an agent has linked to my blog. Although this was the first time so many people visited in such a short period of time. Not big numbers by most standards, not even close. Still, pretty big for me.

But for every person who chose to comment on that post (nine at last count), there were at least 100 who did not. That’s not 100 total, but more than 100 for each person who commented. And they’re still coming. Think about that.

Then think about the fact that some publishing houses and literary agencies have a web host name that is their company name rather than, for instance, Verizon or Road Runner. So while you might not know who your visitors are, you look at your blog stats and you know where some of them work. Or that they’re in New York. Or Canada. Or the UK or India or Australia. Or that they came over to read your book review and then spent two entire days clicking on dozens of past blog posts. Posts you don’t even remember writing at this point.

You want that kind of attention? Are you sure? Because this kind of thing has the potential to make you crazy. Crazier.

The double-edged sword of having access to blog statistics, and everyone with an ounce of sense does these days, is that it’s a really great feeling to know so many people made their way over to your dusty corner of the internet and visited your obscure little blog. The downside, and you might not realize this until it happens to you, is that you have NO IDEA what any of them thought. But I can guarantee you that a good number of them rolled their eyes and left wondering what the big deal was. “Voice? Nope, I just don’t see it.” And many who didn’t comment were simply following their mother’s sage advice: “If you don’t have anything nice to say…”

Now before people start jumping all over me, I’m not putting myself down. My ego is just fine. I’m being realistic. For every person who loves your “voice” or your writing, there will be several more who are unimpressed or who actively hate it. You don’t believe me? Go pick out ten books at random in a bookstore and read the first three pages and tell me how many you love enough to want to buy them. One? Two? None? And yet several people loved those books enough to publish them. Opinion about writing is subjective. Granted, some opinion is more experienced or respected than others, but it’s still subjective.

In light of that, the other thing I want to tell all you new writers out there is that “getting attention” is not, should not be, your GOAL. Attention by itself is meaningless. Worthless. Well, unless someone is paying you per blog hit. If you’ve found someone willing to do that, please contact me immediately. After which you will meet with an unfortunate accident and I will generously offer to take your place. You’re welcome.

This should be a separate post, but let’s just get this over with. I know this contradicts every piece of advice out there that tells unpublished writers how important it is to be seen, to gather followers. I disagree. And I’m serious about this. Your goal should be to produce great writing. Period.

The thing about getting attention for its own sake is that, once you get it, people will think it’s undeserved. Unwarranted. Unfuckingbelievable. You have a popular blog? So what. How many books have you published? How many have you sold? How many readers are willing to stand in line at midnight before the release date of your next book? How many people are shoving your book into the hands of strangers, telling them they just have to read it?

I’ve been over here quietly writing blog posts for almost five years. I don’t promote this blog other than a tweet, maybe two, when I write a new one. Sometimes I post a link on Facebook, if I remember. I suck at Facebook. I haven’t even put up a sidebar link over here to my page. But when I comment on other blogs, in that little box that says “website (optional)” I dutifully enter my URL. If people want to find me, they will. Several do.

This blog is a place to say things I want to say when I have no other place to say them. The place where I practice, where I stretch and warm up and get comfortable with my voice. Where I make mistakes. Get feedback. Where my writing has space and time to get stronger and more confident. A place to stay in touch with people who like me and want to read my books someday. I do it because I enjoy it.

But my ultimate focus is not on “promoting” myself. It’s on writing a great book. Great writing promotes itself, compels other people to talk about it, share it and come back for more. Without that, all the attention in the world doesn’t do you a damn bit of good.

For me, the internet is about making friends and having fun. Pushing back the encroaching dark edges of writerly solitude. I wander around hoping to do that and sometimes I get lucky and meet interesting people who like me back. Last spring, I made a new friend. He wrote a book. I read it and loved it. I could not wait to tell my other friends, the handful of people who read this blog regularly, how great it is.

In my opinion, that’s the only kind of “self-promotion” worth doing, the kind done in support of others. The only kind that has a chance of standing up to the scrutiny of strangers.

If you’re a writer and you’re doing anything other than that, you’re doing it wrong.

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Pass the syrup, I’m waffling

After a month with minimal exposure to the internet, it seems as if I should be able to make some profound observations. And yet, I don’t have any. Maybe this would be different had I denied myself ALL access to the internet. But that’s not what I did.

I still checked email and read news stories. I browsed a couple blogs intermittently, but mostly ignored the comments. I (finally!) started using an RSS feed, which was extremely helpful in terms of deciding which blog posts I wanted to read and when, as well as removing the temptation of wandering into the comments.

Mostly what I denied myself was the time-consuming interactive aspect of the internet. I didn’t comment on blogs and I didn’t “tweet,” nor did I read the comments and tweets of others. For the first few days, I really did feel like something was missing — well, obviously, something was. But once I got used to the different routine, I didn’t miss those things. Maybe because I was too darn busy with other things. In fact, it’s hard to believe it has been a month already. It was a busy eventful month.

Now I’m feeling ambivalent about resuming that interaction. I commented on a blog yesterday and wrote a few tweets, but was surprised that it felt as awkward to do those things now as it did when I was doing them for the very first time. I’m not sure what to make of that. Or whether I want to continue with the effort.*

Certainly, it all would feel comfortable and routine again fairly quickly. I’m adaptable. But I wonder whether I want to engage in the same ways. Or at all. Some people would say, “If it’s fun, do it. If not, stop.” Yeah, well, sometimes it is and other times, not so much. It doesn’t seem clear-cut to me.

What I’m pondering is whether those things are truly important to me and what benefit I derive from them. Are these activities enriching my life or merely distracting me from it? Am I investing time or procrastinating? I don’t know. I have no answers.

Maybe I just need some more quiet time to sort it all out.

*Please note, for the purposes of this discussion, I am not referring to the CB blog. That’s different.

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