Little writing brain cookers (or, why I got off Facebook)

I looked at the calendar today and realized that if I didn’t sit down and trip to the blog fantastic, I would go all of May without an entry. I know, alert the media. But here in the last days of the month, it finally seemed time to blather on about some sort of writing hoo-ha.

Well, the good news is I am writing. Of the fiction variety. The semester ended in early May, and after a few days of sleeping for 12 hours straight and a marathon binge of movies/TV and mountains of fro yo, I turned my focus to that book thing I’m working on.

Which reminds me: after AWP this year (which I did not attend, somewhat blissfully), my dear friend MG sent me this little number through the ol’ mail (courtesy of those ever hip folks at 826 Valencia):

It is? Hey, thanks, Postcard!

I love a good postcard pep talk. I love postcards, period. I love the mystery of the mailbox. I always sort of hold my breath when I open that sticky metal hinged door: what’s waiting in there for me? I guess email is the fancy, modern-day version of the mailbox: click on your email program, and it beeps at you. Hmm. This reminds me, weirdly, of my years as a bartender, when drunken patrons would wink, leer, whistle, or heaven forbid, snap their fingers to get a drink. Finger-snappers. I don’t know what to say about this, except, OH MY GOD. DON’T.

Which also reminds me: At the end of the semester, I said to Facebook, Hey Facebook, get the beep out of my face. (If anyone’s a finger-snapper, it’s that Facebook. Also, it’s certainly a non-tipper and probably will also ask to speak to your manager at some point).  How weird and complicated it’s become to get unplugged for awhile. Will actual friends think I “defriended” them? Will people be able to find me? And what does it say about me that I want them to? What about those ever-important writing contacts? Do I “announce” this departure, as I announce everything else: in a “status update”? And, oh no, what will happen to my “web presence”?

I finally answered those questions this way: Eff that noise, Chancellor. Sit your buns down and write. TW and I took the plunge together and signed off, which is lovely. We actually sit down in the living room together for long stretches without interruption. No desire to go “check.” Nothing to check. Except email beeps (see: finger-snappers). I also am limiting those checks to twice a day. As a friend says, folks can take an old, cold tater and wait.

Aside from the distraction/time suck of the Intertubes, something else has bothered me about how FB infiltrated my thought process. When something would strike me as funny, or I would observe something noteworthy out there in the world, I would begin to compose an “update.” To announce it on “my” page. Forget for a moment that I would then check repeatedly about who “liked” it or commented about it, neurotic little soul that I am; on its own, that impulse to announce strikes me as detrimental — to my fiction-writing process.

Once upon a time, back when we had this hilarious thing called “privacy,” I would take those bits of humor and observation and write them down in my notebook, or on a scrap of paper, or on my palm. I didn’t tell anyone about them. In other words, I would keep them to myself, and for myself. Those little bits, time and again, would become part of my writing work. By writing them down, I would add them to– for lack of a better description– my little writing brain cooker, and it would clank and hiss and steam for awhile, until voila, those bits would emerge, transformed and glistening, into something I could use in a story. It’s perhaps the closest thing to alchemy that I will ever experience. It’s one of my favorite things ever about being a writer, how my brain, seemingly without any help from me, does this strange, wondrous thing.

So why in the world would I want to mess that up by instead taking those bits and  flinging them like table scraps into a chattering morass (which, coincidentally, is monitoring me for advertising purposes) in the hopes that someone will “like” it? I guess it’s arguable that a status update is a kind of writing it down, thereby igniting the little writing brain cooker, but something about making it public deflates or diffuses the energy of it for me. Counter-intuitively, once it’s visible to everyone, I forget about it. It’s out of my hands.

By the way, I know that it’s terribly ironic that I am writing about being unplugged and keeping to myself while typing on a public blog. For this I offer you Whitman: “Do I contradict myself?/Very well then, I contradict myself,/(I am large, I contain multitudes).” (Also, from the same poem, one of my very favorite lines of all time: “I depart as air,/ I shake my white locks at the runaway sun”). And anyway, hardly anyone reads this so-called blog. I think of this place as me, standing in a near-empty 7-Eleven parking lot and hollering like a madwoman at people as they zip on by. A few folks pull in for a Big Gulp on a whim. To them I say, Thanks. And, do you have some change for bus fare?

Hells bells, Mary, what was the point of all of this? Hard to say. So, I’ll just end by saying, Happy summer, and happy writing. May all of our little brain cookers fire on all cylinders.