Two weeks ago, my first published essay, Pale Tradescantia, appeared at the Dark Mountain Project. This was a big deal for me, I spent many months working on the short piece. I was unleashing my work into the world, declaring, “I write, I have ideas, and I want to share them with you.” But it was also just another essay on the internet to be peddled on social media. The process of promotion felt cheap and wrong. How do I summarize the work of Dark Mountain (which has deeply influenced me), my essay and Hannah’s painting, into a series of “characters”? After deleting many @mentions, I curated my feed down to what felt right. But it still wasn’t right. The euphoria of “being published” was contained into a few awkward attempts at connecting people with my work. The only way anyone will connect with a piece of writing is if they actually connect with the writing, which can’t be done through a click.
Over the weekend, after a fever of inspiration struck, I turned off my Twitter account. In the late night, I pushed the “Deactivate” button, and suddenly I no longer “existed”. For the next day I settled into a vague feeling of loss and freedom. Clarity came to an essay I’m writing and I began researching and outlining it in a new way. I loaded up the kids into the car, went to the university library and started working. When I arrived back home I felt the creeping need to share, to promote, to connect. I love my followers, surely they want to know “what’s happening?” So I logged back into Twitter and reactivated my account. My first tweet after reactivating was a picture of the neat little stack of books I acquired from the library. A beautiful, personal thing on my little desk. I was fading in and out of my reading, wanting you there with me in a perfect moment.
I have observed many friends and writers on social media and I have lamented the disruption of their creative process. Our lives, when well lived, are rituals, prayers and celebrations. Even ordinary tasks are sacred. The mundane is not profane, it is where a life is built, and life is a finite gift. Moments shared through social media can be sweetly ephemeral, even the most hideous trolls are just crying for love and attention. Social media is a flawed, human thing. When it hijacks the process of creating a life, we know it, we feel it lingering on our backs as we hunch over our screens.
I don’t really want to go back there. The hours have turned to days, weeks, months, a year. I can do more than this. I want to sing Ranchera, learn how to work on tiny motors, dig in the dirt, divine circling birds. I want to share this with you, and maybe I will. But first, I have to live the moment.