The Social Media Fast

This past week, I chose to spend 7 days off Twitter as part of a “reading deprivation” exercise.

Sounds a little silly and self-indulgent, does it not? Would avoiding social media and reading be difficult? CUE TINY VIOLINS OF PRIVILEGE

The reason: I’ve been parsing through Julie Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, which is ostensibly a 12-week course in spiritual creativity. I’ve essentially spent an average of three weeks per week in the course. Whatever my initial skepticism, Cameron’s approach has been incredibly helpful to my personal development (without really intending to, I have made 2014 my Year of Healing, between CBT and hard life changes, following fast upon 2013’s Year of Living Dangerously, quelle surprise). During week 4, Cameron suggests reading and media consumption fill one’s head with distracting noise serving as “tranquilizer” to the creative impulse and a “shield” against the outside world. “For most blocked creatives,” Cameron says, “reading is an addiction.” Cameron pushes her students to avoid the words of others for just one week.

I felt resistant to this idea, as you can imagine. I thrive on words for inspiration. Ideas of others inspire me, their triumphs and sorrows and artful expressions fill my creative well. But I tried anyway, and mostly stuck to it. Although I’m an avid reader, avoiding books was easier; the fact that Jeff VanderMeer’s Acceptance waits by my bedside is comforting. The rolling timeline of Twitter is a different story.

(TL;DR) What I learned from the Social Media Fast of 2014:

1. I sat in silence more. As a neo-Quaker, this part was disconcerting but appealing. I noticed how frequently I turned to my phone to fill space. This didn’t translate into more productivity or heaps of found time. I just noticed and sat with a sensation of emptiness, eating in silence or when waiting for appointments. I did more people-watching and felt more self-aware.

2. I dearly missed connection with people. I’m fortunate to be acquainted with creative folks all over the world, and since I’m not on Facebook, Twitter is the main way I keep up with what is important to those folks. Plus, they make me laugh. Missing their voices for an entire week felt lonely. I filled that need by writing letters to a few of my favorite people, and now I have a new creative way to connect and a list of people I plan to write to next.

3. I fell out of the loop on world events. I get most of my news from Twitter. I know this may sound ridiculous to some, but it’s completely true.

4. I realized how much I value Twitter as a tool of self-expression and creativity. I share, I give and receive support, I contextualize my life experiences. Even though I refrain from broadcasting the most private details, my online presence is, weirdly, a part of me. Tweets have replaced my more frequent blogging of the past as the journal of my life story.

I can’t say I recommend this strategy, but I’m glad I tried it.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to let me know your thoughts, here or on Twitter.


What I’m thinking now

The Thinker and Death, by Bel17b (Deviant Artist). Image used under Creative Commons.
The Thinker and Death by Bel17b (Deviant Artist). Image used under Creative Commons.

Drawing, which I’m not doing.

Writing, which I AM doing, no matter how gross or stolen (or sometimes perfect) those moments feel.

Heteropatriarchy and the damage it does every day.

Women Destroy Science -Fiction, which is practically the best thing ever.

My third, most recent Interzone sale, which I will say more about later.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Ursula K. Le Guin and the hermeneutics of love.

Clarion West, which is four years ago for me and right around the corner for others.

The desert, Trickster mythology and motorcycles.

Changing my name.

Creative Lunges, Or Why Writers Should Create More Than Words

Click me! with apologies to Sean Durkin (still from Martha Marcy May Marlene)

Today, I have been painting. I feel as though I should shout it.


And I’m not talking about house-painting. My skills may be mediocre but I’m thrilled to be creating, and in a medium other than words.

Ah, you’ve noticed that this is not a painting.  —->

As a writer, I crave creative outlet. I give myself permission to get lost in ecstatic moments: when the flow of words takes over, when characters seem to act on their own, when I slump back in my chair afterward and exclaim in amazement . This magic of creativity is addictive, and sometimes it’s scary, emotional and raw.

But lately, the craft aspect of writing feels like it’s come in between me and the joy of creative play. confession: I dislike revising (even though it’s an absolutely necessary step).

Henry Miller, that scamp, said the initial act of writing was like taking dictation from some voice outside of himself: “Someone takes over and you just copy out what is being said.”

But revision, the hard work that comes later, was also a delight to him.

“I don’t want to look at it for a month or two, the longer the better. Then I experience another pleasure. It’s just as great as the pleasure of writing. This is what I call ‘taking the ax to your work.’ I mean chopping it to pieces. You see it now from a wholly new vantage point. You have a new perspective on it. And you take a delight in killing even some of the most exciting passages, because they don’t fit, they don’t sound right to your critical ear. I truly enjoy this slaughter-house aspect of the game. You may not believe it, but it’s true.”

The act of revision, for me, has the opposite effect. It interrupts the play of words on the page. I feel blocked by the wrestling with words, and to be honest, I’ve been avoiding some of the vital work that must be done before my stories can go out into the world.

I want to play. Creative experience in other mediums seems like cross-training to me, to allow ourselves that flow and that PLAY. There’s probably some neurological reason for that intense feeling of satisfaction, but I’m not deeply analyzing it, I’m just pursuing it. I’m lunging for it.

Today I indulged that playful side with a fanciful palette spread before me like an artist’s buffet: watercolors, pencils, charcoal, scissors and glue (as well as a copy of the Los Angeles Times which resulted in the image above).

Drawing and painting (as well as drumming) feel similar to the free-flow of unfiltered words onto the page, and I’m consciously choosing to break from writing for a bit to open my creative channels back up.

Today, I’m doing this is through a collaborative art project inspired by 24-hour comic day, which is Saturday, October 1st. I want to create a comic in multiple mediums but without the time crunch. I know the compressed timeframe motivates participants (like the amazing team that is Galen Dara and Jaym Gates, who are live-tweeting their experience, and my talented partner, John Remy), and I respect and support that drive.

But I want the luxury of playing in the medium, experimenting. My first thought was, “Wait, I can’t draw.” But I’ve decided that for this project, at least, I will put those thoughts aside and follow the Zimbabwean maxim, “If you can talk, you can sing, if you can walk, you can dance.” If I can make marks, I can draw. Or something. And I can collaborate (with my dear friend Andrew Penn Romine) to deepen our friendship as we dive into this effort together.

(post includes quotes from David Stephen Calonne’s “Creative Writers and Revision,” chapter 9 of Horning and Becker’s Revision: History, Theory and Practice, the full text of which can be found here) 

What Else?

My family and friends must be getting tired of hearing about my writing life because someone recently asked, “So, what else are you doing? What have you been up to?”

What I’m up to is bouldering and buildering, veganing and watching roller derby (but not all at the same time).

About bouldering:

I discovered this with the help of a friend and freaked over it, a little. Who knew climbing around on walls could be so awesome? And it builds muscle like crazy. The crummy thing is, the nearest gym is an hour away.

So, just for fun sometimes I gotta builder. In other words, climbing around in places I probably shouldn’t like a monkey. Mind you, I’m a novice at both of these activities, but this one is particularly appealing to the juvenile delinquent (by which, of course, I mean “free spirit”) that lives in the corner of my heart. A good friend is an influence in this regard.

So here I am climbing around on stuff behind the post office. Postal people might not appreciate this activity in the same way I do, so I’m buildering after hours. My son thought it was a hoot and joined right in. Is this a negative thing?

This silliness is abetted by the fact that I just acquired a pair of Vibram Sprints, five-fingered toe shoes that garner weird looks everywhere they go because, frankly, they are odd-looking. But they give you all kinds of grip, and they’re comfy. I walked a couple of miles in them today, rode a bike and then set a bad example at the post office after dark. Good times.

Tomorrow: veganing and roller derby. Those need their own posts, methinks.

Less bad, more good

Well, I did it; I broke down and went to the doctor. Aside from the cost, I just dislike going for medical help. I’d rather take care of myself, be all holistic and stuff. That usually translates into weeks of illness, but luckily only once or twice a year. This year has been no different. After two weeks of coughing, part of which included being unable to speak for days, and feeling poorly, I gave in. Now I’ve got antibiotics and nasal spray and pills galore.

Consequence? Feeling less bad, but still not great. Not exactly how I wanted to spend my week off.
The ever-present, silver-lining analysis is that I got to finish Ian McDonald’s The Broken Land in record time because I’ve been lounging around reading, in addition to watching the extended versions of The Lord of the Rings DVD set and most episodes of Firefly. And eating ramen.
Today, I got up off the couch and cleaned my desk! Woo! Then I jumped on the computer and did my best to whip three other people into action on an academic manuscript we’ve been aggressively procrastinating with for almost a year. It occurred to me that my timetable for completing the job before summer is fairly short, and after summer, I don’t plan to care about academic garbage for a long while.
It has been a pretty good day.

(More) Whining, groaning, sniffling

Ugh. I am so sick. I knew I was sick on Tuesday morning, but instead of staying home like a good girl, I went on a field trip to Animal Kingdom with Mr. B’s homeschoolers’ group. I thought I would faint half the time we were there, but the kids had a great time, and I just collapsed after I got back home. I couldn’t/wouldn’t move this morning (and didn’t even get out of bed until noon); I had to cancel my classes, again. Luckily, I could email and call and take care of the details without getting out of bed. Thank Gods for smart phones. Poor Mr. B had to get his own cereal and entertain himself (which isn’t hard for him, fortunately).

In better news, I got the first issue of my Locus subscription today, good stuff. Dense. I flipped through and set it down for further reading when my brain comes back online.
I’ve been working on my Clarion West reading list. I finished Maureen McHugh’s China Mountain Zhang a few days ago, and I truly enjoyed it. I may write a little review sooner or later (like I said, when brain function returns). I started Ian McDonald’s The Broken Land a bit ago, but at some point I sat in front of the laptop and started watching The Guild and couldn’t stop.
Bleh. Hope I feel better tomorrow. Today feels wasted.

The View From Here (in which some whining is heard)

It’s been raining for two days straight, and I feel like I’m going to sink down into depression if it doesn’t stop. The weather has that effect on me. It’s a good thing I don’t live in the Northwest or in England, or some other place where it rains or looks overcast all the time. This drives the Florida girl crazy.

At least the cabbage plants (on the far right) enjoy the rain. They have been growing steadily and forming nice, firm heads without any effort from me whatsoever. The mustard (in the foreground) have finally bolted so maybe next week I can collect seeds.

Mr. B has an earache, and now he’s watching Race to Witch Mountain over and over. Ugh. There’s only so much I can take of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, explosions, and so on.

I’m also pacing and then leaping to the phone every time it rings, in hopes that it’s Clarion calling. Sigh. I said I wouldn’t freak out this year, but as time passes, I’ve become more agitated.

Tickle, tickle

Five whole weeks without a post! No excuse really. I wasn’t too busy or any of that. I just didn’t feel like it. The break between semesters was very relaxing, and I’ve been reading a lot, which feels something like getting to eat your fill when you’re hungry (I would think). I finally felt a tiny tickle in the back of my mind this morning that said, “psst! Yer blog is fallow, you know.”

The new term is off and running, and I’ve found some kind of groove that is making the classes easy and satisfying. My students are raptly attentive, and I’m feeling a little perplexed and extremely grateful. In spite of that, I’ve given notice concerning my desire to take the next two terms off; I want to focus on writing, Mr. B, and community service. Writing, of course, is the one that’s getting the least attention.
The only big news is that my sister had her baby; I can’t wait until spring break so I can go up to NY to see them.
I’ve stopped watching news about Haiti because it makes me cry; I’ve lost myself in Children of God by Mary Doria Russell, which puts a sci-fi spin on the old “why-God-makes-bad-things-happen” theme.