Thursday, March 12, 2009

Twitter, Tumblr, Tags: You Are Still All Alone

In spite of the flurry of social media that surrounds me, I am still all alone in the space between my ears. In the moment of any creative act, there is nothing outside my own brain that can help me, no synergy, no immediacy of connection can save me. All the networking in the world is a noise and a dissipation when it comes to my book and the words that I have to put together, to get the book done.

I was standing in my kitchen when it hit me. It was one o'clock in the morning, and I had been writing my novel. Frustration drove me away from the keyboard and into the other room. I stood there with one hand on the phone, but at 1am, I couldn't call anyone here in Virginia. My family was asleep. Even west coast friends would need a reason to pick up the phone this late. There was no noise in the house. I was truly completely alone with my book and a couple of really tough scenes. If I were going to phrase the problem as a Tweet... if I were going to tell my writing group about it... if I were telling someone in an email... but it didn't matter how I could phrase it or present it or package the problem. I was only having it, not reporting it at all.

Of course, there were lots of people I could have "called" online. With a Twitter search, I could find people writing novels just like me and talking about it at that very moment. I could find blogs, message boards, email lists. I could shoot out a Facebook status update and within minutes have people tell me how it would get better, how they had been there, how I could fix it. But I realized, standing there in my physical form in the middle of the night -- tired, cold, close to a breakthrough -- that it wouldn't help.

I couldn't get what I needed from the vast amorphous "them" out there, the support, the network, the like minds. I stood there gripping the counter, facing the idea that I might just have to give up on writing this difficult book, doing this difficult thing. And I realized, it's not that I don't have the right support, the right help and connections. It's that support cannot help. Connections cannot write this miserable book. I have to write it. Word by word, wrenched straight out of my own brain, going straight down into my book -- not offered for critique on a message board, or discussed in Twitter, or announced in a blog.

This is me. Just this physical form and the electricity in my head, all online appendages amputated, all connections severed. This is you, alone, thinking. Making something up in your brain. Directing it onto the page. This is the only thing that ultimately matters.

Connections are addictive. I live online. My Twitter feeds my Facebook. My YouTube feeds my Tumblr. There's a camera in my laptop lid, a camera in my phone, and then there's my actual camera and my Flickr. On web sites and blogs, with hashtags and Digg, I find people who are watching the same show I'm watching, eating the same food I'm eating, shopping for the same kitchen appliance, etc. etc. In the interest of full disclosure, I am linking out to all my social media, but this isn't all. There are forums, games, elists, and more. If I have a question, or need to say something, I can push it out to hundreds of people who are the same as I am in some way: writers, readers, homeschoolers, people from the neighborhood here, people from my hometown. I can find people who think the same, look the same, live the same, and I can access them immediately. I have their ears.

Maybe you can push your message out to thousands who are just like you in some way. But are they just like you in that one crucial way? I cannot find anyone who is writing the same book. No one can talk to me about that. And if they did? Sound and dissipation.

It's me. It's 1 AM. There's a book not getting written. For this I have to be all alone. And when it comes down to getting alone, I can see that in this way, for this purpose, I have been alone all the while, with bees buzzing around my head, and a radio playing in the background, and a train passing by outside, and a fan blowing, rasping away. And yes, I get the irony: I am telling you this in a blog. I have found the way in which we are exactly alike. But for this purpose, in this one instance, let's not talk about it at all.


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