Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Trapped in the dreaded technology loop, that first-world no-man's-land

Lately, I've been feeling a lot like Fred in this Portlandia sketch:

I've been checking my website email, my Twitter email, my personal email, my work email; I've been Tweeting and Facebooking like a good contemporary author as the book launch date (January 17th!) came and went; I've been guest-posting on blogs; commenting on blog giveaways and nice blog reviews (there are many things other than comment that I long to do when I read a bad blog review, but most of those things don't require technology :); responding to every reader comment on my Facebook author page; responding to heartfelt and moving Facebook messages I receive from readers and friends; corresponding with friends who send cute pictures of themselves with my book--

--adorable, right?--and texting friends back with my sympathies when they complain that they were UP ALL NIGHT finishing the dang book and how are they supposed to look presentable at their morning meeting??? (this has been an awfully fun vicarious problem to have, by the by!). So yeah, I'm stuck in a technology loop that I can't seem to get out of. Somebody get me a school photo from 1992, so I can remember the good old days when my consciousness wasn't fractured into a million little bytes. Better yet, how about this classic from 1980, when I knew only life's most natural rhythms: eat, sleep, excrete:

Being in a technology loop not only threatens my sanity, but also my creativity. With each new little ping and congratulatory beep that enters my world as various gadgets inform me which new piece of communication I need to respond to, I feel adult-onset ADD testing the terrain of my brain and my second novel, all 300 pages of it, retreating from me, every bit of momentum I had--and writing is nothing if not a momentum game--compromised by my multi-focal post-publication state of mind.

You see, I'm no multi-tasker. I need quiet hour upon quiet hour to escape into the imaginative realm which all writers must visit in order to create their fictional worlds. I need stillness, not loops. I need long peaceful mornings spent in solitude so that my mind might empty itself of chatter and regain the deep, contemplative calm from which the work is produced. And of course, that calm is little more than a distant memory or a fragile hope with the book launch machinery (very thankfully!) churning away. Classmate and author of the acclaimed novel The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore Ben Hale addresses that elusive calm and how much he missed it over at The Millions.

All of this brings to mind a hilarious and mildly disturbing set of episodes that unfolded at my sister's home over the Christmas holiday, where I stayed for a couple of weeks to meet my new nephew, Mini-Chimi, and wrangle his older brother, the Flying Chalupa. Friends with multiple children had warned of older siblings attempting to smother new baby brothers with pillows, trying to negotiate an infant-return policy with the hospital, and generally displaying insurrectionist and fratricidal/sororicidal tendencies, so I knew what I was getting in to. Still, I was surprised when, while taking a walk with sis and the boys, the Chalupa started saying to the local fowl in a sing-song voice: "Geese! Oh, geee-eeese! Come and take baby brother! Oh, geee-eeese! Come and take the baby!"

Sometimes, I feel like the pre-and-post-publication technology loop--that perfect shitstorm of Tweets/texts/emails/Facebooking/blogging--is First Novel's way of summoning the geese to conveniently remove Second Novel, which, like a cooing, soft-smelling newborn, presents all the enticements of a clean slate that a potty-training, tantrum-throwing, regressing toddler (First Novel--are you with me here?) cannot. My first novel is out there; it has a life of its own now, and the world will interact with it in ways I can't control or predict, whereas my second novel is still this beautifully nebulous thing that has captured my heart without even really trying, and demands almost all my energy. The technology loop is a lot like the Chalupa's pointy little finger jabbing at Mini-Chimi's soft spot--a mere annoyance if caught mid-jab and redirected, but a serious danger if allowed to proceed full-prod!

Thanks to Husband and my wonderful, sensible agent, I've come up with a plan to re-dedicate myself to the work of the new book and try to be less obsessive about the first book, lest it snuff out entirely my creative spark. I'm instituting, starting tomorrow, a morning media and email ban. Each day before breakfast, I'm going to turn on some Jordi Savall, light a candle, and do an hour of kitchen yoga so that I no longer feel like the protagonist of a Pixies song. Then, I'm going to take my quiet mind, sit at my trusty old desk, and write like there's no one else in the world--no agent, editor, publicist; no bloggers, no Twitter followers, no Facebook friends. My only companions will be my new characters, my old characters from The Ruins of Us entrusted to the care and occasional abuse of all the new reader-friends out there in the wider world beyond my imagination. As Oprah and Budweiser say, Here We Go.


  1. I've been feeling the exact same way over past months (minus a novel release and all that). The technology, blog, facebook, instant info/communication is making my brain the most unfocussed place I know.

    Understanding that you won't comment on this, I'm curious if you do all your writing at the computer. I'm actually considering getting that internet blocking software as everything seems to run through my Mac (i have to have my music). I need to write every day also and my productivity has been declining over past month or two. Thanks for this post. I enjoyed it and gleaned an idea or two. Plus, I know i'm not alone in the fear of computer-assisted ADD!

  2. well writ, girl.... joe papa

  3. Loved this post. I wish you lots of focus and serenity in the coming months, for the sake of you and your craft, and selfishly, for for the sake of all your readers who want to get their hands on another Parssinen novel!!

  4. I hope you've found the quiet you need to keep writing. You're a great writer!

  5. Thanks for your comments, all! Peace and order have returned to my life. I'm looking forward to some long spring mornings with nothing but birdsong to distract me. Let's see how disciplined I can be :)