Goodbye Facebook

Botón_Me_gusta.svgThe causalities are piling up: Facebook exits by several friends, some just as the New Year began (resolutions?), others over the past several months.

One was driven away on his significant other’s insistence, another out of some unexplained need to take a break for the year. Yet another left, claiming she was being stalked and her departure was at the insistence of legal authorities for her own protection.

Another friend comes and goes all the time, claiming the need to purge from the negativity showing up in her stream.

I joined Facebook as a writing career move, prodded by an agent to establish my social platform. Naturally, many of my online friends are other writers, doing the same. Now I’m having doubts too, and I know that others have long had the same. What I have to say here is nothing new, but I’ll say it anyway.

I do what all my writer friends are doing – posting links to my blog, reading updates, publishing updates, – you know – marketing myself. This is the dark side of being creative. The very antithesis of it. But part of being artist is performing your work (i.e., getting published, presenting readings), and marketing yourself is an entree to both of those ends.

Yet the creative urge is fed by lots of time alone with the work. And not all the time you spend talking about your work.

The flipside is that I am on the receiving end of all of my writer friends’ marketing efforts, and along with my happiness for them when they succeed there always comes a stab in my belly that I’m not keeping up, that I should be doing more, that I’m not getting published enough, that I’m not winning enough awards, getting the important reviews, etc, etc, etc.

And that’s just the thing.

Affirmation (in the form of a Facebook like or number of views) creates the need for more – it’s a vicious cycle –there is not enough affirmation (Facebook liking) in the world, for anyone to ever feel validated. Loved.

You can’t get true affirmation from an impersonal system masquerading as a community that is really trying to pitch ads at you and make money for a Faceless corporation.

I wish I could be one of those people who just posts and moves on, invested with a power ego that doesn’t care if people like or hate what they say. To be honest, that was my goal when I naively joined up. That I could be the real person that I am, express my real opinions, and be better for it.

But I’m neither being real, honest, or feeling better for it.

Writer Sherry Turkle says, Facebook is the place “where you show your best self. It’s a place for good news, not the place where you talk about your most vulnerable self.”

And it’s true: Susan – the public persona as seen on Facebook is nowhere close to the real person that I am. The Facebook Susan is a curated façade, intended to help market me as a writer and, I admit, to share my other personal successes for your stamp of approval.


Again, this is not a new thought, just a realization of how artificial this community can be.


As much as I love to see my friends and family’s adorable baby and pet photos, as much as I do cherish new friends I’ve made only because of striking up a Facebook friendship, as much as I love to keep in touch with friends, old and new, I’m finding it harder and harder to give a thumbs up to the Facebook experience these days.

And I know I’m not alone. So there’s community in that, right?


How to Set the Inner Artist Free

IMG_0337For the past 11 days, I’ve been in San Francisco, staying in a neighborhood that has often inspired writers:  North Beach, the epicenter of the Beat Generation. This writing expedition is funded by the McKnight Artist Fellowship I won earlier this year.

So far, I’m nearly 170 pages and nearly 35,000 words into an entirely new novel based on a glimmer of an idea that came to mind before I left. Every word I’ve written in the novel has been written in the past 11 days, in a hotel room at the Hotel Boheme. It’s the story of a missing girl and a boy named Fish who is hiding from his past. There are bits of magical realism in the story, and that’s about all I will say about the book.

Just a few days before I left, a letter arrived from the McKnight Foundation which included this quote from President John F. Kennedy:

“…if art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him…”

JFK said this in a speech just before the National Endowment for the Arts was established. While McKnight is funded by an independent philanthropic organization, so my generous patron is not subject to the political push-and-pull of  NEA funding, I wondered what it really takes to set the artist free. Don’t get me wrong — the McKnight has changed my artistic life, and I’ve been using the affirmation (?) to push myself to a new level. Still, why do I hold myself back at times?

Today I visited the de Young galleries and took in the Richard Diebenkorn retrospective of his years at Berkley. I was inspired by the following list, which was found among the papers of the painter after his death in 1993. (Spelling and capitalization are as in the original.) I thought they are exactly how I’m trying to drive myself through this period of intensive writing. There were many other things Diebenkorn had to say about his process along the lines of the list.

There are areas in the new novel I’m writing where I’m feeling uncertain. I’m so glad that the McKnight Foundation is giving me faith in myself and my process. At the de Young, I felt I was with fellow artists, all trying to, in Diebenkorn’s words, “tolerate chaos” in the artistic process. In other words, don’t worry too much about making meaning out of everything, making sense. Just practice the art. Get it out there. The rest comes later.


Notes to myself on beginning a painting

1. attempt what is not certain. Certainty may or may not come later. It may then be a valuable delusion.

2. The pretty, initial position which falls short of completeness is not to be valued—except as a stimulus for further moves.

3. Do search. But in order to find other than what is searched for.

4. Use and respond to the initial fresh qualities but consider them absolutely expendable.

5. Dont “discover” a subject—of any kind.

6. Somehow don’t be bored—but if you must, use it in action. Use its destructive potential.

7. Mistakes can’t be erased but they move you from your present position.

8. Keep thinking about Polyanna.

9. Tolerate chaos.

10. Be careful only in a perverse way.