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.

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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?

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Then Chocolate Pudding Landed On My ‘a’

Roberto's Smith Corona Clipper Portable Manual Typewriter - keyboard

There I was, typing out a story on a manual typewriter in response to the prompt “I started to sell my positive pregnancy tests” when someone tied a bib around my neck and began to feed me chocolate pudding, at first by spoon, and later via a pudding-covered finger.

Did I mention that the typewriter sat in the middle of a railroad track, and my fellow “Write Fight” competitor sat across from me typing away (and being fed pudding) as well?

Revolver had promised to distract us from our task – a single elimination writing tournament on the banks of the Mississippi. Write Fight was one of many artistic events in this year’s Northern Spark, an all night arts festival modeled after the French Nuit Blanche (literally ‘white night”). This year the festival took place almost entirely within the newly renovated St. Paul Union Depot complex.

The distractions for the rounds prior to ours seemed like nothing – whirling dancers accompanied by didgeridoo; middle-aged women leading sing-alongs of “Happy Birthday” and other familiar songs; audience members whispering suggestions into the writers’ ears. As the mother of three children, the wife of a drummer, and a career marketing writing gal, I’d managed to write several novels undeterred by the chaos of everyday life.

Things change when someone shoves a fingerful of pudding in your mouth. It was not so much the pudding, but the fact that the pudding pusher’s hand covered my view of my typewriter. Somehow I managed to keep up with my story of a hapless self-employed woman who sells pregnancy tests at home parties (demonstrating how they can be turned into Christmas ornaments and jewelry). My writing went down hill when my pudding pusher dripped a glob of chocolate pudding on my ‘a’ key.

Such a common letter as ‘a’ is very useful in writing, but when one’s dominant pinkie is hitting the other side of the keyboard, writing becomes tricky. At first the ‘a’ key was slippery. Then when enough pudding dripped down into the typewriter case, my left pinkie began to stick to the ‘a’ key. Enough pudding also splashed its way over to the ‘s’ key, and soon enough, the ‘s’ key became unusable as well.

I managed to conclude my story. My protagonist gave up trying to sell her positive pregnancy tests and instead rediscovered her childhood talent for juggling. She was able to juggle 10 tests at once, and began to light them on fire, eventually auditioning for and winning “America’s Got Talent.”

FINALLY time was called, and my competitor, a heavily bearded man who appeared to have survived the pudding feedings without a single drop of chocolate on his beard, read his story first. I went second and heard many laughs and loud applause, even though I had to practically make up half my story because my paper had been stained with pudding drips and, of course, was missing so many a’s and s’s.

The contest was decided by audience response, and after an initial survey, we were tied. For a moment I still wanted to win. Then I remembered I really wanted an exit. I had brought along three teenagers, one of who had to work the next morning at 8 a.m. If I won my round, I might be competing until well after 1 a.m. Thankfully, my opponent was judged to be the winner after a second round of applause.

I heard about the distractions planned for the semi-final and final rounds – but it seemed nothing compared to what we had just gone through. It occurred to me later what I go through to promote my writing sometimes feels a lot like forced pudding feedings on a railroad track: awkward, public humiliations one willingly accepts to further the writing career.

Well. In the end it makes a funny story and I got a blog post out of the deal. And now that I’ve washed all the pudding out of my clothes, I know I can survive anything.

Book Marketing Hazards Ahead?

Am I messing with my ‘brand’ as a mystery novelist by updating my ‘Books‘ page as I have done? Will my audience be as confused as Mitt Romney’s campaign officials?

Put those Etch-a-Sketches down and listen for a moment to my rationale. I love all of my projects and am excited to talk about them. I like to experiment in a number of writing forms (poetry and prose) and in a number of novel genres (mystery and literary fiction). The more writing I do, the more I want to experiment, push myself, learn more. And overall, I hope to do better with each subsequent work.

So read all about my recent, forthcoming and in-progress novels on my updated books page. Plus, I’m showing off my Zorro lunchbox (featured in my novel-in-progress Albert Park), and I have posted my first blurb for Broken Down (forthcoming this September from North Star Press). Woot!

I am happy to clear up any marketing confusion that exists. Just click on my contact page and send me an email.

Last Chance for a First Edition; First Chance for a Second

This weekend, it’s showtime at the St. Stephen’s Holiday Boutique. I should have some brand spankin’ new second editions of Washed Up, a handful of first editions, and some Let Them Eat Crepes books. What a great holiday gift-a-ganza! Come one, come all, to West St. Paul.

November 19, 9:00 am – 2:00 pm

WEST ST. PAUL, MN

St. Stephen’s Holiday Boutique
1575 Charlton Street
West St. Paul, MN 55118

 Location Information