So I’m (awkwardly) trying out Twitter. Of course I Facebook. And e-mail. But I don’t text much. I’ve owned two phones in the last seven years. I’ve been looking into Blackberries, Androids, or whatever and it all gives me a headache. Truly.
I’ve been engrossed in finishing a sci-fi short story set in Haiti. And I must be able to twist and bend my imagination to examine ideas, dismantle stereotypes, weave metaphors, and be somewhat scientifically plausible in order to create a good sellable story. Along with querying agents for a YA novel and working with teens as a teaching artist. In this case, all else must shut down.
Squeeze in mothering, self-care, marriage, friendships, and navigating the oh-so distracting Brooklyn with all its “things to do”, and I become a multi-tasking supermom maven. But I’m beginning…to…feel…like…a robot. And as a home and comfort loving Cancer, I retreat into my shell when the world seems helter skelter to simply breathe, reorganize those quantum molecular cells, and take time to be still and in the present.
I’ve been writing the future and imagining how this speeding race towards technological progress will affect us at the human level, how who we are at our very core will shift because of all the options afforded to us. But towards what end? I first learned about the singularity when I attended Clarion West. That point in the future where technology will either meet or surpass human evolution. Of course, this is not such a new concept in sci-fi. But with each passing Apple upgrade, this idea of the singularity becomes increasingly real.
I gave myself permission to retreat–close shop for a bit, vacate the virtual world in order to simply observe. Not on some anthropological more-civilized-than-thou stance, but to sit back and pay attention to what’s been going on around me—sans the note taking. My children think I have eyes behind my head, and I will let them think that…forever. My husband thinks I’m psychic, and I will let him think that…forever. I attribute these qualities, real or imagined, to being a storyteller. I pay very close attention to details, that is all. When I was younger some would say I was an outright liar—but this is based on worldview, of course. I was an honest child, really. I just preferred embellishments. My closest friends knew how to sift through the extra details. I once won a Tall Tale contest. See, it’s a skill. But I digress.
Now, the stories I weave must come from the real and tangible world. And in order to do this, I have to take a close look at the comings and goings, laughter and cries, the unspoken language of the city I live in, and the many colors that fill its landscape. Gentrification in my neighborhood, educational disparity, the misrepresentation of my looks, lifestyle, and culture in the media all come into play in what I write. Of course, all writers do this.
But the past few weeks, I’ve been questioning whether or not I should put all these little observations into a tweet or status update. Most times, they’re not opinions. They’re simply my watching a situation play out, or eavesdropping on a cell phone conversation to pick up on tone, body language, larger social issues that make its way into the very surface day to day stuff. No judgments or opinions on my part. I think.
And I don’t want to have to think about that. I prefer metaphors in my opinions because truth, anyone’s truth, is a slippery slope of experience, perception, culture, etc. And I want to value all those instances. I believe all truths can be found in metaphors.
So I take a moment to shut down this echoing chamber of opinions called the internet, and create metaphors instead. Cocoon.
And interestingly enough, while I’ve been on this subject, author Colson Whitehead wrote this witty piece for Publisher’s Weekly.
And here’s a quote I came across on Tweeting, Blogging, Facebooking as a writer in an essay by author Dani Shapiro: “How under these conditions, can a writer take risks required to create something original and resonate and true?”
In my humble opinion, it’s all a risk and each word sent out into the world whether it’s a tweet, status update, or blog entry, can still be original, resonate, and true. Writers just have to steal moments of quiet observation and focused meditation to make it so.
In any case, thanks to discipline and the immigrant work ethic, I managed to complete two shorts stories that I’m currently shopping around—one fantasy, one sci-fi. Each one based on Haitian folklore and myth. Here’s a FB status I once wrote in response to the arduous process of selling genre fiction: “Basketful of woven tales balancing atop my head. Trying to sell my wares at the market but the story stores are all closed now. No country for old griots.”
Yes, I still feel this way. More on the business of selling stories later—when I learn a thing or two. I’m still a novice. So I have to shut up sometimes and pay attention.
Photo credit: Puuikibeach on flickr