Some Updates on My Status Updates

The screen of a scanner.

“False Documents,” by E. L. Doctorow, on its way to PDF form: see below.

I am completely off social media now—unless you count writing a blog post update like this once every six months or so, which seems like a different creature altogether.

Goodbye, Facebook

For years, I would deactivate my Facebook account for long stretches of time (see: posts related to The Year of Living Autobiographically). But finally I listened to the advice of Virginia Heffernan, among others; the following I cut and pasted, perhaps ironically, from Twitter.

Call it sophistication, call it boredom with the interface, call it misanthropy, call it a productivity hack or a cognitive-security precaution or a weight-loss measure. Just find a reason and get off Facebook. You have nothing to lose but your chains.

I downloaded everything, then deleted my account.

A screen grab of deleting Facebook.

You’re about to permanently delete your account.

Goodbye, Instagram

I really enjoyed Instagram, and I think I would pay for a similar service—so long as it had nothing to do with Facebook, and had nothing to do with people influencing other people. I’d like to avoid places where the covert advertising of envy, despair, and rage occurs, where hostile foreign powers with highly sophisticated military intelligence operations seek to divide us, where corporations exploit beautiful young people to make us feel bad, convince us to seek out their products in fruitless attempts to salve our despair.

I just like sharing photographs. But I’m happy to have no photo sharing tool—especially no free, weaponized, democracy-eroding tool—for some time. I’m happy to wait until someone with more skills than I have reads Jaron Lanier’s Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now and then creates the solution to the problem Lanier is describing.

In the meantime, I downloaded everything, then deleted my account.

Goodbye, Twitter

I was barely on Twitter. I wrote and endlessly edited Twitter posts and essays that I never posted, which I know (and knew) is a waste of time.

I took two recent examples of this foolishness, and turned them into blog posts; I posted them retroactively, with the date and time stamps of when I stopped editing them (“How Are Things in Mandragora?” in December and “Empathy and the Obligations of Freedom” in November).

I asked a writer whose work I admire greatly, whom I’ve never met in person, and who is famously not at all on social media: “Do you happen to have any suggestions for how to stay away from such distractions, either mostly or completely?”

She replied: “As for Twitter, in my experience, addiction can’t be curbed; it can only be quit, usually after hitting bottom.”

She’s right.

Zadie Smith is right too: “I have seen on Twitter, I’ve seen it at a distance, people have a feeling at 9am quite strongly, and then by 11 have been shouted out of it and can have a completely opposite feeling four hours later. That part, I find really unfortunate […] I want to have my feeling, even if it’s wrong, even if it’s inappropriate, express it to myself in the privacy of my heart and my mind. I don’t want to be bullied out of it.”

So I quit.

I downloaded everything, then deleted my account.

Hello Again, Fakery

Separating the phone-number tabs on a bulletin-board flier.

Help with the fliers for my fakes class.

In other news, I’m teaching two creative writing classes this semester: one on monologues (both in fiction and drama), and one on false documents.

A photograph of two fliers on a bulletin board.

My class is not called “Affordable Mimeographing.”

The latter is based on Faking It, the seminar I taught at Columbia in 2012.

Spines of books on a bookshelf.

Some of the assigned reading for my classes, plus recent reading, plus Anne Lamott.

I’m using Fakes again as a textbook, edited by David Shields and Matthew Vollmer. And I recently read Vollmer’s Permanent Exhibit (BOA Editions, 2018), as well as Shields’s How Literature Saved My Life (Vintage, 2013). Both are excellent. (All pictured above.)

Hello Again, Fiction

Also, as long as I’m updating various statuses: way back in 2017, I said I might post updates here on how the novel I’m writing—trying to write—is going. I knew, and wrote, that I might fail to accomplish this. Which I have.

I’ve been calling it Xeno’s novel, meaning that as soon as I seem halfway done with the work I have left, the next half of what remains looms before me, and the finish line recedes away. Which is quite obviously not unique to me, or to this project.

The end result may be so small, so slight, that some readers might ask—if it ever has readers—This took you how long to write?

Manuscript pages.

Following Instructions: A Journal of My Second Son’s First Year.

If you’re reading this, and you’re wondering what the hell this is a picture of, Following Instructions exists within Intercalated Days. I’m almost done with the former. Then I can build it out into the latter.

I keep at it.