Saturday, February 19, 2011

I can’t write on a machine that doesn’t have internet.

My best friends are ones I would/could never touch. That is comforting.

Why is that comforting?

Really interesting, good things are happening.

Blake Butler wrote a post earlier this week that I found very moving. It felt like something I knew well but hadn't put into words or hadn't thought about analytically.

The essay is titled An Unnecessary Consideration of How 10+ Years of Daily Writing Has Changed My Wiring, Which I wish I'd considered Before I started Even If I Wouldn't Have Understood.


The essay is about what it means to interact with your computer, about what intensive interactions do to you. Blake talks about a kind of pain he feels when when having conversations with real humans, like a kind of immediate need to end conversations almost off the bat. I feel like this all the time. I often sit down in a staffroom with other professionals and look around and wonder what it is I'm missing. I feel like I can't really meld with whatever it is they are caught up in. I usually end up sitting on my Iphone reading HTML GIANT or looking for things to jolt me on Facebook.

What the essay made me think about was just what kind of job it was to be a 'writer'. I don't know. I feel like I shouldn't even be writing this. Blake put it better than I can. Part of writing seems to be this game of communicating with other writers and feeling out the scene. There are times during the year when writers coalesce and meet one another face-to-face, but most of the time it seems that the realm of online/indie/lit/writing/fiction operates around hubs like HTML GIANT, Facebook, Twitter and every writer's personal blog.

I think about how fulfilled I am by whatever it is this online arena is offering but at the same time I worry because in truth, I find the online writing community intensely more fulfilling than any actual social community I have outside of the internet. Maybe this is why I drink so much in my real life. Maybe this is why I am always writing things like 'I have a problem' and thinking things like 'I don't want to exist'.

Every day if I don’t get to sit with the machine at least three good hours, and preferably closer to six or as many as ten, I feel like I have not lived.
Last week I did an interview with Frances Dinger and she asked me how long I spend on the computer a day. I said 3 hours. I re-read that interview and thought more about what I said. Why did I say that? That's not true.

Here is the reality of things: I get up and I turn on my Iphone and I check all of my emails on all of my email accounts. I look for red things on Facebook. I look at what's trending on twitter. I'm still in bed. I get up and I go to the bathroom and usually respond to a few emails. I finish up in the bathroom. I bring my laptop to the kitchen and make breakfast. I check my website and then the 10 main websites that I always check every morning. I eat blueberries with chopsticks so as to not get my keyboard keys purpled- like before. I am always late leaving for work because I stay on the internet to long reading and liking things. At work I check my email constantly throughout the day. I'm afraid of 'getting to know' coworkers. I have 20 Scrabble games going on at once. I get home and I run back to the laptop and start over. I drink so much coffee. If it is a Friday I will interact with my roommates while on the computer. They do the same things. They too are pulled into their own respective online worlds.

One of my roommates is a musician. I can't tell you how often I see her sucked into that online world. We sometimes just sit for hours smoking and drinking coffee listening to dueling songs off of our laptops, listening to our own fingers clicking, having disjointed comment-conversations with one another, smiling in the glow of our own screens, never looking at one another's eyes. This is my life. I feel like Blake summed it up. I'm re-wired.

Anyways. This entire post is pointless. I'm writing it because it feels authentic to write something and post it on the internet. I'll hide this sentiment from everyone that I know. 2-3 people that I know online will probably read this. That sounds rude, but I feel good about it. I feel like I will read something of theirs if they say they liked this. We will become closer through our respective idiosyncrasies.

Is it like junkies hanging out? Is this art? What does it mean that so many writer's are able to e-hang out with one another now? Will Sam Pink ever email me out of the blue? Will Tao Lin ever email me out of the blue? Will I send this to Blake, or tag his name in it over Facebook or will he come and seek it out on his own? Will he read it? Will he think this is stupid? Did I write this just for him to see? Did I write this to feel better? What are my immediate motivations? Do I hate myself more for writing this? Do I believe anything that I actually do?


  1. i like you, frank. you inspire me

    i enjoyed blake's essay too. i have enjoyed a lot of his personal reflection-type posts

    when i read in frances' interview that you were online 3 hours a day, i was like "wow, frank has a lot more [something, self-restraint(?)] than me"

  2. the routine you describe is quite similar to mine

  3. I was afraid to read blake's essay when I saw it pop up on html giant, with the picture of like a toy worm. i really enjoyed really his take, and your take on his take.

    I lie about how long I'm on the internet too but i feel like everyone knows eventually. I like thinking of new things, like publications and projects on the internet, as like graffiti marks, like FRANK WAS HERE. Read this story. Watch this video. Frank was here.

    I like this post, Frank.

  4. i will come back to this. great post, frank. i think some of it got nothing to do with online worlds but with the existence of a writer here or 200 years ago. i experience it myself. you put it very well and i don't know if i will read the butler post. in any case, good on you, your honesty is inspiring. and if it isn't honesty then it is something else. conduct? collegiality? karma? have a great sunday. i just moved from radiohead (thank you!) to mozart to be able to do some writing. mozart (played by gould) will bring you back to the real world quickly. a baby will, too. sex. sensuality in any form. etc etc

  5. I do this shit too. I live in two COMPLETELY different worlds and I feel very frustrated and insane because of it. It's so hard. It feels very sad a lot of the time...growing 'close' to people I will never meet. People say online 'relarionships' are not real but after meeting people at AWP I beg to differ. They are VERY real, just in a different way. However it's dangerous bcuz now i think I feel lonelier than I did b4, knowing I prolly won't see these people again for at least another year. It's hard being more invested in your online world than your offline world. I feel it's bad and sad and wrong but I don't do anything to change it.

  6. I too found Blake's post really interesting and I related to a lot of it. I think a lot of people can relate to what you write here, Frank. I have an online life and a day to day life and there's not a lot of crossover because I live in BFE. I see people in my day to day life but since moving, I literally only talk to people at work or this guy I sometimes hang out with and even then, I don't really talk to him that much. I teach and have idle conversations with my colleagues and then I come home and the people I care to talk to are in my computer. It's weird and awkward that my family, the people in my life, don't really know much about me nor do I encourage them to. Anyway. There's a way to balance our real lives and our real lives. One of us will figure it out.

  7. my daily routine sounds so similar to yours. I hate when people are around me long enough to really seen my daily routine because I am worried they will think I am psychotic or unhealthy. maybe I am? not sure, doesn't really seem like to me. it does make me start to realize how fragmented of a person I've become. my 'real life' friends, my writer friends, my friends I want to impress, my friends who I feel comfortable around, etc. etc. etc. there seems like so many places to go and be present and exist and reach for other people and hope they exist in a similar way. some of my friends think it's weird that i talk to people online that i've never 'met' and i wonder how weird it really is. i think i feel connections with these people. sometimes i think things like, 'these people are just words, i like words that i see on my computer screen.' but then the more i think about it the more sense it makes--liking people because of their ability to pick the right words, especially in the context of knowing other writers. but i agree that this seems dangerous because there are times when i feel extremely lonely as well. i don't know, i feel like i would probably find ways to isolate myself from social situations even if i wasn't using the internet--so maybe the internet improves my 'social life'?

    i liked this post and blakes post, it is comforting in a strange way.