I’ve left Facebook. My phone’s ringtone no longer functions, for some reason (and I don’t want to fix it or buy a new one, yet). I have no idea what my office’s extension number is (and want to keep it that way). I’ve always been open, have always craved hearing other people’s voices, and used to love spending hours on the phone with friends who even lived in the same town as I did. Now, many of my friends are 180 miles away (with the majority of them at least 1100 miles east) and yet, I’m having a hard time staying in touch. Where did this reclusive impulse come from?
In the years I was writing A Map of Home, I had dial-up. Even when I wasn’t online, I never unplugged the phone-line from my PC. No one could ever reach me, and they complained. There was no Facebook back then, but there was Friendster, and I stayed away from joining until I finished a substantial revision of the book.
As I revise my new novel and teach, it’s slowly beginning to make sense: I am in hiding. Those precious few hours I’m not correcting someone else’s manuscript, I am confronted with the following choices:
1. Revise my book?
2. Comment on a friend’s Facebook note?
3. Pick up or return calls?
It’s so lonely, but I’ve chosen to go with 1. Writing a second book has been grueling, but in a very tricky way. It doesn’t feel as painful or difficult as the first book, in a way, but it is. I’ve just tricked myself into thinking it’s been easier. But all the same instincts are there: I reflect, I work, and I hide. It’s the only way I know to finish a book.