Jeff, cool it with the social networking drama already
A letter to the people I just unfollowed on Twitter which I am posting here in case I don’t have your email address and also because it might be a bit helpful to other people who like the Internet but get overwhelmed.
Dear wonderful and lovely friends and acquaintances,
I like you lots. I want to establish this from the very beginning of this letter. I think you are brilliant, and I really like spending time with you.
I mean that.
Over the past few months I’ve been thinking about social media and the way my brain works. And I’ve been experimenting with various ways of doing social media — i.e. Facebook, Limited Facebook, Facebook, No Facebook. I have found that No Facebook works very well for me. Of course, you know this because I have done it with plenty of noise and drama. My sister tells me this is how I do things.
My Facebook-free lifestyle has been great, but recently I’ve noticed the return of the tension and crankiness in my brain. I asked myself why. The immediate answer is that I am a tense, cranky git. This is a good but not entirely satisfactory answer. I decided to dig deeper, hoping I wouldn’t find tense and cranky all way down.
I possibly did just a little bit.
I also found something else: I am never ever turning all the way off.
I love being with people, but I also need quite a lot of time alone. I’m the the kind of person who is emotionally recharged by aloneness. Good downtime for me includes no one or just Christine. One of the things I like to do during downtime is Twitter. Twitter for me is jokes and oddities from strangers that I very occasionally chat with. Only it’s not anymore. I have a constant stream of life of several good friends flowing across my screen It’s not working for me because I’m trying to recharge on one hand and do relationships on the other. I am a man. I can only do one thing at a time.
I want to be very clear. I don’t have a problem with the way you tweet. I think you should tweet as often as you want about whatever you want. The problem is with me and my ability to process life. It is a very limited ability, and, as I wrote before, I am a lone recharger.
Yep. This is kind of a breakup letter. But not really.
When I am with you, I want to be really with you, engaged, paying attention, in the moment. When I’m not with you, I want to be not with you.
For crying out loud! Just say it, Jeff!
I’m unfollowing you on Twitter. I’m unfollowing pretty much everyone that I hang out with in real life.
This has nothing to do with how much I like you. I like you lots. I want you in my life. I like your emails and your calls. I am there for you if you have some kind of kerning emergency (or most any other emergency that I could help with) at two AM. I will even welcome your @s on Twitter.
The deal is that I want to be a better person and a better, more intentional friend. Because of the way my puny little brain stresses out so easily, I need to do this anti-intuitive thing to make betterpersonness happen. It might be forever. It might be for a few weeks. I don’t know.
Thanks so much for putting up with me and understanding, or at least smiling and nodding. The fact that so many of you put up with my weird ways means a lot to me.
On Saturday night I posted all about how drawing pictures for a book was hard and involved time and work and oh poor me. ivegotzooms gave this very kind reply:
Is there a way to set it aside or just skip it entirely until it becomes meaningful to you again? I would rather have something you were passionate about than something you were coughing out just to get to the next thing. I’d give you a hug, no gun.
which helped me to use my brain to understand what I was actually trying to say. Thank you, ivegotzooms! What I was actually trying to say is that I do two kinds of work. One kind is creative (e.g. What’s wacky? A bunny contract killer is way wacky! Both the cute crowd and the violent crowd will love it. Quick, Jeff, scribble some stuff on your phone!) The other kind is spending a few hours with the bunny scribble putting all the pixels in the right place and colouring them just so.
Both are good kinds of work. But they are different. When I mean to do one and slip into doing the other or try to do both at the same time — that’s what I was doing — I get cranky and notice that kind people are trying to give me hugs.
Right now, and until it’s all drawn, this balloon story needs to be the creative kind of work. Then, if the 1% of you who care (I say this because that’s the way it is for anyone who creates stuff. I am deeply grateful to you who are the 1%.) take interest I will switch to the other mode and redraw and perfect pixels and make the colours prettier.
A month ago I posted my Enthusiasm And Purpose To Do List For 2011 about how I was going to finish my second book by the end of March. Since then I’ve finished exactly one of 48ish pages. I finished that one page twice, because, I bet you noticed, the background of the illustration needed improvement, and I did the text the wrong size. I finished redoing the text this afternoon and started on page two. When I looked at what I drew I noticed that the little boy in my second picture looked nothing like the little boy in my first picture. And I thought of a hi-larious tweet about how sometimes when you draw something it’s so awful that you want to kill yourself.
Obviously not seriously because I said ‘hi-larious’ potential tweet. But seriously, what was making me so annoyed about one sketch gone wrong?
The first bit of Aha: At this rate, this stupid book is going to take me four stupid years to complete. If I really speed up it’s still going to take most of 2011. And why am I calling it stupid all of a sudden? Because, dear Jeffrey, it is, kind of. It’s a nifty little parable I wrote back in November, but it’s not Pulitzer material. It’s not going to change the world. It’s not even a remotely new idea. If I’ve got to take a whole year to tell it to you, then I will actually start tweeting the suicide jokes.
I just want to tell you this story and move on to the next one. It stops being fun when I have to worry about the pixels that went wrong.
The second bit of Aha: My brain thinks of a lot of stuff. Here are the things I made this week (Skip this list. It’s me trying to tell you I’m awesome, which is, frankly, tiresome.):
A T-shirt design
Graphics for my church’s Sunday service (web, screen and print)
A sketch in collaboration with my boss
Half of two sermons
A bible study for my 11-13 year-olds group
A new game for them to play
This is a fairly average week. Except for the stuff that is unfinished I do not want to revisit, perfect, remix or even look at any of it again. I’m bored of writing about it.
The point is, I’m more of a crappy daily single panel comic artist than a crappy book illustrator. For my own sanity I have to figure out a way to tell you this story pretty quickly. Then 99% of you can go, ‘Meh,’ and I can move on to the next thing.
So do I want to redraw that kid’s face so that it looks just like the first kid’s face? I remind you of the unwritten suicide tweet.
The end: My NEW Enthusiasm And Purpose To Do List For 2011 is Tell The Dang Story, Jeff! In a month if I haven’t done something like that, can one of you Americans please bring your gun over and shoot me in the kneecap?*
*I’m totally safe. This is Britain. They won’t let you bring your gun over.