“Being Alone Together” and Eleanor’s Return to Blogging

So I took a break from blogging.

And then I took another one.

And another one.

And now I want to write about that and a whole lot of other things, mainly how blogging everyday impacts my life and how it felt abandoning it for a while.

So here it goes:

I recently read an article in The New York Times called The Flight From Conversation. It was all about how people today, especially young people, have trouble being alone or having face-to-face social interactions. The journalist, Sherry Turkle, characterized it as needing to be “alone together” and wanting to have complete control over where and when we have our social interactions.

And I identified with this up to a point. While I am a huge fan of and am entirely comfortable with having a proper conversation in real life and also spend a lot of time in true solitude without the distraction of mobile devices, I do enjoy being “alone together.” I love it, in fact. And being “alone together” is exactly what blogging has been to me.

Here, I get to choose the time and place of the interaction, say what I want to without being interrupted, and then wait to see if anyone responds. I don’t have to get out of bed  or make myself presentable to do it. I could be typing this in a bathing suit while wearing my National Zoo chimpanzee mask, and you wouldn’t even know. (For the record, I am not, and you’ll see the proof in a little while.)

And you, dear reader, get to do the same. You get to choose if, when, and in what emotional and physical state you read my words. Then, if you do decide to turn it into a conversation by commenting, both of us can refuse or choose to respond further. It’s easy when we can both hide behind so many levels of defenses, and the scared, shy, misunderstood part of me loves that protection.

Of course, the real reason why I blog is because I love the written word. I like the feeling of writing, putting down words on the screen or page that fit the rhythm of my thoughts. It’s incredibly calming, and when I don’t feel like everything I produce is worthy of litter box liner, it makes me happy. Writing is love and safety and something that belongs entirely to me. I adore the feeling of mine.

When I took my blogging vacation, I did it out of sheer exhaustion. I was/am depressed and the energy of keeping up with writing good daily posts was becoming more than I could handle. I was plain-old burned out. The me a few days ago’s mind boggles at the fact that I was blogging daily while going through last year’s endless medication drama. Apparently, I was better at blogging while heavily drugged. Go figure. Those floating sensations and frequent sedation must really get the creative juices flowing.

I have to admit that I was feeling really fed up with my writing in general. Nothing was coming out the way I wanted it to, and I felt like I was pursuing an utterly pointless dream. And in the way that self-destructive thoughts go, all of those negative writing thoughts snowballed to the point where I didn’t even want to think about replying to emails. Instead, I read about ten books in seven days, took way too many naps, and tried to avoid leaving the house.

And here’s what I found while I was on that writing break: I was entirely alone. I had all of these ideas, narratives, opinions, jokes floating around in my head, and they just became entirely ephemeral. Because I wasn’t keeping a record, I forgot them quickly, and without the record keeping of the blog, the days tended to blend together into a never-ending march of dull-grey solitude. No one else knew about the significant things I thought or did because I didn’t share them. Life was silent.

At times, I loved that silence and the solitude. It was numbing, emptying, indulgent. I got to be totally in love with my depression. I suck. I am a failure. I am so utterly, hopelessly misunderstood. I could repeat these thoughts on loop without anyone telling me to snap out of it or noticing how ridiculous it looked when I put down on paper. I got to be worthless, and in a way that was just wonderful. Depression loves permission to control, and I handed over the keys, climbed into the passenger seat, and said, “drive.”

I was guilty for abandoning the blog. So terribly guilty. And the guilt just got worse the longer I refused to write. My imperfections were glaring, and I couldn’t even bring myself to open my account to respond to comments. I spent one day lying in bed with all of the lights off.

But now I’m back.

Hello again.

Let’s get reacquainted.

Did you get a haircut? Is that a new shirt?

Whatever it is, you look especially nice today.

I’m ready to get back into the rhythm of paying close attention to the world and always being mindful that I need to collect something worthy of sharing with the internet every night. I want to resume keeping a public record of my life. And I want to be alone together again.

And remember that time when I said that I would prove to you that I wasn’t typing this  in a bathing suit while wearing my National Zoo chimpanzee mask? Well, here’s a picture of me taken a few minutes ago, though my laptop is out of the shot.

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And yes, sometimes I hang out in the bathtub while not taking a bath. I just really like the way my bathroom looks and the way it feels to be in a very small room with the door closed.

Also, I do know that I have a lot of different shampoos, etc. for one person. I kind of end up collecting them. There are four sets in there right now.

Why Hello There!

While I must admit that the concept of taking a complete break is rather foreign to me, I decided that I really needed to take one from this blog. Keeping a daily blog can often be stressful and exhausting. Even on days when I’ve been teaching for more than 10 hours and want nothing more then to curl up with a book and go to sleep, I still force myself to write a post.

I value writing this blog more than sleep, and I’ve lost one or two hours that I could/should have spent sleeping more nights than not. And when I’m not writing here, I’m still thinking about what I’m going to post, how I’m going to find the time, or worrying about the quality of my writing.

But there comes a point where fourteen months and over 400 posts becomes a little too much and I need to step back and focus on things like vacuuming the embarrassing amount of cat fur under the couch and spending time with my family. So I didn’t so much as look at this blog for the past six days. It’s felt weird, and I’ve found myself thinking about it more than ever. Buying was able to spend my free time trying and failing to beat my dad at a version of Trivial Pursuit: Genus Edition from 1979 and watching Downton Abbey (thanks for the amazing recommendation Saturday Evening Porch! I’m totally hooked and can’t wait for series three!) with with my mom. I also managed to get incredibly hooked on tumblr, which a newly formed habit I need to break.

But I’m back and ready to get back into action. And because the story-telling posts are the ones I enjoy writing the most, tomorrow there will be a piece about the time I went to the John and Hank Green Tour de Nerdfighting event in the city.

In other news, guess who graded 112 book reports today!

This girl!

I also hang out at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, where I can be found reblogging pretty images, funny .gifs, and the occasional liberal article.

In Which Ella Fulfills Her 2011 Goals and Sets Ones for 2012

Last year, I made three New Years resolutions. One, start a blog and post everyday, two, become a more serious writer, and three, read over 50 books. I achieved all of them.

I dragged myself over to a computer every night without fail to write about my day. Sometimes, it was just a sentence or a picture, and sometimes it was well over a thousand words, but there was a post everyday. I have a record of what happened to me every single day that I can look back and shake my head (Honestly, March-2011-version-of-Ella, you were seriously melodramatic.) or nod approvingly at (Nice job graduating from high school, June-23rd-Ella).

I wrote well approximately 70,000 words in November as part of National Novel Writing Month (and later deleted over 50,000 of them), proving to myself that I can write fiction even when the quality is embarrassingly sucky. I wrote numerous short-stories and letters. I had many, many, many affairs with 4 a.m. because I was on a roll and didn’t want to stop. I attended several book signings–the Maureen Johnson The Name of the Star book launch and a Daughter of Smoke and Bone event. I met Libba Bray and Laini Taylor, had long conversations with both of them, and am now followed by them on Twitter. I became a member of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and am going to their NYC Winter Conference at the end of February. I finally learned how to spell “series” and “business” at the old age of 18.

I read well over 96 pleasure books this year and ran out of shelf space again. Books are stacked in piles of ten on my floor, on my desk, and bedside table. Of the money I spent, 30% was on clothing, food, and gifts, 60% on books, and 10% on other necessities. I regret none of it.

So for 2012, I figured that it would be good to step up the resolutions up a notch.

This year I will post on this blog everyday, finish, edit, and query my YA novel, bring my BMI up to at least 18.5, redecorate my bedroom, wear vintage clothing at least once a week, and run a mile in under eight minutes. I can do this.

Because this was a self-indulgent blog post, enjoy this picture of Pippa and me that I put on our New Years card.

Isn't Pippa (right) adorable? (She also, annoyingly, vetoed me posting a picture of us laughing. It was much better, and it had color in it so you could see her BEAUTIFUL naturally blond hair.)

Ella and Writing

I was eight when my teacher handed me a sheet of paper and told me to write to a pretend pen-pal about 9/11 for the school’s writing competition. So I selected my favorite pencil, sharpened it twice, and wrote to Clara in France that “I couldn’t bear to look at the wrecked Pentagon or World Trade Center,” and that “life was a road to death.” I signed off in heavily butchered French, and placed my stapled sheets of paper in the “finished” purple plastic bin.

Two weeks later, the principal’s voice, sounding robotic through the outdated P.A. System, announced me the third grade winner. And three days after that I was standing on a step-stool behind the podium in D.C.’s Politics and Prose bookstore, the very same podium used by dozens of award-winning authors. But instead of shaking and speaking in a voice too soft to be heard, the way the kids before me had done, I looked up at the crowd and grinned. I tightened one pigtail and read in a clear voice, “Dear Clara…” While the audience clapped as I got handed my certificate, I knew that this was what I wanted to do with my life—I wanted to write stories that made people as happy.

When I moved from Washington D.C. to New Jersey as a preteen, I channelled all of my sadness and anger into writing a play about leaving behind people and a place you love, discovering in the process that writing was an incredibly effective method to cope with any overwhelming emotion—both positive and negative. The blank page has become my refuge, and for years I’ve made time to write for at least an hour everyday.

Surprisingly, writing, a solitary and often lonely activity, has ended up bringing me more attention than I ever could have imagined. My fourth grade fantasy serial story led to kids passing my journal around under the table in class and questioning me about the next addition during recess. In middle school, I made most of my current closest friends in a creative writing class. And in high school, I discovered the community of young adult fiction writers and immediately knew where I belonged in the literary world

In the past year, I’ve kept a daily blog, posting both fiction and stories about my childhood and present, participated in National Novel Writing Month, where participants write a 50,000 word novel, and written numerous short stories, young adult book reviews for Watchung Booksellers, and a novel I hope to query in the spring. I’ll also be attending the The Society of Children Books Writers and Illustrators’ Winter Conference. Writing has become my entire life, and I have never been happier. I am an honest to goodness writer, and I am sure that if I continue working hard I will be able to make it my profession.