When I started working on my first novel, used to be that I would bump into people in real life--at the coffee house, the bookstore, the library. And class. I was still in school then, and if there was something on my mind, I'd simply talk it out with one writer friend or another, one mentor or another. It made writing a novel seem like not such an exotic enterprise--we were all doing it. No one looked at me funny if I said it was a novel-in-novellas. No one raised an eyebrow when I cited Alice Munro as a huge influnce on that book or said "Alice who-now?"
Then we graduated, and I kept working on the novel. Some of my writer friends moved away, temporarily (like me) or permanently. My friend Corbin started, EarthGoat, a blog where the writers from my class could keep in touch with each other across distances, keep talking books and music and otherwise stay connected with each other's lives. I started this blog for the same reasons, and for a long time it was a haven for me. I published that book. I had a baby and moved away myself. But I was still in touch with the people who mattered to my life, and my writing.
Then Facebook came on the scene, and EarthGoat started to be less where we gathered, and with the baby and the new job and the new book I was writing, the blog started to take a serious backseat. If I wanted to "check in" with friends, they were, for the most part, on Facebook. I had less time to post, and less interest in posting.
Two years ago, Brando and I moved again, this time back to the suburbs of Chicago from whence we came. And like most suburbs, it's a nice quiet place to live, but it ain't exactly an artistic paradise. Here, when I hang out at the tea house at the end of my street, I'm the only writer in the place. I've seen Billy Corgan there a couple of times, but unless I'm able to make him my new best friend (doubtful), I think there's not a lot of chance of talking music. The local yoga moms and I don't have that much in common, since I don't do yoga. No one wants to see this ass in Lululemon pants, doing Downward Dog.
And I think that's why I embrace Facebook, despite some of its obvious pitfalls. I like "bumping into" my friends there, seeing what people are up to, what's on their minds. I like talking books and writing and music there, if not exactly the way we used to, then with enough frequency that I feel like they're still part of my life.
I know a lot of people taking Facebook breaks (and in fact I've had to invest in a copy of MacFreedom for myself, because, hello, look what I'm doing this morning instead of working on the new novel), but most of the time I don't feel the least need to apologize for being a Facebook addict. It's just another morning of shooting the shit around the coffee house before getting back down to work.