Last night, I did something I hadn’t done in a very long time: I read a post on my old food blog.
The context was this: I’d bought the Chanterelle cookbook and was doing an Instagram post about it (I’d say Instagram is the last remnant of my online life, though I still occasionally Tweet and write on Facebook) and remembered going to the restaurant with my mom. So I Googled “amateur gourmet chanterelle” and found this post about the meal we ate there in 2005.
The crazy thing? I loved reading it. It was so exuberant and pure and a great document of the night we spent there. It’s also a historical record of a restaurant that no longer exists, a useful artifact of a long-gone restaurant era. In other words: it was good that I wrote that blog post when I wrote that blog post.
But now, almost twelve years later, the idea of writing a blog post (is “blog post” a weird thing to say? I think I should just say “blog”) fills me with dread. The internet has changed so much, I’m not even sure I understand it anymore. As many of you know, two years ago I started a job on a TV show “The Real O’Neals” which was a whirlwind of an exciting experience. I was lucky enough to write three episodes and learned so much in the process, it would probably take me years to unravel it all.
Now I’m working on two very cool film/TV projects that I probably shouldn’t say anything about (OK, I’ll tell you this: they’re food-related) but that I’m working on from home. So I wake up in the morning, make oatmeal, make coffee, water the plants, feed the cat, check Instagram, check Twitter, check Facebook, check The New York Times and a few blogs, and then I do something very powerful and profound and that’s been life-altering in a significant way: I block the internet. I use the Freedom app and I block the internet for four to eight hours at a time. I do this in conjunction with an app called Moment which tracks how much I look at my phone. And then (you’re about to say “ugh, how L.A.”) I meditate for twenty minutes before I get busy writing.
Frankly, it’s been pretty wonderful. If I had to distill the wonderfulness down to one word I’d say: “Clarity.” Gone is the constant, fervent noise of the internet. It’s like going from the city to the country, where it’s hard to adjust at first because you’re used to all the horns honking, but eventually you settle into a peaceful groove and you find yourself sitting out on the porch with a book, breathing in the country air, and sighing: “Ah, this is the life.”
But then, every now and again, you miss the city. So you go in for little visits, you see the people you want to see, you catch a show, grab dinner at a hot new restaurant, and then hoof it back to nature. That’s where I’m at now: instead of submerging myself in the internet, I’ve been dipping my toe in it every now and again. Instagram’s my favorite because it feels the most natural: I roast a chicken and make little Instagram videos of the process. I’d be roasting that chicken anyway, so holding down a little button doesn’t cost me anything. Plus, it’s a nice way to interact with people who like to see that sort of thing.
So why am I here?
Good question. I’ll confess I almost stopped writing this post about eight times. In fact, I’m still thinking about deleting it. But something about reading that old blog post reminded me of something: I like writing. I like blogging. What I stopped liking was the culture of it all. Specifically, when I was blogging professionally, I’d gotten into this rut of “SEO Optimization” and writing my posts to maximize traffic, linkage, relevance, clickability, optics, etc, etc. That made sense because I was getting paid based on traffic. But now I make my living doing other work, so blogging can be a pure outlet again. So that’s appealing.
The other deterrent has been the reactive nature of the web these days: it kind of feels like that scene in Jurassic Park where they lower the goat into the T-Rex cage?
Every day, it’s a different goat: Taylor Swift. TJ Miller. HBO.
I’m not defending those things (uh oh, the water in my glass just started to vibrate) but I think the way the web works, now, you get more mileage being outraged by something than you do creating something new. This could also just be the result of following lots of cultural critics on Twitter… a good thing, in terms of staying in touch with what’s exciting in the culture right now (Call Me By Your Name, Lorde’s new album, Issa Rae’s “Insecure”) but incredibly intimidating when it comes to creating new work.
So here’s what I’ve decided, at least as of this moment: to tune out the noise as much as I can and to put some stuff out there. It’s funny, reading that old blog post, how many mistakes I made, how un-self-aware I was, how freely I shared details from my own life. I’m so much older and more cynical than I was then. But I’m also envious of that younger self, to be able to share so much, so enthusiastically: as if the act of sharing itself was the point. And, come to think of it, maybe it was.