Mad at Monet

Last week, I received a message on social media that went something along the lines of:

“You must be very busy. Too busy for me. I’ll stop bugging you, Alarna.”

The message came two days after our previous interaction, from someone well aware of the project currently taking up all my hours of screen squinting time.


Persistence of Chromatic Memory by Jan

It would have been so easy to fling accusations and blame right back where that came from – except that I was blocked.

Forced into a moment of self-reflection, I realised.

There’s a great disconnect that seems to happen when I compare my online activities with real life.

In real life, I guard my time with the jealousy of a besieged lover…

Friends would be lucky to hear from me once in a month. My family, maybe once in a fortnight.

It’s taken years of training for them to finally understand:

When they text, they may or may not get a reply in the near future, and;
If they don’t explain the nature of the emergency, they (very likely) will not get a call back!

Now, instead of leaving me snarky messages, they call each other to compare notes, and comfort themselves in the knowledge they’re not the only ones being ignored.

So how is it, when my online interactions go beyond casual acquaintance that daily conversations start to be the norm?

Truth is, home alone in the office, faced with jobs you’d rather not do, it’s all too tempting to go on virtual walk about…


facebookgooglepluskik-button2youtubelinkedinflickrpinterestbloggrinstagram-buttonBy the time you realise you’re enjoying being needed just that little bit too much, you’ve also built up an expectation that you’ll always be there.

Anytime of night or day.

And the rest, as ‘they’ say, is History…

It’s so much harder to break bad habits, than it is to make good in the first place.

So whom do we blame? The ghost in the machine with ADD? Or the attention starved grown up, outside?

A couple of weeks ago, Ms and I took her mother for a birthday treat to see the Monet exhibition at the National Gallery.


The Seine near Giverny by Claude Monet

The nuances of light captured in his paintings are what might now pass for time-lapse photography. Only instead of a camera, it was a man standing for twelve hours a day, honing his paintbrush with the precision of a lens.

On these working trips, he’d write to his wife, bemoaning the isolation. He couldn’t even reply to his friends, because his work required his ‘total dedication’.

When I read those words, instead of admiring his immense discipline and focus, I suddenly found myself having one of those ‘lucky bastard’ moments.

“He didn’t have to deal with social media, lucky bastard.”

“Neither do you,” piped in Ms, which just made me all the madder.

But she had a point.

How do we expect to create, when we have one eye fixed permanently on whatever social media widget(s) takes our current fancy?

It really has nothing to do with being busy.
It’s about creative focus.

Silly as it might be, I was mad at Monet, because there was no one left to blame but me for my fragmented brain.

We blame ‘them’ for making the rules of engagement, and robbing us of our focus and our peace of mind. But in the end, who are ‘they’ except ‘us’ – which means You. And. I?

‘They’ may not like it, but we do have the power to say ‘no’.

It’s times like this I wish I could get off this planet and issue a general apology for ever being sociable…

You know what I’m saying?


  1. Catherine Johnson says

    You took the words right out of my mouth. Maybe we need to practise off-line days and do it together- teamwork!

  2. says

    I know when I am in writing mode, I have a really hard time breaking away for anything…family, phone calls, appointments…so I know exactly what you mean. Kim

      • says

        I think of the childbirth as a metaphor for the creative process in general….there is a stage in childbirth where everything disappears except the experience itself. I feel that way when I am writing; whether it is a technical report or a very personal piece. I think it is universal to every Artist. 🙂

  3. says

    I know exactly what you are saying!! Though I am not known to be very social in the real world, and have very few friends, I never realized how much I depended on social networking sites until now, when I read your post. It just eats up the time that you can use to focus and do lots of things productive. I think its time for us to try and acquire the power of saying NO. Thank you for opening my eyes to this, Alarna!! I really owe you one!!

    • says

      Hey, and I’m not going to knock social media completely. Our real lives are so much more fragmented these days, that it does have an important place! I guess it’s just being aware of the traps as well…So glad this could be of some help 🙂 xo

  4. says

    “It really has nothing to do with being busy. It’s about creative focus.”

    Oh yes, this exactly. The problem with writing is that it so often appears to the outside world as though we’re staring into a blank screen (or into space), but that’s where the words come from. And every time someone comes into the room when I’m writing and says something in passing, it breaks my train of thought and forces me to reengage all over again. Completely exasperating. I wish this room had a door.

    I think people have come to expect every other person to be available for conversation 24/7, and they get offended when we step away. But we all have a choice about how we want to live. I don’t use facebook or twitter and I rarely answer my phone. I tell my family to consider me reachable by 19th century standards: you can get me in an emergency, but you may not get me if what you need is a chat. I’m the wrong person for that anyway.

    • says

      “Reachable by 19th century standards” – I freakin’ love that! I have noticed that you stay away from Facebook and Twitter and very much admire you for that. After all, you’re a published writer, so you know better than anyone what it takes. Can you get a door put on?? That would drive me crazy….Thank you, Averil. You’re a treasure. xo

  5. says

    Yes yes yes. I’m writing a thing about it right now, so you and I are riding the same mental wave. In addition of being accused of not caring or being too busy, some might even go so far as to call a person self-absorbed. The truth is, all these things are true– I do care more about what I’m doing, I am busy, and if being creative is narcissistic then there’s that, too. So much happier/healthier to just say Alarna, I like what you do and promise to check in here whenever I can and hope you’ll do the same.

    • says

      And we’re not the only ones on that wave, either! It’s our century’s ‘thing’…That balance between self-absorption and other people’s needs and wants…it’s ever so murky. End of the day, I feel if it damages me, then something has to give. I’m no good to anyone if I’m no good to myself, and anyway…Our craft may be self absorbed, but it is also our way of giving to the world. I love what you do, and I promise the same. Absolutely! *hugs* to you, sister 😉

  6. says

    Everything seems to run on an instant time frame these days… Your mention of Monet reminded me… Just yesterday, no Thursday, was having a conversation with a work colleague about a place called Nunavut, and in the process of reading up about it, I came across this artist (this is a bit of a film about the isolated places he goes to create his art)…

    Some of us don’t need to feel connected to the world all the time, the noise of perpetual communication as a weight, for we’re connected to the world in whole other ways. While social communication, and being connected to it is only such a small part, sometimes people lose what it’s like to go wild quietly, and so you just have to let them know your a little wild, and that you’ll be back a little later, promise. Have a good weekend, Alarna..

    • says

      Thanks for being one of the one’s who understands it, Sean. I meet people often who say they are scared to go to the wild places, because of the silence…That’s the world we live in, isn’t it? Sad, but true.

      I’ll check out your link! Hope you’re having a wild time yourself 😉

      • says

        Yes, have both watched the film Into the Wild by Sean Penn, and also the documentary, The Call of the Wild by
        Ron Lamothe. The book I’ve not ventured with yet. The story is true, but you can only tell so much of a story with what’s left behind, that much is left open to interpretation when the original source, in this case Christopher McCandless, is not there to speak, or embellish his own tale. Interpretation, and embellishments are left to others. None the less a good story of a life lived and experiences traveled.

  7. lynnkelleyauthor says

    I know exactly what you’re saying, Alarna! So sorry that person took it personally that you weren’t at their beck and call. My mind is also fragmented and I now I don’t always reply in a timely manner. I torment myself with guilt all the time, hoping I didn’t snub anyone unintentionally, but taking time to write and create is the reason we’re on social media in the first place, to get to know others like ourselves. So other creatives should understand how it is. Have a good week! XO

    • says

      Yes, exactly, we should understand and support each other in the disconnect! Which, by the way, you do… So it’s my turn to say to you… A more self-deprecating and giving person I have never met! Please don’t feel guilty. Just be you, Lynn… 😉 Love you lots xo

  8. says

    I’m a different generation, and it gives me freedom to not do Facebook twitter etc etc, freedom not to use a mobile phone or watch TV
    Is it really hard to disconnect from these things when you feel like it???

    • says

      That is a special freedom 😉

      It really is that hard, sometimes. Like anything social, when everyone else is doing it a certain way, there comes an expectation to conform. And that’s where the misunderstandings can come in

      No different to when the telephone came in, I imagine. The expectation that the phone must be answered, no matter what you’re doing…?

  9. says

    Alarna, I don’t want to judge, I don’t know who is this person who sent you that message but, in my opinion, it’s quite immature. Especially the fact that this person blocked you after like not giving you a chance to answer back… It’s a bit a selfish behaviour. Social media can be very good in many ways but, as you said, it’s important to sometimes put a stop to it in order to be able to create.

    • says

      Thank you. Social media does seem to attract selfishness and immaturity, so I’m not about to accept all the blame for that exchange. Just the part where maybe I set up unrealistic expectations in the first place… It’s all a learning curve 😉

  10. says

    Hi Alarna, it sounds liberating to recognize that the “rules of the social media world” don’t govern how often and in what way you interact with people, and that you’re the one who makes those choices — that’s the kind of awareness it would be great to bring into all aspects of my life.

    • says

      Hey there Chris. It should be liberating, shouldn’t it? But I’d say it’s a work in progress for me – it’s one thing to recognise we have a choice, but another thing entirely to exercise that guilt free! But we keep striving… 😉

  11. says

    You we shattering me expectations that fragmentation is less apparent in your part of the world. I guess I’ll stop pestering the wife to move with me to New Zealand. 😦

    • says

      Hehe 🙂 I’m sorry, Lucas…the plague has reached us all the way over in the antipodes. Pretty sure there won’t be a corner of the globe left untouched very soon. We’re gonna have to claw back our sanity the hard way!

  12. says

    “Now, instead of leaving me snarky messages, they call each other to compare notes, and comfort themselves in the knowledge they’re not the only ones being ignored.” 😉

    this is why i dread the Sunday dinners at my sister’s place, ahaha. i avoid it but simply cannot. so, i usually come late. by the time i arrived, they have finished talking about my delinquency, hohoho. yes, they are attention-starved and i am a creative trying hard without a focus, hehehe.

    hello, Alarna… 😉

    • says

      Hehe… how you make me smile, San! So glad to hear I’m not the only one with these familial problems! Luckily, I don’t have any such regular obligations to avoid. Just the intermittent ones 🙂 Let’s be happy striving for that focus. And remember if we ever made it, they’d be the first to want to claim they know us 😉

      • says

        o, thank you, dear. 😉 Filipino family is usually extended, extended so, Sunday dinners mean having to encounter lots of familiar faces – in laws, nephews, friends of cousins, etc. hahaha. that focus is rather elusive, hehe. yeah, we should make it soon so they could claim they know us, true. lol. 😉 hello, Alarna…

  13. says

    Sweet Alarna, the world would be a better place and more productive with more artists and people like you. As you know, we’ve been off the networking scene for months now. Trying to perfect, our Perfect 7. For me it’s hard, I’m a social butterfly. For GingerBrooke, it’s enjoyable, as she says artists shouldn’t have to juggle while trying to work at their craft. Funny enough, we just talked to someone (physically) about this issue, when a friend (networking) unfriended us, for not contacting them in two months even though we put out tons of “Sorry’s for the neglect we are working” tags. Although this sounds cruel, my advice would be to move on. I know that’s horrible, but you could spend a lifetime patting the backs of those reassurance friends who have to be spoonfed their relationship. Funny enough, with all this technology out and everything attainable at the push of a button. We humans haven’t wised up at all. We’ve only managed to suck out more of our time, so that we are overstressed, overworked, multi-tasking jugglers. Welcome prozac nation. (lol) Leave time for art…God help us if we find a way to half-ass that and cut that out of our life, merely for a tweet!!! Chin up baby, we love you just as you are!

    • says

      Aw, thank you so much! You gave me a lovely smile and a lift on my approach to today 🙂 It’s crazy, huh…how attention hungry we’ve all become? I can’t understand the need to block or unfriend people myself. I mean – before we had social media, if we weren’t happy, we’d just quietly go about our business – no need for grand ‘break up’ gestures. Anyway, it would indeed be a tragedy to ‘half-ass that..mereley for a tweet!” – lol. Absolutely. Hope you guys (well, girls, ladies?) have been making great progress via your disconnect! And Thank You for coming by 😉

  14. says

    Yes!Social Media is indubitably a distraction from writing…and creativity, but it also allows us…well me, to meet new intriguing and bizarre people, who we can choose to write about.I think that if you go write a few short stories capturing the personalities of people you meet while using social media, its all worth it (the hours on instagram, kik and twitter..oh tumblr too) were not wasted.

  15. Deliberately Delicious says

    As you know, I have a complicated relationship with blogging, loving the way we can connect, and then feeling completely exhausted by the effort. And I don’t tweet or check Facebook or even know what kiki is! You’ve described the social media struggle perfectly!

    • says

      It sure is a big ask. I don’t know how other writers keep up…either they are more efficient, or we just have different rhythms. Whatever the case, it’s not worth exhaustion. Thanks for the reassurance 🙂

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