August was a month of biking and cheating. Biking became what I did most afternoons, after the slow crawl of a morning spent writing (sometimes with success, sometimes mired in self-doubt). And cheating was the necessary evil of the summer. I had to check my e-mail more than once a week to keep up with freelance correspondence, and I couldn’t resist keeping up with the Out of the Binders Conference for women & gender nonconforming writers (if you would like to purchase a book club waffle party for you and your friends, it’s still available, not to mention tax deductible and a feel good contribution to what’s shaping up to be an incredible weekend).
Mostly, though, the internet was an absence sometimes felt (like when news of the events in Ferguson were sparse on NPR but abundant on Twitter; or someone told me about Robin Williams and I knew the internet would be overflowing with clips and films and tributes.) Otherwise, having no internet just felt like being told to play outside for a whole month. I kind of forgot about it. Willfully ignoring my social media pages felt decadent and freeing. Without Instagram, I found that I didn’t photograph a single meal or cat or summer moment, actually. I only took one photo of a basket of produce freshly picked on a farm, and was prompted to record it because I loved the colors so much.
Then there’s Beyoncé.
When an episode of The Read revealed that Queen Bey had released a Flawless remix with Nicki Minaj, I dropped what I was doing (dishes) to run and Google it. And when a friend texted me a link to Beyoncé’s VMA performance the morning after it happened, you should know I leapt from phone to laptop to watch it (twice in a row, and once more later that night). I can abstain from the internet in small doses, but I can never abstain from Beyoncé.
The internet detox was far from perfect, but I felt a good amount of acceptance around that. So I checked my e-mail some mornings, Googled a massaged kale recipe, peeked at someone’s Twitter feed – oh well. I tried. When not cheating, I did feel carefree in my ignorance of the internet. I like having it as a less-than-perfect tradition. At most, it gave me an excuse to spend a ton of time alone these four weeks, and what more can a writer ask for but unencumbered time alone.
Here’s my month by the numbers:
Books I Read: 6 (for the curious: Man Alive by Thomas Page McBee (the most humble memoir I’ve ever read), Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi, Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen, Family History by Dani Shapiro, Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan)
Hours Spent Writing: 58 (and still I think it should’ve been more)
Places I Wrote: 3 (the New York Public Library, Civil Service Cafe, and my tiny fold out desk in a room that was blessedly not too hot if I woke up early enough)
Miles I Biked: about 62 (zipping around Brooklyn and Manhattan, sometimes with a purpose and sometimes not)
Postcards written: 4, plus 1 letter
Numbers of E-mail Checking Cheats: probably about 12, since once I began breaking my own rules I couldn’t stop myself
Some Things I Wanted to Google and Resisted: discount yarn store, new Taylor Swift video, shift dresses, cat dental hygiene, what year did Aladdin come out, how to revive a dead basil plant, Roxane Gay/Bad Feminist book tour dates, installing pendant lamps, the female actor in Boyhood who played the sister, when will The Read do another live taping, proofs in Geometry
Some Things I Wanted to Google and Did Google: Beyoncé. Massaged Kale (I am pathetic). Dani Shapiro’s short short essay A Memoir Is Not A Status Update.
Baked Goods Baked: 5 (three peach berry crisps and two peach cobblers, the recipe for which is just too damn good not to share)
(adapted from Mark Bittman’s Blueberry Cobbler recipe)
5 or 6 yellow peaches, roughly chopped into bite sized pieces
1/4 c. brown sugar + 1/4 c. sugar (plus another 1/2 c. sugar)
sprinkle of nutmeg + cinnamon
8 TB of cold butter, cut into pieces
1/2 c. flour
1/2 tp. baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 tp. of vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 375. Grease an 8″ square pan or 9″ pie pan.
2. Mix peaches with 1/4 cups brown sugar and sugar and sprinkle with nutmeg + cinnamon. Pour into greased pan.
3. Combine flour, sugar (1/2 c.), baking powder, salt and butter in food processor. Pour into a bowl and add egg, mixing by hand until just combined.
4. Drop it in clumps over the peaches (but don’t spread it out). Bake for 35 – 45 minutes until golden yellow (barely browning). Serve immediately with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream (or eat it in the morning with yogurt—or ice cream, like a champ.)