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Posts Tagged ‘#2/HB pencil’

Writers are notoriously difficult to domesticate. Solitary, aloof, shy, they startle easily and are overwhelmed by everyday things most of society takes for granted.

Like, say, society…

They are able to live for untold weeks on caffeine and chocolate and artificial light while creating worlds the depths of which would astonish the gods themselves. Contradictory creatures as well, they are often the agents of change while vehemently resisting it. They’re picky about their tools, writing ONLY with a #2/HB pencil (Roald Dahl), or a fountain pen (Neil Gaiman), or a manual typewriter (Danielle Steel), while not giving a whit about fashion, food, or fraternization. Elusive, reclusive, depressive, angst-ridden – all are common descriptors of writers. And yet everybody seems to want to be one.

As a writer myself, I can attest to the traits mentioned above. I see them in my own actions, my own avoidance of all things “out there.” Such as, out there, outside, you know, where all those damn people are. I’m like a cat in the window watching birds. I’ll bask in the sun and chatter about how I want to go out there and pretend to be frustrated that I can’t, and then walk away with my nose in the air when the door is opened. Brave in talk, fearful in action.

I’ve always been separate from everyone else. Some people use the term lone wolf, but I’m more cat-like in my demeanor, so I’m going with Siberian Snow Tiger. My husband, also a loner, is somewhat like a polar bear – enjoys the cold temperatures and eats whatever he wants. The two of us work very well together. We’re so good together, in fact, we have a bad tendency to keep to ourselves far more than is healthy for the average human. That’s been especially evident these last few years, as medical and financial issues keep plaguing us. We don’t want our friends to see us “like this,” so we cocoon ourselves in our little suburban cave. The irony is, we’d be the first ones out the door if one of them called us for help, but gods forbid we return the trust.

But we’re not getting any younger. We have no children and several of our best friends have already made their escape to better lands. I began seeing us in our dotage, that crazy old couple that doesn’t talk to anyone and nobody notices is missing until their bodies are found three years after death. I didn’t want to end up like that.

So we’ve been making small efforts to get over our self-imposed isolation. We’ve had friends over two weekends in a row now. It forced us to tidy up the house (it’s hardly clean, but, hey, gotta start somewhere), and to take showers and wear something besides pajamas. We had great conversations and good food and a few laughs. We are lucky to have some really cool people in our lives and it takes these sorts of things to remind us of that.

And it’s also fucking exhausting.

Some people thrive off being around other people. They can take that energy and recycle it through themselves and distribute it to those around them and come out stronger for it. Writers aren’t generally on that side of the curve. For me, being around people is like being bombarded by an unending rain of puff balls (the colorful decoration variety, not the not-so-colorful fungi variety) – at first it’s kind of fun and a little silly, and then it gradually slides down the scale into unbearable madness.

It’s a sensory overload situation. In the days when I still went to school or work, I would come home simply exhausted. Not because classes or jobs were that difficult, but because I just couldn’t process all the information coming into me from those around me. Voices, smells, textures, emotions, tastes, colors – details that go beyond what most can fathom. The average person seems to be able to tune most of it out, but I don’t have that feature. I register everything. Not all of it consciously, but it all hits my sensors at some level or another and I just simply can’t handle it all. I’m great at observing, lousy at participating.

That’s why most writers don’t participate that much. They hide out in their version of a home office and watch the world from a distance, penning their observations in prose or verse and not realizing they’ve worn the same sweat pants for three weeks straight. All those people who think they want to be writers don’t really understand what it entails. It starts with being okay with being alone. You have to enjoy your own company. Then you have to understand that you’re not really alone, because you have all these people in your head demanding attention. All that information your sensors took in from being out with real people now spills out onto the page. Sometimes in quick bursts or subtle reveals, or tortuous hours searching for just the right word, but it gets out eventually.

And so will I. Get out eventually, that is. While I enjoy the company of my friends – and will continue to make myself less isolated- I’m not a social person. No more than I’m a day person. I’ve come to realize and embrace both these facts, and will continue to resist the demands of a world that thinks something is wrong with me because of these traits. I will go after that bird when I want to, not just because you opened the door.

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