Friday, 2 April 2010

Writing journal: Do I hear an echo in here?

Today I was sitting the car with my husband and he said, 'I'm glad you're getting on with -----(name omitted). The two of you seem to be good friends.'

I replied, 'Yes, it would seem that way, wouldn't it.' I met this person about a month ago and she likes me, she really does. However, for me, to spend time with anyone (and that includes those I view as friends) is a real trial for me. It drains me. Even sitting with my friends at a coffee shop, I'm counting down the minutes until I can be alone. I will have dinner parties (mostly to appease my family) and take mental breaks in the toilet.

The thing is, most people would describe me as confident, funny, loyal, and smart. (They probably wouldn't describe me as humble though.) I am liked by many. I would say it's because I'm a listener and very confident - qualities that most people would like to have. Over the past twenty years, I have learned to cope in public. I have learned the proper things to do and say to appear friendly and nice all the while dying inside for solitude.

I enjoy people... from afar. I never seek friendship. Friends I have had as a child, I no longer see or speak with. High school friends, the same. If I knew you and I met you on the street, I probably wouldn't approach you but if you approached me, I would be extremely polite and friendly. I would agree with you that yes, we should keep in contact but I don't think I would be the first to make contact.

In fact, I would probably admit that I'm a terrible friend. I will never call you or email you without an important reason and when I do, I will never chit chat with you. I will never ask you to coffee or to go anywhere with me  - especially shopping malls.

Why am I saying these things?

Well, it was the comments on the post I wrote yesterday. As sad as I may seem from what I wrote above, I would suspect there are many that feel the same. But, I enjoyed the way some described what I felt.

Jim Murdoch from the blog The Truth About Lies made this comment yesterday:
...I’m not shy and I have no problems talking in public (yes, I get nervous but so does everyone); I just have no real interest in promoting me – the writing, yes but me, no. I recognise that I have to present something publicly which is why the website is so good because I can exercise a fairly high degree of control over what goes up. I find as long as you open up a bit then people leave you be. It’s those who don’t have a real name, won’t provide a photo and tell us nothing about themselves that make us wonder, What are they hiding? The answer is probably: nothing. Let’s face it, most of us lead boring lives, nothing’s ever happened to us that’s not happened to hundreds of other people and the only thing we have going for us is a facility with words. And aren’t there hundreds of people who have that gift too?

The thing is we can’t have our cake and eat it. Recluses don’t get famous for anything bar being reclusive. What’s good about the Internet is that you can attempt to find a balance between the private-you and the public-you, one that everyone can live with. You’re still never going to be famous but I’m not sure I would like being famous. I want to be read. I am being read. By hundreds of people. And that’s all it’s about. When I think about all the poems I published back in the seventies and eighties I wonder how many people ever read them. I bet dozens at best. This is better. It’s not fame but it is better.
Jim has it right. I don't want to be famous, I want to be read. That's why I write. I find blogging (also, Twitter, Facebook, and my online writers group - The Next Big Writer) the perfect combination of  publicity without the... publicity. People can read my writing, comment on my writing, ask me questions about my writing and I can still be in solitude. Ahhh... silence.

Jaydee Morgan sums it up well:
I definitely could live the life of a reclusive writer - and just use the Net to stay in contact/promote/etc.
My day job forces me to be public and social. Given the choice though, I'd rather spend most of my time alone ...
 Please, understand me. I'm a really nice person. I'm It's just nicer when I'm alone.

Picture source: here


Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

Oh I have not read your yesterday posy yet but I can not wait to do so! I am just like that! Hanging out with people drains me. My husband doesn't get it. e may do nothing but sit and chat and I get home and I am exhausted. I reenergize by being alone. Its like I need to plug into the wall and just be left alone.

I do like activities with people which baffles me because it does wipe me out so much.

I joke about running away tot he deep woods and becoming a hermit - just me and the land.... oh and hopefully a wireless connection. ;)

Karen Jones Gowen said...

You hit it right on when you said that people drain your energy. Whereas those who seek out social situations get energized by being around others. It's just a simple thing, really. It doesn't make us bad friends, it's a matter of self-preservation. People=energy drain. Thus, avoid people, especially when tired.

Unknown said...

I feel the same way a lot of times. I am smiling and chatty but would prefer to be at home reading or writing. The times I do convince myself to go out I realize that I am looking for every excuse to get out of it. Even when it's my idea. I just thought I had issues LMAO! I feel better now after reading this :)

Unknown said...

WAY TO OWN IT!! I love how honest you are! A lot of people can't come out and admit it but I love the people who do! I am such a ball of nerves when I have to talk in public or with a bigger group of friends, I find that alone time gives me the opportunity to get myself back and enjoy the time!!!

You go girl!

Jaydee Morgan said...

I think we tend to think that wanting to be alone is a bad thing. It's really not. Just because we prefer solitude does not mean we're unhappy or anti-social. It's who we are - and if the Net makes it easier to be who we are while still being "out there" - I say we use it to it's full advantage.

Carol Kilgore said...

My husband is Mr. Extrovert. He must have daily facd-to-face contact with people to survive. We live at opposite ends of the spectrum. Yet when I am out, whether alone or with him, I enjoy people and myself. But I rarely yearn to go out-and-about to be around others. With us I can compare it to food. He loves Chinese. If he doesn't eat Chinese at least once every week or so, he craves it. I like Chinese food, but it wouldn't bother me if I was told I had to give it up. I could go without ever eating it again and never look back. But Mexican? Oh, no. Gotta have it. He eats it but it isn't special for him. Gotta have my alone time, too. Maybe with a taco.

Ann Elle Altman said...

Sheila, I'm glad you liked the post. I often say I cant wait to enter an old folks home where no one will visit me...they think I'm joking.

Karen, I love your line: "avoid people, especially when tired."

KD, yes, the truth is out, I'm crazy and not alone!

Jen, thanks...I feel a bit vulnerable now but, I had to get that out.

Jaydee, my sisters call me Aunty Social.

Carol, that's an interesting comparison. I'm like that with my husband.


Charmaine Clancy said...

I'm a bit of a recluse, and absolutely can't stand crowds. I always just assumed it was because I was raised as an only child, I LIKE my own company (thank you - you're welcome).
I grew up in the city and only two years ago moved to a small country town. I LOVE the quiet here.
It's interesting, there does seem to be something easier about forming groups online than in person (maybe it's because we can still be in our pyjamas if we feel like it). Loved this post - made me feel a little closer to normal :-)

Christi Goddard said...

I deal with people all day long at my job. I can't wait to get home and shut my office door and just BE. I'm the same as you; everyone seems to like me, wants my opinion, values my company, and all the while I'm thinking 'are we done yet? can I go?'

Anonymous said...

Ann - You are not alone. I know exactly how you feel about the drain on your energy that it is to be around people. I truly believe a person can like people (i.e. not be a misanthropist) and still prefer solitude. There is nothing wrong with being alone. It's quite different from being lonely. As a matter of fact, I feel for people who are so uncomfortable with themselves that they can't spend time alone...

T. Powell Coltrin said...

me too. I would rather be by myself and write. What's wrong with me, us????

Except I love being around my family...some. :)

Ann Elle Altman said...

Charmaine, I agree. On line groups are way easier.

Christi, yes. I really feel that as writers, we are more intellectual and people pick up on that.

Margot, exactly, alone does not mean lonely.

JW, yes, I love to be around my immediate family, they are the exception.


Talli Roland said...

I can relate! I really really like to spend time alone, but most people think that I'm really outgoing and friendly. I mean, I am those things, but for a limited time only. And it drains me so much!

There's nothing wrong with wanting to be alone, in my opinion. Not all people are 'built' to be social 24-7. In fact, I think those who do want to socialise so much are likely in the minority!

Fran Caldwell said...

I honestly think I'm a bit schizophrenic, because I'm terribly outgoing, friendly - even bubbly, while secretly preferring to be introverted, watching-from-the-corner, silent. I've always been the same way, since childhood. I've confused many men. I test badly on those personality scoring things, because I want to answer 'yes' to a) AND to b).

I figure it's either the reason I write, or the writer in me is the reason I'm so divided. Giving a 1 to 10 score, which I've never tried before, I think hermitism wins out at about 8 out of 10, so the fun extrovert girl must be mostly sham, simply needing occasional connect.

It certainly is an amazing thing to see how many of you are more or less the same. We spent so much of our lives believing we were weird, didn't we?

NOT that there's anything wrong with that...

Theresa Milstein said...

I can relate to your post and some of the comments. But I find myself withdrawing more when I'm depressed rather than all of the time. That said, I'm not a super-social person and so when I have to make an effort when I'm not in the mood or it's someone I don't know well, I dread it.

Writing is a solitary act, so it's good to reach out. Besides, we need material, don't we?

Ann Elle Altman said...

Talli, you could be right, I think our lives force us to be social animals but our preference would be for solitude at times.

Fran, I think it's wonderful that you have such a strange personality. It makes you understand both types of people. I bet you can use that in your writing.

Theresa, you're right. If there wasn't outgoing people, our lives would be mundane and no one will communicate.


Jim Murdoch said...

All of this I suppose brings us onto success versus failure. There will be people who regard what we do as failure. Think about how people react when they hear you write? “Oh, have you been published?” Yes, I have. “And where was that?” Oh, a small press, you wouldn’t have heard of them. “Do they pay well?” Well, I got a free copy of the journal. “So they don’t pay at all then.”

People have a talent for asking just enough questions to make whatever we achieve seem like a failure. It’s tiresome. There’s only one Nobel Prize for Literature and it’s simply not possible for every great writer to get it. For Christ’s sake, Tolstoy never was awarded a Nobel Prize.

The question is: Was Tolstoy a failure? No. He never set out to win the Nobel Prize. It might have crossed his mind along the way but his reasons for writing were loftier than that.

The thing we want to be able to say is that we achieved what we set out to achieve. If that’s the case then we’re a success. It doesn’t matter that other people have done more, it doesn’t even matter that we could have done more. What matter is that we’re pleased with what we’ve done.

Natasha said...

I hear you. I like people, but at a distance. Spending time with people drains me out, and most of the time, it is just not worth it.
But the flip side is that I love discovering people too.

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