Good morning, good morning. It’s early still on a Monday (late for me, as the sun is well up already!) — how are the words finding you these days? Are you letting them in?
I’ve been writing a lot since the beginning of the year, but I’ve been doing most of it in my notebook, offline. I went on a writing retreat a week or so ago, a much-needed break from the hustle of workshops and the new year’s Let’s Get It Done! energy. Do you get that kind of buzzy exuberance at the beginning of the year? Suddenly, everything I’ve forgone for months or maybe years (maybe even decades) is gonna get done now. It’s a new year! Everything is possible! Let’s make a plan, and then another plan, and then create a new writing schedule, then make a vision board, then another vision board for the other projects, then make a giant to do list of every thing that needs doing for my 9 or 10 Very Important creative projects that all need attention now.
So the beginning of the year is charged and exciting – like a Monday morning on steroids, if you’re like me — another chance to get it right. And then I overdo it with the attempt to schedule my creativity into a rigorous, regimented set of boxes, and the parts of me that need to sing, need to wander, need to breathe without being scheduled to do so, the parts of my creative life that need open space around them in order to blossom begin to leak out the sides of me. I start to cheat on my own systems: the employee undermining the boss. I start to come in “late” to work. I oversleep.These are my forms of creative resistance. Gonna try and put me into a box? Ok, then, I’ll go limp. I get out of sync, creatively-speaking, and begin to get tight and frustrated. What happened to my flow?
After getting back from Chicago a couple of weeks ago, I had to take some time to re-settle into my skin. As much as I love being at conferences, meeting and getting to write with new people, it’s also a challenge for me as an introvert – spending a lot of time with other people drains my energy. I want a better word than that – because it sounds as though that means that being with other people was a wholly negative thing, and that’s not the case: just because I’m introverted doesn’t mean that I don’t like and need to be with other people sometimes! But what it does mean is that my energy stores are not fed by spending time with other people, as is the case with extroverts. After a lot of social time, I tend to need time alone to replenish my energy stores, to get back into some kind of deep connect with all the different parts of me.
Our US culture tends to privilege extroverted qualities: we like gregariousness, friendliness, folks who are comfortable in a crowd – we like people who make decisions and act, who are outgoing, who appear fearless. Introverts are also often called ‘loners,’ and loners are consistently miscast as isolated, deviant, brooding and mentally ill (and, of course, mentally ill is generally offered up as a negative characteristic, despite the fact that many, many, many of us struggle with depression, PTSD, anxiety, and other neurobiological and psychological processes that keep us away from a whole-bodied and comfortable engagement with everyday life). Most folks who have committed crimes of public terrorism are referred to by the press as loners. The loner isn’t trusted: ours is a pack-based society. Who wouldn’t want to run with the crowd?
I read a great book many years ago called Party of One: The Loners’ Manifesto – I found this book toward the end of my first marriage, when I was trying to understand why I wanted to be alone all the time. Maybe it wasn’t just the depression, or the trauma aftermath. Maybe there was something else going on for me, too. I used to describe myself as having ‘people overload’ when I spent too much time with others, either in large or small groups or even just too much time with one other person: I would get cranky, short-tempered, and feel physically out of sorts; my skin would feel like it wasn’t hanging quite right on my body. What I often did to ‘right’ myself again was to write – which meant, of course, that I’d be alone for a period of time, just me and the notebook and the cup of coffee. I would have time alone driving to and from the coffee shop, and during that couple of hours of transit and writing practice, I would begin to feel my whole self emerging back into my skin again.