“You said hello to me in the hallway today,” I told David, “and that’s the first time in my year of working here that you’ve greeted me of your own volition.”
“You never say hi to me,” David said.
“I’d rather wait and see if people want to — make sure they want my company and they’re not just being polite. I don’t ignore them,” I said.
“But if we always waited for the other person to speak first,” JP said, “no one would ever say anything.”
“But we have people like Cole and Olivia,” I said, “who will do that for us.”
Last night as I left work, eating a cookie, I met a bunch of kids who talked to me, and we had a conversation which was surprisingly fun. So I think I might be fully recovered from May. I’m also beginning to add words to Of the North again. Probably bad words, but for the present I’ve got past the block and they are words.
Unless you’re a writer, gentle reader, you’ll have no idea how crippling it is to not be able to put things in words. When that internal observer who’s always stringing together sentences about what’s happening at the present moment, or that book you just read (or both at once), suddenly dries up and goes silent, it’s depressing. You get used to being able to put things together like that, having done it in all your waking hours (and some sleeping ones) for most of your life, and when it’s not there you’re powerless. So now, though I know I’ll have to rewrite Of the North if for nothing other than to make the words beautiful as well as useful, I’m glad for what I can get. Which is useful words, for now, mostly in the second half of the story.
I hope I’m not boring you all with ramblings about my own problems. On a blog it’s hard to tell if silence is from lack of interest or merely so as not to interrupt me. A lot of times I want to tell people about interesting things I think they might be busy and not want to give me the time, or are only listening out of politeness, or something else. Here I have no captive audience, and no one has to read out of politeness, so there’s nothing really to keep me from being as weird as I like. (I did actually make the effort to open up to three separate people this week, and it went well in every case. . . also I’m rereading the University Library, and Volume III has some Francis Bacon essays on Friendship which were well-timed.)
Lots of times before now, I’ve come up against a problem in my writing only to find it corresponded to some problem or other in my life, called myself silly not to have seen it, and started over. This time I thought the problem with more recent writing in OtN was that it was dry. I asked people whether it was interesting enough for them to do more than put up with the style for a whole book. One of them, at dinner last Sunday, had a good long conversation with me, which we continued by e-mail the next day, and it became clear that humanity was missing. I was writing about details of place and culture without the people who lived there being much more than secondary elements. And I think the reason for that wasn’t only that my enthusiasm for the culture and the little things about that period’s way of living ran away with me.
I was tired of people. From the second half of January to the very end of April I was in school: school four days a week, with all the crowds of people walking and eating and talking (that’s often the worst part) and being constantly there. It’s very hard to find a place away from other human presence at school. And then there’s Sundays, six hours of constant contact with up to fifty other human beings, and someone always talking, and no escape. So usually, once finals are done, I don’t go anywhere for at least a week, and hide in the basement or the grove sometimes (depending on the season) until my batteries are recharged (that’s one useful analogy) and I can handle outside people again. Because remember, even when you don’t see any other bodies near mine — which sounds awful, put that way — there’s at least one voice in my head. I’m sorry. I’m a harmless lunatic most of the time.
Well, this year, May was insane, what with concerts, Crown, recitals, and a wedding, the last involving airports and planes and large social gatherings with strangers who heard I was a writer and said things like, “Oh, I’ve got a friend who writes short stories on her blog in a devotional context” (and that wasn’t the only annoying response to hearing my major), and yes, I survived, but it was pretty hard to come up with any fondness for human beings (I include myself in that category, remember — don’t come commenting “But you’re a human too, don’t forget,” please). I have a sneaking suspicion that people began to play less than their rightful part in my writing because I was always trying to get away from them. When your great desire is a little time away from all voices, first, you forget most people aren’t looking to hide in a story where humans aren’t the main actors, and secondly, don’t be surprised if the ones in your head take you literally. They love having their revenge like that. I should have learned that earlier, too.
Another thing, which I should like to stress has no relation to introversion (introvert being defined as someone whose batteries drain as a result of human contact, and who therefore recharges alone, not as someone who’s shy or socially awkward or hates people), which may have contributed, was that AEschild is rather a Tigger. She has no problem with bouncing up to people and engaging them in a conversation on something she’s excited or curious about. I would rather let the other person make the first move, as that way I can be sure they actually want to get involved, and aren’t merely putting up with me while thinking of all the other things they could be using this time for. I know I’m weird, and in a way some people can only handle in small doses (I live with myself, after all), so I’ll be all right by myself. (No, really. You should have seen me — some of you have — when I was little and had to be dragged to someone else’s house. I raided the bookshelves and probably had as much fun on my own as the grown-ups or other kids did with each other.) That tendency makes it slightly harder to write as from inside the head of a Tigger when that Tigger is not talking to me. I end up writing a lot more scenes where she’s doing things by herself, which is out of character for her (at least when everything’s going well. . . ).
Fortunately, the three people I talked to about Of the North this week have been good examples of what friends are there for, and not made me wonder if I was imposing on them, and also not edged away because my weirdness came on too strong for them. (I admit to being careful which parts I show to whom, because if I give someone a glimpse of my heart and they react as the general public does to a spider, I do feel bad for them.)
Sometimes I don’t know whether running around doing physical work all afternoon is harder, or trying to pin my heart down just right on a page.
And my sister just got back from work with leftover doughnut-things, and when left to myself I’ve been listening to a lot of SCA music, especially Aneleda Falconbridge, and I kind of rewrote the first chapter of OtN a while ago and only just posted it — I think you know how to find it? And I’ve been messing with the timeline in the second half of OtN.