Monday, 5 March 2012

The Inertiatic Introvert

A few weeks ago my friend, the writer Will Johnson, posted an entry in his blog about being anti-social. Or, more specifically I suppose, about the tendency toward anti-socialism (if that's even a phrase) that comes when one gets a little older and perhaps not quite as well suited to hard parties every night. The sudden and inexplicable urges to curl up and stay inside the house, even if it's alone. The odd feeling of having to Do Something Worthwhile, and work. The Supreme Satisfaction that comes from a good night's sleep. (When I was thirteen or so, I remember my father once saying, "The best part of my day is when I can crawl back into bed and go to sleep." I'll admit it: I thought he was a very, very sad man.)

But now? Seventeen (shudder) years later? I completely understand. 

I mention all of this because the past few weeks have been, well, kind of weird. There's no other way for me to say it. I've worked a fair amount, which has perhaps contributed to the weirdness (although "working a fair amount", these days, does not compare at all to what "working a fair amount" meant three years ago, when I was living in Edinburgh and working an average of 60 hours a week), but I've also done a fair amount of socializing, and writing--aka my work--has completely goten lost in the maelstrom. I haven't written a word of my new novel in weeks. And I find it so exhausting, this not-writing. Exhausting even as I'm out there earning money and being with friends and to all intents and purposes living an excellent, well-balanced life.

Living in Scotland was hard, yes. But more often than not, these days, I find myself thinking back to my "golden period" of time in the country, which would have been the latter half of 2009. What did I do during that golden period? I worked. A hell of a lot. I never went out, because in spite of all that working, I never had any money. And every Saturday, I woke up at six, made myself tea, and wrote for at least twelve hours.

That was all I did -- work and write. Occasionally I went for walks on the beach. What kind of strange person looks back on a period in life such as that and thinks, I wish I could go back there? 

Don't get me wrong. I love my new life here in Hamilton. I love it a thousand times more than I expected I would. Every day is a surprise in some way, whether it be through the discovery of a new antiques shop (bye-bye paycheque), or the meeting of new friends, or a delightful new theatre show (side note: if you ever have the chance to see Corin Raymond's "Bookworm", or Morgan Jones Phillips' "Emergency Monologues", do it. Do it, please). 

But lately I find myself longing for the anti-social days of yore. Just like Jennifer Egan said, in the article that I've quoted from before and will no doubt continue to quote from ad nauseum, there was a wonderful kind of clarity in being reduced to myself as a writer, and nothing else, while I was in Scotland. There was no room, financial or otherwise, for being any different. There was no room or means to be social. There was no space to be anything other than a girl who worked hard and had the delicious expanse of an entire Saturday to scribble words into her notebook.

Which is so funny, when you think about it. Right now I'm working less than half of the hours that I did in Scotland, and making more money. Most weeks, I have three or four whole days in which to write. I also have the means to go out, and do delicious things like buy antiques and go out for food (though not a terrible amount, I'll admit--I'm not destitute now, but neither am I rich) and go on bus trips to Toronto and away for weekends to Peterborough and contemplate--whilst actually having the means to make a reality--potential road trips to Montreal.

And it's wonderful. All of it. But it's also so very easy to let the writing, the work, slip to the bottom of the pile.

When I was in my third year at UVic, one of my instructors, the wonderful Sèan Virgo, said, "The world will conspire to keep you from writing." I feel like I relive this truth every single day. Here, in this surprisingly lovely little city, where I have a beautiful little apartment and a decent job that gives me space and time to write, and friends who make me laugh and introduce me to new things and keep my cultural heart beating in a way that continues to surprise, the balance of real-life and writing-life seems that much harder to maintain. Counter-intuitive? Definitely. Why am I not writing more when I have more time to do it? Why not? WHY NOT?

And slowly but surely I find myself pining for those times when writing was my only choice. Longing for excuses to shut myself up in my apartment and get the words out. Looking forward to that moment when I, too, can crawl back into bed and stretch out and forget the various stresses of the day. (I feel guilty about saying this, because my father worked very hard his entire life--still works hard, in fact--and even though I also know that the work of a writer is hell-bendingly difficult in its own way, sometimes I still find it hard to admit that I am also tired at the end of the day, when I spend most of my hours sitting in a chair and swearing at my computer screen while my dad most likely spends his day lugging two-by-fours and huge pipes and straining himself in all kinds of physical ways. But there you have it. I'll say it anyway.)

Anyway. Why do I say all of this? Because I haven't even been blogging! It's been more than two weeks since I posted anything of substance. First you get busy, and then you get distracted, and then you get apathetic. Oh, it's been so many days since I did my morning pages. Meh. Oh, it's been x amount of time since I worked on the novel. Who cares? Do I really want to sit down and get immersed in it right now? Or do I want to stay in bed/watch another season of Sherlock/check my email for the millionth time/read someone else's novel/stare at the wall?

I'll take whatever's behind Doors 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, please. Anything but Door #1. ANYTHING BUT.

It's like running. If I go for more than five days without a morning run, it takes me that much longer to get back into the groove. I'll scramble up all manner of excuses to avoid restarting the routine. It's raining. It looks like it might rain. It's less than zero outside. It's more than 15 degrees outside. I feel sick. I might fall and twist my ankle. I COULD GET HIT BY A BUS. I should stay inside and fortify my insides with chocolate. Etc.

And now, here I am. Not running. Not writing. But sooner or later the guilt (you gotta love that guilt, you really do) kicks in, and eventually the routine starts again, somehow. I just need to find that balance. Somewhere between being an incoherent recluse and a super-productive powered word machine. It's there, somewhere. It has to be.

In the meantime, it really is almost -15 outside. And I have a doctor's appointment today. So, uh, maybe the routine will start in earnest tomorrow ...

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