Sunday, March 21, 2010

Are writers neurotic by trade?

I'm wondering if it is very un-writer-ly, or just unattractive, to share my insecurities about writing. I come up with ideas to blog about (I have way too many to actually use), and recently, I find myself being self-conscious and even self-censoring. That's certainly different, right? Usually I plow on ahead, blind to any consequences, discretion, details like that.

Emily Dickinson never shared any of her insecurities on paper. And her writing and mine bear such obviously close comparison. (Other than I'm not a poet, not nearly as pithy or witty or brilliant, etc.) But she didn't have much sense of humor, either, in her writing, except in a very dry way. Couldn't really describe many of her poems as LOL types.

It's reported now that she had Asperger's Syndrome. (Yes, I need a spellcheck on that.) Is that a way of assigning a clinical name to people who live by the motto, "I don't give a d*** about what other people think" and "Social graces are for all those losers out there"? Because I sorta live like that, not really by choice but by the mere fact that I never learned many social graces. Yet there's a little part of me that hasn't quite given up on being loved and adored by others. Although I have figured out, it's not the point of life to make other people love me, or even approve of me. At all.

I greatly admire people who are so busy living life to the fullest that they truly don't care what others think. I try to live my life the same way, living for a higher purpose and power.

I'm almost sounding like Ayn Rand, whose philosophy I loathe, so let me clarify -- I don't think people are meant to live in a vacuum of their own insipid thought processes, ignoring everyone else. I think we learn most everything worthwhile from other people. As much as I love to read, I certainly couldn't survive without the thoughts and inspiration of many other people on a daily basis.

At the same time, I spend a lot less time seeking approval from others than I did when I was younger. It's a really important attribute to have lots of self-confidence when you are the mother of teenagers, and the merest gesture or your presence alone causes them so much embarrassment. Andrew alternates between telling me to lighten up and hissing, "Stop dancing!" when we were shopping at a trendy store in the mall, and they were playing way cool music that I recognized from my iPod.

So, back to writers and their neuroses. What else might I have in common with them? Many other brilliant writers seem to suffer from substance abuse issues, depression, even mental illness. There are probably plenty of really sucky writers who also have these problems, but we don't know anything about them, nor do we frankly care. Oh, I can check several of these off! (I don't drink much or smoke, though. No drugs. Need to work on that.)

I was happy to read a brilliant book, the author's first (Kathryn Stockett), called "The Help," on our spring break vacation. It's not exactly a book to read on the beach, though I read it during our trip to the beach. I found it inspiring that a first-time writer could put together something with that much grace and heft, and plenty of humor too. It's quite long, and deals with race relations (Mississippi, 1960s, no more needs to be said); and people relations, in a compelling and very readable way.

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