As someone who spends most of their life submerged in words, it always surprises me how sometimes, I just can’t find the right ones. Small talk stumps me; once we’ve discussed the weather I struggle. I cling feebly to any personal snippet I can find out about the person, and I try to base a conversation around that, but sometimes it ends up falling flat on its face too. Cue awkward silence. Or painful small talk that is so blatantly small talk that it’s not worth the breath I use to utter it.
‘That car is a nice shade of green.’
‘Quiet in here, isn’t it?’
I’m interested in other people. I like finding out about their lives, for the selfish reason that they may offer me something I can give to a character in my writing. A trait, an interesting profession, an anecdote involving a mother-in-law and a pair of false teeth in a small wooden coffin. There is no doubt in my mind that the truth is stranger – yet always more plausible – than fiction.
But I’m not a natural conversationalist. Being introverted means that it’s something I have to work at. Even conversations with people I know well are sometimes trying. I only have so much mental energy, and when it runs out, it runs out. I shut down. Conversation has to end and I need to remove myself from the situation, go somewhere alone to recharge. I’m surprised at how common a need this is. I often assumed that I was a bit odd – and maybe I am but that’s for another day – but this is an introvert trait, so often when I’m feeling the need to wrap up the small talk and curl up alone with a notepad and pen, there’s a high possibility that the other person is wishing I would cut the crap and go away. Good to know.
And of course, being a writer means the written word rarely comes easily. I’m not a full-time writer but I still define myself by that term. I wonder sometimes though, if it puts too much pressure on me. I am a writer, I must write. But if I accepted that writing was simply a hobby maybe I wouldn’t be so hard on myself. I never tell myself, I am a knitter, I must knit. I never put myself under the same pressure. I have two unfinished novels, but unlike abandoned knitting projects, these novels weigh heavily on me. I feel them every time I write anything. I feel them any time I work on something that isn’t them. I feel them right now. Despite the fact I gave myself express permission to mothball them for a while and work on short stories. Which I’ve done. I am a writer. I am writing. But still it never feels like enough.