I’m better in writing, where I can set my own pace and pursue my own turns of mind without anxiety or distraction. Where the only expectations are those established within the work itself, not those pressing in from the world outside.
In writing, I make sense and follow my own internal logic. In the world, forced to react in the moment, my sense-making is hit-and-miss; I frequently wish to backspace, strike out a few things, flesh my comments out more fully so they can be better understood. In the heat of hearing things you don’t expect, it’s easy to say things you don’t mean or agree to things you don’t want. The world can catch you off guard – all the more if being out in the world, in itself, puts you into a kind of persistent, low-grade panic.
Someone who reads my best writing has met me and known my interior world, heard my voice the way it sounds within my own head. Those who happen to encounter me in person most often meet a cordial shell of tics, twitches, and sardonic remarks – from which they can deduce what, exactly? By design, not much.
Out there where the presentation always seems to come out wrong, I’m slow to reveal myself. I’d rather tell it to a blank sheet of paper in a quiet moment, then pass the paper along. At least I know that my part has been communicated clearly. If it’s misunderstood or not received well, I cannot hold myself to account: I know that I expressed myself well. I feel no such assurance when speaking. Quite the opposite. Any weirdness or failure of communication is claimed as mine, regardless of where it originated.
So how do I bring more of my writing self to everyday interactions? Existing only on the page is not an option. Contrary to the high stakes I imagine, most in-person interactions do not actually require that I present my absolute best possible self. I can get by with nods and grunts. People do it all the time.
But in writing, I more than get by. I say exactly what I mean. I throw in playful flourishes. I’m poignant and funny. How do I bring more of those elements to my everyday interactions? How do I be more fully myself all the time? How do I avoid hiding the aspects of myself that I find most distinctive and interesting away in notebooks and text files while presenting a dull, mechanical face to the world?
I understand how I arrived at this way of being: I spare myself the effort and complication of real-world engagement – and guard my time to myself – by tucking away the authentic, fragile parts that actually matter most. I keep my flame where it can’t be extinguished, which has the unfortunate effect of keeping it where it can’t be seen.
Imagine how my interactions would ignite, though, if I brought some of my true spirit (my writing self) out to play! The force within me would act upon the world – repelling the wrong ones, attracting the right ones, creating unexpected and unrepeatable moments.
I can still be better in writing. Maybe I’ll always be better in writing. That’s a good argument for continuing to write, since anything less would be neglect of my deepest, dearest self. But it’d be nice to close the gap a little: To bring my acting self into fuller accord with my thinking self, drawing more of my gifts to the surface for that large portion of the population that will never read a word I’ve written.
In the meantime, just publishing stuff like this has been a big step. I can safely say there’s more of me here, at this site, than anywhere else. The site turns six months old today and it’s hard to imagine how I’d have fared this past while without the creative outlet. Thanks for all the attention and encouragement you’ve extended my way.