You’ve heard it before, “We have guests, come and say hi.” “You’re being rude.” “You’re being anti-social.”
If you’re a writer, being accused of anti-social behaviour isn’t ground-breaking news; it’s inherent.
I’d sit in a room in someone else’s house with my head buried in a journal, writing away to my heart’s content. I wanted privacy, not conversation.
The only person who ever called me out for this
bad writer behaviour was my aunt. She used to say, “You always have a bored look on your face when someone’s talking to you.”
Being my teenage-self, I said, “That’s because I am bored.”
I know that wasn’t the best response, but that was an honest response. Sometimes conversation doesn’t stimulate me. I was never one for small talk and I don’t like invasive questions so, I never left home without my journal or a notebook to write in. I felt more comfortable writing about what was going on around me than taking part in it. I liked observing people, their mannerisms and how they interacted with one another at social gatherings. I felt that characters in books didn’t always seem real, they were too fabricated with not enough depth, and I didn’t want to write like that.
Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with the people love, the people whose company I enjoy. But most of these gatherings took place when I was younger and included people years older than me, or years younger. So I wrote. Sometimes about what was going on around me and sometimes about characters that were only in my head. Either way, I wrote.
In the mornings at school, I’d write about the colours of the leaves outside and the empty corridors in the early hours of morning. I’d write about conversations I’d overhear in the girls’ bathroom and humorous advice that teachers would give me. I wrote in class when I should have been paying attention, but when your fingers itch to write and your mind races with ideas and thoughts, you have to write it down.
I had to write it down.
A few nights ago I had insomnia, and paragraphs of a new story came to me. I reached out for my phone and started typing, saving it as a draft. I couldn’t stop, I had to write.
One thing that my friends find strange is that I’m always writing dialogue; dialogue that I’d overhear and even dialogue that was part of our conversations. If I found it amusing I’d write it down. When I read my past journals, I laugh at some of the ridiculous things I’ve heard and said. Dialogue such as:
X: In Sri Lanka, they ride on elephants and kidnap you.
Y: That’s OK. I know karate.
X(sarcastically): Yeah, karate’s really gonna work on an elephant.
When I read that again, I grinned and remembered the scene vividly even though it was more than 7 years ago.
It may be anti-social and rude to write when you have guests over. It may not be socially correct to whip out a notebook and start writing when there are other people around you. And it may be downright disrespectful to have a look of boredom on your face when others are talking to you when all you want to do is write.
But when I read back on what I’ve written, whether biographical or fictional, I’m glad that I wrote it regardless of what was going on around me.
Because writers write. We just can’t help it.