There’s a fine line for a writer between solitude and socialization. On one hand, writing is a very solitary craft. It requires focus and complete isolation from the world while the work is being created. This is one area I really enjoy. I love being alone with myself and my keyboard. I think I could spend most days without speaking to another human.
But the other side of a writer is that we need stimulation that comes in the form of experiences. For that, we have to socialize. There’s a line that can easily be crossed when we’re socializing that steps into our introspective time. Since I travel quite a lot, this happens to me more than I care to talk about. It’s because I’m weak and once I’ve had a drink, I want to keep talking and having discussions with people. But I need to go to bed so I can get up and write in the morning. Usually, this results in me getting less than optimum sleep on the road.
It’s one of the biggest things I struggle with. It’s like there are two people in my head, but they are polar opposites. One wants to go have fun all the time. The other wants to sit and learn, and read, and write, and learn more. The last year has been about letting the side of me that wants to write and study have the lead, but I fail on the road.
Part of my job is to socialize with my customers. So, to some extent, I have to be social. The key to sales is building lasting relationships with people, and you do that by socializing with them. For some reason, people like me. I’ve always been told I’m “Likable.” That’s great for a salesperson. But most times, I have to force myself to get started. It is truly a job for me because, at my core, I’m an introvert. As my wife always tells me, there’s a line that I don’t have to cross, but in order to find that line, I’d have to be sober at the time I make that decision, and that’s not normally the case. So I end up staying out longer than I should, drinking more than I should, etc.
The side of me that wants to study and read is the one who suffers for all of this. I struggled last week to do my daily language lessons on Duolingo. I sneaked off in the middle of the day to do a quick lesson so I didn’t lose my 265-day streak. I didn’t read for two days, and it drove me nuts because I need to utilize the power of time to get my reading done a little at a time, and I didn’t have enough time to even read 10 pages each day. So I spent a lot of the following day upset at myself for not getting to bed early, and promise myself that “today will be different,” and I hope it will be, but it very well may not be. There was a big “after party” at the conference I was at last week, and it’s a legendary party, I’m told. I didn’t even want to go, and my best bet at getting back to the hotel early is to abstain. That was my goal. I did manage to succeed there but was inundated with phone calls until late from my customers.
I need to allow my introverted side time to think and refuel. I don’t get the mental exhaustion from social situations like a lot of severe introverts do. I like to allow myself that time to think and learn and do what I’ve been doing every day for the last year. When I don’t get to do enough of it, it makes my day longer, and I have a thought in the back of my mind that I should have done better. I’m pretty hard on myself.
Maybe that’s what’s going on in my head. It’s a parent-child relationship between my introverted side and my “I want to have fun” side. The rebellious child can’t be controlled very well most days, and thus the parent tries to make him feel guilty. It works, but only until the first sign of fun. Rarely does the fun side make the introvert feel guilty.
I know what I should do. I’ve been making sacrifices for more than a year. Traveling just makes it so much more difficult, and last week, I built some critical relationships, so I can’t really be too hard on myself. For instance, one night I was able to spend several hours talking to our director of corporate strategy. This is a young woman who is our CEO’s chief of staff, and our liaison to investors and banks. She wants to learn about sales from me, and I want to learn more about strategic thinking from her. But I had to get to know her first for that to all come out. After a few drinks and a lot of talking about ourselves, it turns out we have this need for solitude in common. She lit up when I explained how I deal with it. Now, I think she wants me to mentor her, and she definitely wants to visit accounts with me to see how I work. She has a lot of clout in the company, and although my title is formally higher than hers, she’s involved at the highest level of the corporation. She can help me get stuff done. I need her as an ally, and I was able to build the basis for that relationship. It was good.
But, it caused me to get 5 hours less sleep than I wanted, and have less time for my writing the next morning. I had a post ready to go, but I didn’t have the time to be able to finish it up. That irritated me, but life is seldom fair, and I think less so for creatives.
So the rest of the day, I told myself that I would go back to the room instead of go to the after party with some huge music act, that I’m not really into anyway. I might have succeeded, but I might not have. Either way, I did my morning writing. I managed to carve out 25 minutes to write, without knowing if it will ever see the light of day. The core idea about the struggle between isolation and socializing may find its way into something else, who knows. But even on those worst hungover days, I’m able to write a minimum amount. Some days, I still surprise myself. But that music act might make a good scene somewhere in one of my stories. What’s a creative guy to do?
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2 thoughts on “The Balance Between Solitude and Social”
I think finding balance in our lives is one of the hardest things we need to do. I feel the same as you do. My hubby doesn’t understand how I can come home from work all day at a computer and sit for 6 hours on my laptop and do more. I try and explain that it’s two different worlds. I love my writing, doing research of art for my gallery, arranging notes and doing research and writing and rereading and editing and peeking now and then at a gossip column. I also need to get out some evenings after work (especially when the weather’s nice) and walk and think and open my mind to the cosmos so I can continue to get fresh ideas and perspectives. I also need to spend time with my hubby and grandkids and friends and clean my house and do some laundry. We spend a lifetime finding a ballance between them all. I’m sure you will too.
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I’ve spent a lifetime not being balanced, so I look forward to years of more balance.