I don’t write nearly as often as I used to nor, quite frankly, as I would like. There was a time I would write to explore ideas, or to give myself a creative outlet, or if nothing else, to keep myself sane. There have been times when I have been ridiculously creative or depressed and needing an outlet. I’ve traveled an interesting journey in discovering myself, and writing has served a solid purpose in helping me explore those feelings.
Over the last few years, I’ve found differing purposes that have held my attention. I no longer spend a hundred hours a month commuting to a stifling job and therefore no longer spend that time circulating ideas in my head – creating existential questions begging to be answered. I’m largely free to explore ideas of interest in the context of my job – a job with the twin benefits of at once being highly entrepreneurial while also being one where I have a consistent and predictable salary. I’m actually paid for my opinions and the analysis at which I am very good. The best of both worlds.
It’s with this in mind, then, that it occurred to me that after some 10 years of self directed writing that I write most of my work at night. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a night owl. There’s no one around to distract my attention, and as such, I can focus my efforts without interruption. The house is quiet. The external demands minimal.
I am without a doubt an introvert. I used to take this time to recharge my batteries, to get out all of that “STUFF” in my head. I now spend a lot of time alone and as such my batteries are generally charged up. This has served me well, as I cannot remember the last time I felt so emotionally healthy. I have a better understanding of myself, my limitations, and my strengths. It’s in this context that writing takes a backseat, because I have the time to think and process and just be alone that I’ve never had before.
There are times, though, that I still need to process out in writing.
When I was in college, I had an Op/Ed column in the school paper. I wish I had been forward thinking enough to save some of the pieces, but alas I wasn’t. Every week there was a column put out there – for ridicule or praise – in front of my 4,000+ fellow students and faculty. And there was always this weird sort of dichotomy where I would read what I had written and question my work, but when I read it in the paper – as though someone else had written it – it felt “right.” It was in black and white on newsprint. It had to be legit. Writing served as a really good way to force some construction around my ideas and communicate them.
Now, I realize a good portion of what makes me tick – middle age seems to have had that effect. When there’s a lot going on around me, I start to shut down – there’s so much to process, over which I have no control. With all that environmental noise going on, I focus on one thing at the exclusion of everything else. As the noise increases, my field of vision – or hearing – decreases. It takes work to filter out all that “stuff” in the environment, so when something deserving of attention requests attention, it’s often difficult to get it. Essentially, I’m capable of focusing on one thing at a time and when I focus, I do so effectively at the exclusion of everything else. Sometimes so feverishly that I fail to notice things I should – like the effect I’m having on those with whom I’m having a conversation. I have to force myself to make sure I’m not driving home my analysis at the expense of alienating those who have so graciously engaged me.
What makes me feel badly is when someone who deserves my attention doesn’t get it and is hurt by that. It also makes me feel badly when my headspace and need isn’t acknowledged. It’s important to get my attention to discuss something so I can respect your feelings, but it’s equally important that my need to be able to focus is respected.
I want to be engaged and to listen, but I also want to be respected and not belittled. I process information my way, you process information your way. It would be great if we could just figure out who we could process together.