My Struggle with Being Present
Listening to: Outkast – Aquemini
I’m going to tell you a secret…I’m an introvert. Only the people closest to me know this because I can function in social settings, and I do very well. But I prefer to be alone most of the time. And for me, part of being an introvert and also a writer means I live in my head. A lot. Because of this, one thing I struggle with daily is being present in my non-day-job life. I can sit with a group of friends over drinks, have an interesting conversation, and I still my mind wanders to something absolutely unrelated to our discussion. I will nod, seem like I’m listening, but guys…I’m not. I know, it’s horrible. You don’t have to tell me, I’m aware. The thing is, I get some of my best ideas, plot bunnies, moments of storytelling epiphanies when I do this. It’s a double-edged sword.
I genuinely care about my family and friends; I care about what happens in their lives and what they have to say. I know I should be more present. I’m aware that sometimes I get a faraway look in my eyes and they KNOW I’m no longer paying attention. Although in my defense, I used to talk about whatever ms I was currently working on. But then everyone wanted to know why I wasn’t published yet (as if you simply finish a story and send it off to the magic publishing fairies to be turned into a book). It usually went something like this: No, I’m not published yet. No, I don’t want to self-publish. Yes, I know you know people who have done it, it doesn’t mean it’s the best approach for me. Yes, I want an agent and let me tell you why. Guys, I just got tired, so I don’t talk about my writing and instead I think about it.
This is the introvert in me, finding an excuse not to talk. Because everyone who asks is genuinely interested in my writing, and that’s why they want to know. Even if it’s the same questions over and over. Though most don’t voice it—likely classifying me as their peculiar writer friend—I’m sure my silence bugs them. Hell, it drives my family nuts. They have no issue telling me to stay in the moment. Which sometimes leads to bickering, and then I use my creativity as an excuse to not pay attention. Oh, sorry, did you say something? I was just thinking about what kind of shenanigans I plan on putting my MC through. No, I can’t tell you.
But excuses are lame. I need to be more present. It’s hard, though, when I spend half my time at the day job, and then other half focusing on writing. So when I’m not at the day job, I’m writing. But when I’m doing something else with my free time that’s not writing, I’m worried that I’m not writing. I worry I’m missing a moment of inspiration or something. So I think about writing. Then I get that faraway look at everyone rolls their eyes.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who struggles with this. We live in a world where if you don’t update your social media status with what you’re doing at the moment, it didn’t happen. Everyone’s attention spans are fractured. We’re constantly pulled in several directions at once. I don’t want the people I care about to think they mean little to me simply because I’m too focused inwardly. So for the month of December I’m giving myself the gift of being present. Of being OK with not focusing so much on my writing that I miss life. I’ve already agreed to attend more holiday parties then I normally would. I’m going to try as hard as possible to stay focused on those around me. This doesn’t mean I won’t be writing. Not at all. It only means that when I’m around the people I care about, I pay attention. I stay in the moment.
Maybe this is a step toward a better, more present person.