*Note: I wrote this post originally as a self-indulgent therapy session that I doubted I would ever publish, because I know it reveals me to be a whiner who should attempt to fix situations she is unhappy with but doesn’t, choosing instead to stand back, reflect on them and on what is lacking in her personality. But after comtemplation I have decided to share, if for no other reason than to reach out to other introverts in the blogging world who may read this and identify with the feelings of aloneness and isolation I write about and realize that they are not, in fact, as alone in their feelings as they thought.
This past weekend I attended the Writer’s Federation of New Brunswick Wordsfall event that was held in my town of Sackville, NB. It consisted of registration and readings on Friday evening and intensive writing workshops all day Saturday.
Friday evening I walked from my home to a local pub/bowling alley downtown where writers and aspiring writers gathered to hear a reading by Shandi Mitchell, an esteemed author who would also be leading one of Saturday’s workshops, and then listen to ‘Open Mic’ readings by known and lesser-known writers willing to stand in front of their peers and offer their naked words to the group – not knowing how they would be received.
As it turned out, we embraced their nakedness, being appreciative voyeurs and listeners, willing the readers’ words to be wonderful, and they did not disappoint. I heard a lot of talent in the tiny room that night.
But I still left the event feeling unsettled, at odds with the writing world I sometimes pretend to be part of.
I felt at once invisable and conscipuous – if that is even possible.
I had walked into the event alone, after taking a couple of deep breaths before opening the pub door. I spoke to the two people manning the registration booth, tried unsuccessfully to make eye contact with a few of the individuals sitting near me during the readings, bought and drank one glass of ‘house red’ while muching on rectangular pieces of cheese and a few green grapes, and left as soon as the open Mic readings finished but before the Bowling Haiku poetry contest began.
I walked home alone except for the self-pity I hugged to my chest.
I’m tired of being invisable. I’m tired of being in groups where nobody knows my name nor cares to know it, of introducing myself only to be forgotten as quickly as we forget the last rainfall once the sun peeks through the clouds.
I felt much the same way on Saturday. But that day I was on guard, ready, prepared.
I didn’t attend the one-hour registration coffee and muffin session, afraid that it would make me aware of my own invisibility for even longer than necessary, but rather I joined the group of writers shortly before the workshop start-time of nine o’clock in the morning.
I gave my name, poured coffee into the travel mug that I carried with me and took one of the few remaining seats in the room, which happened to be close to the front near the workshop leader. Why is that – that adults avoid the first row, the first table, of anything they attend?
I smiled at my table-mates, opened my folder of handouts and my own folder of paper, clicked my pen to the ‘on’ position, and settled in to be inspired, to be awed, to be overcome by the need to rush home after the sessions and write write write.
Both workshops were excellent.
The morning session dealt with self-editing – that process that all writers should master, whether or not they are self-pubished or represented by tradional publishing houses, and the workshop facilitator offered astute words of wisdom for us to take away, study and incorporate into our drafts before we share them with beta readers or for selected peer reviews.
We broke for coffee half-way through the workshop, and by this time I knew better than to expect anyone to engage in conversation with me, so I spent the time observing the other participants, gauging who knew whom, who was ‘in-the-know’ of the federation’s inner workings and who was trying to become a person ‘in-the-know’. It was interesting, especially since I had once been on the federation’s board, although that was so long ago that no-one present at the workshop knew that. The faces and the names of the people I had worked with were nowhere to be seen this weekend, which made me wonder – what on earth happened to them – am I really the only person still around who was involved with WFNB in the early 90s? Say it isn’t so.
During the break, writers chatted and laughed and perhaps commiserated with their friends and neighbours. Over coffee they discussed their latest writing challenges, their editing angsts, their large disappointments and small victories.
I sipped my coffee, stared out the windows, checked my emails and tried to look inconsipuous until the workshop resumed.
You see, I’m fine in the workshop element where I don’t have to pretend that I have friends or acquaintences in attendance – it’s in the between-workshops moments that I feel out of place.
So when the morning ended and I took my place in the line-up for a bowl of soup and a sandwich, I wasn’t surprised that nobody spoke to me, because by now I was pretty sure I was draped in my invisable cloak, even though I really had thought I had put on my grey and black sweater and black leggings when I dressed earlier in the day. Apparently I was mistaken.
I took my lunch back to my table to eat, and while I ate I connected, at least on a peripheral level, with my table-mates – I learned their names, wrote down the titles of their blogs and their books or books-in-progress, and even discovered that one of my table-mates and I shared something in common – our children are third cousins (through our respective husbands), and that is kind of an unexpected neat thing to learn at a writing workshop full of strangers.
And the women at my table (yes, all were women at my table), were nice, and besides discovering the third cousin connection with one of them I found that two others of them work for Royal Bank, (that my late husband and I had also worked for), and their current manager is an old friend of mine. Small world.
Small but large.
After I finished lunch, on my way to to the washroom before the afternoon workshop, ‘Into The Heart of Characters’ began, I encountered a woman that I’ve met several times before in small group settings not related to writing.
“Hi there,” I said. I saw her glance at my nametag, but still no recognition.
“Hello,” she said, in her lovely acccented voice.
I didn’t bother to remind her that we had met before, that we had played ukulele and sang together in a group. This was not new territory for me, and after all, I was wearing my cloak.
But why is this? Why do I remain invisable after sixty-two years of being on this planet? Why do I often remember other people but they have no clue as to who I am? What does this say about my personality or lack thereof, that I can be forgotten as soon as I am out of sight? Or does it say anything at all? Is it like this for most people, perhaps, but I just happen to be sensitive about it? Does it really matter, anyway, in the big scheme of things, in life in general? The people I care about and who care about me remember me, know who I am from one day to the next, from one week to the next – surely that is enough for any person.
The afternoon workshop – ‘Into The Heart of Characters’ – was interesting, challenging, emotionally-draining and thoroughly enjoyable, and along with most of the workshop attendees I willingly participated in the exercises and discussions. One participant noted, toward the end of the afternoon, that what had begun as a quiet group of writers at the beginning of the session had morphed into a cluster of men and women eager to share their thoughts, their ideas, their words. We had become a community for four hours.
But after the session ended, when I gathered my belongings, donned my jacket and prepared to leave the building, I pretty-much knew that even if I should meet my fellow workshop participants at a future event, I wouldn’t be recognized – I would be wearing my cloak of invisibility again. And I think I’m okay with that – it probably looks better on me than my grey and black striped sweater and black leggings, anway.
One more thought about this and then I’ll stop my whining: I really think I should have been a spy. I would have been damn good at that.
Thanks for dropping by, and remember, don’t be a stranger.