Ideas are generating on my desk — telltale multi-color sticky notes cropping up is my first clue. This tells me that the last several weeks of working on me is going somewhere even though I’m still in the panicky baby-step phase of that procedure. However, I am learning things.
I’m an extrovert — not new information for those who know me — so alone time, while needed, gets to me after too many days… or hours. Some extroverts, at least my kind of extrovert, hover close to the introvert line without wading fully into those more solitary waters. There are free MBTI tests you can take online that will tell you exactly what percentage into extroversion or introversion you are. Look it up.
I will never be the reclusive writer that disappears for months on end while I delve into the literary world I create. Extroverted writers like me need breaks that include human interaction, whether it is texting, calling, speaking, being with others. Sometimes, with extroverts, you don’t even need to participate as long as it’s around you.
This is one of the most recent things I’ve discovered about myself. Or rediscovered, I’m not sure which.
After my first marriage split up and before I dated the Wusband, I would leave my house — a place filled with more unpleasant memories than pleasant — get away from the residual negative energy, and find myself in various artsy coffee shops. Writing had been wiped off my scope of practice through the turmoil of my marriage, and inspiration swept away by the pain of being unhappy for so long, so I would bring my laptop into cafes and figure out bills, look for jobs online, fill out applications.
I did this again once I entered graduate school a year later. I’d find myself writing papers in those same outlets between classes or before picking the kids up from school, theater, sports, etc.
I always thought I sought out external places to concentrate because I wanted to get away from the house, be somewhere neutral. I was wrong.
It’s because I’m a writer who happens to be an extrovert.
I’ve noticed some of my more recent prolific writing is occurring in cafes and coffee shops. People are all around, the hum of conversation surrounds me drowning out the indie music playing overhead. The occasional word or sentence of a nearby conversation punches through the thrum for attention — snippets of another’s life — laughter rings out, dishes clunk down on thick wood tables or clang into the return receptacle. I sit on the edge of this human experience and find I can work.
When I need a break from the solitary act of writing, I just look up.
I look up from my table at some rustic, grass fed, organically-minded cafe and see the triad of older ladies, grey to white hair, dressed in chic styles denoting comfortable lifestyles, and overhear words like Amsterdam, canals, and Van Gogh. Near the entrance, two women, one round with pregnancy, greet each other with happy hoots and warm embraces. I look beyond them to the line of patrons waiting at the order counter, make accidental eye contact with a balding academic type in his late 30’s, and note that he has fashion sense before darting my gaze away and reprimanding myself that I have sworn off dating to concentrate on me.
Okay, sworn may be a harsh word. I’m not seeking it, I’m not pursuing it, I’ve turned away from it. For now. While I work on me.
I’ve noticed many in-person interviews/potential freelancing entrepreneurs meet here to decide if they want to trade services or combine their efforts on a project. Professors sit over coffee and exchange ideas or discuss personal lives outside of academia. Middle aged sons take their mothers to lunch and catch up on what has occurred in their lives over the past weeks, sometimes months. And then there are the writers, like me. Hovering over laptops, scribbling on love worn pads of paper, eyes that gander up only to stare into space, or sometimes at others as I do, and then return to their task.
It only takes a few moments for me to glance around and take it all in, but it fills the social need of my extroversion enough that I refocus on my laptop screen, type in my password — having timed out by 20 seconds thanks to the diversion — and get back to work, satiated.
I do this several times per visit.
See? I’m learning about me already.
Photo by Luke Chesser