We’re weird. Be nice to us anyway.
The writers, artists, musicians, engineers and style mavens in your life. We know we’re weird. And we know you know it.
Anna Quindlen, one of my favorite writers, talks of the inevitability of having second-generation writers in her family. She said her kids thought being an author was as easy as writing upstairs, with occasional trips to the downstairs fridge to get Diet Cokes, muttering, “I should have gone to med school.”
I feel her pain. Us creative types tend to birth creative types. Introverts all, even if—like me—they appear at times to be the height of extroversion. My father put it well when he said, “When you want to be around people, you want to be in Times Square—at a large party—thrown in your honor—where you know everyone. And when you want to be alone, I might not see you for days.”
I have a friend who frets daily because her teenaged son is not more social, like her. “I’m worried about him. It’s not healthy to spend so much time alone,” she says. This boy tends to eat lunch on his own and likes to spend time at home pursuing his hobbies instead of out with his peers.
“Does he seem depressed? “ I ask.
“No. In fact, he seems happiest when he is at home with his fish or his hobbies,” she says.
I get it. I sooo get it.
On a Friday night, after a hectic week, I smile with true joy when I get to sit—glass of wine in hand—enjoying a delicious meal and catching up on a bit of The Good Wife or movies. Equally as happy when I get to sit with a good book. Or just moodling, which is my non-technical term for percolating.
Creative types take it all in. We take in things we don’t even want to take in—and for most of us, we’re well into adulthood and still trying to figure out how to set mental and emotional boundaries. We walk into a room and we feel the tension if the people in it have been arguing. We go to a party and get high on the vibe there—the laughter, the energy—but after a few hours, we don’t want to head to the after-party. We’ve had enough of the bright lights, loud laughter and energy buzzing back and forth. We need to retreat to our retreats. For me, that’s home. A bubble bath. A quiet think or read on my chaise. I’m percolating. I’m taking everything I’ve just experienced and absorbed, letting it settle—subconsciously.
It’s no surprise that an idea for an article, a solution to a work challenge or a video treatment, bubbles up in my brain as I drive in the car a few days later. Or I have a stroke of creative genius in the shower. Sometimes as I fall asleep.
Percolating, you see, is the secret for us weird creative types.
It’s why group trips have always been hard for me; they limit my percolating time. I overload the circuits with inputs, without the appropriate amount of time to process them. I love the camaraderie and friendship—but I need my own space also. I find myself retreating inward and wishing for a yurt or a monastic retreat. The jokes become less funny, the conversation less engaging. It’s not that some of my friends would not describe me as fun to go out with—they would. It’s just that I need balance. And alone time. In a way not all of us do.
Some of us hum on a different frequency. A frequency our Western culture does not always understand and certainly does not foster. Our schools put many of our children into hyper mode–on accelerated learning paths, in which every moment is filled with activity—and then we send them home with yet more to fill their brains. A culture in which vacation is awarded but it is frowned upon to take more than a short absence, which doesn’t really allow us to unwind. A home environment in which, unless carefully guarded, we are bombarded with news of the world; pinged with our friends’ Facebook, Twitter and Instagram updates; and reminded that it is oh so important that we make our next Words with Friends move.
It was Kahlil Gibran that said, “Let there be spaces in your togetherness.” He was talking to us, people.
Be kind to the creative in your life. Accept our idiosyncrasies. Let us hole up, showing ourselves only for an occasional Diet Coke, when we’re creating the next New York Times bestseller. Or the next whoosiwhatsit that will make the world a little richer, because it comes from a space that not all of us inhabit. An inner space. A quiet space. A void that begs for something to be born.
That’s what us weird creative types are for.