It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…
…with my apologies to Charles Dickens!
After four intense days of being ‘on’ with the fantastic community that is the Antioch Writers Workshop, I’ve reached a saturation point. My introvert self craves solitude, and quiet, and a few minutes alone to write something of my own. But by the time I get home from my workfellow duties, even when it’s mid-afternoon and I miss out on the opportunity of faculty lunches and the incredible workshopping sessions, my mind is numb. I can’t recall the words that buzzed and popped during the morning instruction or during the hallway conversations and quick chats while commuting. I’ve drained my energy reserves.
It’s encouraging to see the talented Nancy Pickard shares my need for quiet when I find she escapes the throngs of adoring students for a few minutes alone. And Matthew Goodman, whose work I admire tremendously, offers the caveat to all the novice and not-so-novice writers in attendance: get used to being alone. That one, at least, is not a problem for me.
The trials of being an introvert seem to be a common thread at AWW. Many of us grudgingly wear that mantle, wishing it were otherwise, knowing it’s useless to fight it. While we can leave some of the gatherings energized and motivated, too much community time is exhausting. I love the sharing, the discussions, the common struggles and shared triumphs. I soak it all in and yearn for more, but my mind rebels by shutting down.
When I fight the inevitable crash, my frustration grows and I berate myself for my weakness. Futile response, of course, and certainly not healthy, but it’s an ingrained habit I’ve only recently learned to recognize. Now that I’m aware of it, I gather the few remaining shards of energy and gently dissolve the negative emotions, resting instead in the powerful camaraderie of the writing community that, in smaller doses, gives me the strength to continue putting words on paper every day, no matter what the outcome.
A tremendously supportive spirit surrounds me at AWW, from the generous personal sharing of the faculty, who give of themselves far beyond any contractual agreement, whether it be in training classes, one-on-one critiques, or pitch sessions, to the gamut of students from published authors to those who are only beginning to dare self-identify as a writer. This is my third year in attendance, and I’ve learned that Tuesday/Wednesday is my breaking point, when my brain is full, my emotions overwhelm and I must back off, regroup, and focus on the important things to be gained from this highly charged week.
Balance. Time together, with fellow writers who understand the journey we’ve chosen; and time alone, to ponder, and imagine, and refill that energy reservoir.
I truly have the best of both worlds, if I can only remember to approach them with the proper mindset, in the proper time.