Wednesday, December 3, 2014

It takes a village

Last night I spent a delightful few hours catching up with a friend I don't see nearly enough. We met through mutual grad school friends (though we never attended any classes together). While I've been slaving away at short stories, he's been making documentaries and short films (the former premiered at the Maryland Film Festival a year or two ago. Not too shabby).

We had a far-ranging conversation--music (bad puns using Smiths and Replacements lyrics) childhood memories (a larger-than-life Maynard Ferguson album cover, hi fi's in the living room) to familial relationships (we're Catholic, we don't talk about our feelings), to writers, classic movies, Chanel commercials from the '80s (did you know Ridley Scott made those?) you get the picture.
This album cover haunted my childhood. Thanks, Dad.

But we mostly talked about art and trying to make it. It was a great, invigorating conversation--the kind I feel a bit starved for, especially since finishing up grad school nearly 6 years ago.  It's something I've been looking for/trying to re-create ever since.

It's strange--I've always preferred solitude. Maybe that's why I was drawn to writing. It's such a solitary endeavor. And doesn't happen in a vacuum, does it? We're always influenced by what's happening around us. I am, at least. And I think when I feel like there's not a whole lot going on externally, internally, everything's kind of blah, too. But it's not easy to balance out the need for solitude and the need for group activity. I am definitely introverted -- I need down time to recharge. Even when I'm having a good time with people I care about, at a certain point, I'm done. I'm overloaded. But oddly enough, being in the right kind of atmosphere (i.e. a long, meandering conversation over strong drinks) can recharge me as well.

I at least recognize this weird little high wire act and try to balance out the going-home-after-work-and-just-hanging-with-the-dog with some social activities (even if they don't revolve around artistic conversations). But it's not easy. I joined a literary journal as an editor about a year or so ago. And if I'm honest, I'll say it was because I wanted to stay tethered to a community I felt myself increasingly further away from. I'll go one further and say that I was also kind of hoping to find some kind of inspiration reading tons of other short stories. The good news is that the group of readers the editor has assembled are some of the most talented and thoughtful people I've met in a long time.  The bad news is (well, not *bad*, but...) that I'm just not as inspired as I thought I'd be.

Maybe that's an unfair statement. Maybe this whole post is unfair.  Does it sound like I'm putting the onus for my inspiration on others? I don't mean for it to sound that way. But there *is* something to be said for the community. The interaction and the free exchange of ideas.

The editor of the journal recognizes this--she tries to gather us all together a few times a year. Not just to go over the journal housekeeping stuff, but just to spend time with one another. It's good and I like it. I find spending an evening listening to smart people talk about art is probably one of my favorite things to do.

But I also like to go home, then, and be alone with my thoughts (and my dog, of course).

Why do I expect an alien to burst out of this nice lady's stomach?

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