Friday, May 29, 2009

The Price of Written Genius (Or Verbosity, At Least)

I find it to be an axiomatic truth that the rate of my posts is inversely proportionate to my social life. The more I actually do, the more people I see, the more (witty?) comments I make in my life, the less burning need I have to shout my thoughts out into the vastly large Internet, hoping to make connections with random strangers, friends and family.

You may be able to tell from my blogging lately that I have actually been seeing people, and, what's more, being social with people. Now when I make my way to the computer, I can never muster my esprit, my vive, my je ne sois quoi. In English, I can never channel the barely controlled need to write, my forceful thoughts and opinions running helter-skelter from my feverish mind to my speedily typing fingers.

Instead I lounge around, reading but rarely commenting on others' posts, and either rushing off to my next social moment or wallowing in loneliness, awoken from my most recent social connection.

Back in college, as you move from large social complex to basement apartments, and other fine examples of slum lord student housing around Provo, it was trendy for people to often ask what you did, what your hobbies are. And you were in turn expected to spit out a few sentence description of oneself, from city of origins to siblings number, major, age, state of romantic interaction, plus a long list of description, defining hobbies and interests. These lists made their entrances into ward prayer social clearing houses (hey, don't knock it - I once met a former fiance at a ward prayer. Although we didn't work out - but I attribute that to ourselves, and not the place of our meeting), first (and usually last) weekly roommate meetings, FHE groups, and of course the ever ubiquitous Ward phone list.

I am not opposed to small synopses of oneself, but I did often struggle with defining what my hobbies actually were. Sure, I was in the Medieval club, I cooked for fun with friends every weekend, I read voraciously, and I scrapbooked. But that wasn't what I did most of the time. My favorite thing to do was to see people, to be with others, to sample and partake of a social atmosphere from a tete-a-tete to a large party. I finally realized that this truly was my hobby - being a social butterfly. I loved social events, and what's more I loved to make them happen around me.

When I was president of the Quill and the Sword, one of my major agendas as a president was providing plenty of social activities. We had a movie night, a silly date night, extravagant birthday parties, and a potluck Halloween party, complete with costumes. Later in my college career instead of planning large group events I often gathered others to my homely cottage, where we made rancid shortbread, but then spent the remainder of the evening inventing religious homilies and metaphors for rancid shortbread to life. Other memories run through my mind, rose tinted reviews of carefree socializing from one end of the week to the next.

Oh, sure, I treasured quiet as well. Friday afternoons I had a weekly tryst with my eight foot long gold couch, where I leisurely napped. Most weeknights found me in the locked Hugh Nibley study room on the fourth floor of the Harold B. Lee Library, where silence reigned supreme and I alternated heavy studying with power naps at the wooden tables.

Even after graduation, when Avram and I were married and I had absconded to Wymount at the periphery of BYU, I still held sociality in high regard. Whether friends met us at our home to talk into the wee hours, or I made odd visits to cook and talk with Michele, I kept our social calendar far more busy than Avram ever desired.

But with moving away from Provo, and the simultaneous rise of this blog, I left my social heyday behind. Whether surviving Summers sans AC in the wilds of Virginia, freezing in the genteel countryside of England or living the life of a homemaker in Ohio, my desire for connecting with others in person has far outweighed any experience of doing so.

Over three hundred posts since I began my great outpouring in search of a tenuous connexion, I have finally seen that in order to produce my highest quality writing ability, I need to feel so starved of humanity that it wells up inside of me, a force greater than inertia and entropy, that I cannot stop, but can only channel into print. And yet for all this verbosity, I would rather spend my evenings exploring deeper meanings of life and all it contains with others. I would perform the delicate and complicated dance of social interaction, with its intricate curlicues of segues and asides, and a rhythm best shown in groupings of two to four. I would spend my time delving the depths of human thought and lightly skimming humorous anecdotes. I would be the social butterfly, flitting from one social flower to another, feeling complete in my favorite hobby of all - people.

When we first came to Ohio, I felt myself often apologizing for my rusty social skills. I felt that I could not remember what comments I should say and when. I find that the more cut off I feel from humanity, the more my social occasions are marked by interior (and sometimes exterior) worries that I have forgotten how to be social at all. I am a social caterpillar, blindly inching through social occasions. But look at my blog output!

I sometimes like to talk about someday writing a novel. I began to think that the only way to actually achieve this phenomenon is to lock myself in a tower that only lets food up through a basket. I shall be so emotionally starved that literature shall surely flow from my very fingertips, a modern day Rapunzel with heaps of manuscripts instead of hair.

I know part of this extends from leaving the college atmosphere with its excessive sociality behind. Part of this is early Motherhood. My own Mother has told me that the years she had very young children were the loneliest of her life. I believe the great output of Mormon Mommy Bloggers (as well as those from other denominations) extends from this great well of loneliness that encompasses our lives. I also know that the halcyon sociality of my college years are tied to unique social atmosphere and lack of responsibilities that college entails.

But sometimes, after spending a week with house guests, then a de-cluttering party, and finally dinner guests last night, I find the rest of my normal social-less life thrown into stark relief. At least I have 'recovered' enough from people to find the inner energy to write about it. At this rate in a couple years you will see my first best selling novel. Just don't be surprised if all of the social interactions in it are stilted and reminiscent of social caterpillars. It's the price of genius I will have had to pay.


  1. My own life is a constant waxing and waning of social activity. I've come to learn that being a young mother, or heck, being at any particular stage of life, isn't what decides or defines our sociality. Some times in life just require more conscious effort, is all. And this? Is definitely such a time.

    It's a big step realizing what brings you joy - now chase after it!

  2. ahh the memories of college and care free selfishness and constant social gatherings!! how i miss going country dancing, that was my favorite thing to do back then. well my other hobby was dating. seriously. i had three or four a week. good times. now i go three days sometimes with out even leaving my house becuase the thought of going anywhere with all three kids is overwhelmingly exhausting! i keep telling myself this is a phase and they will get older and i will have more time for friends and such. mommyhood to little ones sure can suck the energy right out of you some days though.

    oh and that was so funny in college how you had your speil you would say to people. when i would meet people i would just rattle it all off in a one big run on sentence instead of waiting for them to politly ask each boring question and it take half an hour. so i would say " my name is camilla, yes like camilla kimball, i have 9 siblings, am from SLC proper when to east high school, major is History, i like to read, go country dancing"

    now my hobbies include such exciting things as reading thora's blog, doing dishes and changing diapers, nursing, and entertaining children.

  3. hey people are my hobby too! Other people say they are but then they always want to scrap book or something while they socialize. and I would wrather just come along and listen/watch. I use to want to do all the talking but that changed and I enjow listening alot more, now.

  4. Here's to lounging around, reading and not commenting (oops!)

  5. I really relate to this -- not that I was ever a social butterfly on nearly the level you're describing, nor one to organize and plan things, but I did thrive on late-night conversations with roommates, etc., and I miss it.

    J.K. Rowling doesn't talk at all about a book while she's writing it, because she says that the talking about it will dissipate the energy to write it. And I've thought before (much like you said) that as long as I have satisfying social interactions, I'll probably never need to write a book.

  6. P.S. Even though it's much less efficient than in-person conversations, blogging and reading blogs has really been a great thing for my emotional health when real-life interaction was hard to attain because of mommy-life complications.