Mental Health Monday: People Who Need People
I’m a people person. Well, sort of. I do enjoy my time alone, but it’s almost counter to my personality that I work so many hours every week alone in my office, with no one to talk to.
Imagine this: You work for an insurance company, or you’re a CPA, or maybe you sell advertising or houses, or maybe you’re a lawyer. You go into work every day, but no one else is in the office. It’s just you and your computer and maybe a coffee maker. No one to chat with during breaks. No one to discuss business problems with. No one to share successful moments with. Just when you land that new client or sell that house or solve that client’s legal problems, you turn around in your chair to high-five a colleague, and there’s no one there. That’s what it’s like to be a writer.
So whenever I find the opportunity, I get together with other writers. My monthly critique group is a hugely important venue for not only social interaction with other writers, but also an opportunity to hone my craft, to get feedback on my latest project, and to hopefully help my fellow writers with theirs. That (short) two to two-and-a-half-hour gathering feels like a lifeline for someone who works in isolation. I wrote about this a few years ago in “The Strange Pull of What You Really Love.” (writing about Hemingway)
Just when I need another writer to high-five (because of my recent book deal) here comes Wendy Reed, an author friend who lives in Birmingham, to spend the weekend with me. With my husband out of town, we would have the house to ourselves. Wendy was spending a few hours in a small town in north Mississippi on her trip over, doing some research for a book. When she arrived, we talked for three hours straight, and then made a plan for the rest of the weekend: She would work in the dining room and living room, and I’d be back in my office. But we would take breaks for snacks and meals and talk about how our work was going, and read excerpts to each other. It was magical.
At the end of the day on Saturday we went down to Tug’s, the casual restaurant on the Mississippi River near my house, for drinks and dinner, and then walked across the street to take pictures at sunset. It felt like a celebration! Returning home we ran into my neighbor and life/writing mentor, Sally Thomason (out walking her dog) and she came over for a champagne toast to (1) my new book deal and (2) the anthology I’m editing that both she and Wendy contributed essays to. And the three of us talked “business” for another hour or two, just like we might have done at the end of a day together in the office. And I thought, “So this is what it feels like to work around other people.” (Okay, full disclosure, it was prosecco, not champagne, and my sweet husband brought it home to celebrate with me the day I got the book deal, but I wasn’t feeling well, so we decided to open it another day. I’m going to replace the bottle this afternoon and share it with him soon!)
I’m definitely a person who needs people. So now that my weekend visit with Wendy is over and it’s time to get back to work (alone) I’ll stay in touch with Wendy (and other writers) through email and Facebook, which helps me not feel so alone. And later this morning, when I’m sitting in the waiting room at the car dealer while my car is being maintenanced, I’ll find that fellowship I crave… in the pages of a good book. My current read? Megan Mayhew Bergman’s Almost Famous Women. And I’m re-reading Wendy’s mixed-genre book, An Accidental Memoir: How I Killed Someone and Other Stories.
Hope everyone has a good week! Take care of your mental health… work hard, read a good book, relax, and find a friend to hang out with!