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[personal] On writing, maturity and my personality - Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2011-12-05 08:42
Subject: [personal] On writing, maturity and my personality
Security: Public
Tags:personal, process, publishing
On the LiveJournal side of my recent post on perseverance [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ], [info]inflectionpoint asked in comments:
Very curious about how your personality is an artifact of your middle age. Can you say more?

I responded:
This probably merits a blog post of its own, rather than a comment reply, but in very short form, I was a pretty introverted and clueless child, teen and young adult. Sometime in my mid-to-late thirties I finally shed a lot of those inhibitions and that social blindness and tuned in to the people around me. I actually credit my personal growth to the effort I put into my writing, but that's probably somewhat arguable. I suspect it was an effect of delayed maturity more than anything.

[info]mmegaera followed up with this comment:
I don't think one's level of intro/extroversion has anything to do with one's maturity, to be honest, and it kind of bothers me to hear someone say so in that manner.

My response to that was:
I shouldn't think so as a general rule, given that introversion/extroversion seems to be nearly an intrinsic personality characteristic, but in my case this was definitely so. I became more extroverted as I matured and better grasped the rules of social intercourse, so to speak. Presumably I always had the impulse to extroversion, but for years was very bad at expressing myself or knowing how to fit in. That's what maturity gave me.

It's undeniable that I have been a very different person since my late thirties than I was in my teens, twenties or early thirties. (For reference, I am 47 now.) I can't speak for how others see me, but how I see myself has changed radically. I'm much more comfortable with myself and others, far more self-confident without being particularly self-conscious, much less concerned with how people see me or judge me, and generally a lot more relaxed and happier than ever I was earlier on in my life.

My experience of this transition is that it occurred at the same time that I was emerging as a working pro author. The transitions of writing and the business of my career opened doors in my head and heart that I barely knew were there. This centeredness and sense of self has been one of the great gifts that writing has given me.

Emerging authors famously go through a lot of transitions. The number of second book divorces and relationship collapses is legendary. My personal opinion is that this has to do with a shift in worldview as the writerbrain really engages and becomes an enmeshed part of the writer's personality. Everything changed for me — life goals, daily habits and behaviors, basic outlook.

I really can't say if it works this way for others. In fact, I'm quite curious about your experiences. Has writing changed your life? How? Was it for the better? Would you go back? Or are you just the same as you ever were?

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A large duck
User: burger_eater
Date: 2011-12-05 16:53 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Jay, did you get your glasses later in your childhood?

I didn't get glasses until I was 12 (I needed them well before and my folks knew it, but...) I've often wondered whether my inability to see and therefore judge other people clearly was part of my social inhibition.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2011-12-05 16:55 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
About 12, yes.
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A large duck
User: burger_eater
Date: 2011-12-05 17:20 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm sorry. I didn't address the question you asked.

Yes, writing has changed my life for the better, but not the social part. I talk less to people now than I ever have in my whole life (and that's okay).
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Kari Sperring
User: la_marquise_de_
Date: 2011-12-05 19:01 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I don't know. The thing is that my return to writing was part of the whole crash-and-burn major breakdown that ended my career as a working academic. My life is definitely better now -- but some of that is down to being away from my toxic former employer, no longer commuting 500 miles a week, and no longer having to deal with the bullying that went on in my work place. At the same time... I'd taught myself that I didn't deserve writing time, that success at writing was for others, that my writing was rubbish anyway, because it wasn't acceptable to my colleagues or some of my then social circle that I wrote. I feel that I may be more confident about my writing these days, and that's probably to do with getting published and so on. And I'm less diffident about it in other ways (I've even learned to say, when someone tells me they've bought my stuff, 'I hope you like it' and not 'Whatever for?')
And, to my relief, the marquis likes me being a writer. Which is excellent.
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inflectionpoint
User: inflectionpoint
Date: 2011-12-06 15:40 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Wow. That sounds utterly horrible.

I went through some of those things via child abuse and bullying, and then got a bonus dose in the academic world. I'm very sad to see how much the academic world replicates and enforces what are at best unhealthy and at worst downright abusive dynamics. People who are still in "the lifestyle" as I call it, are stunned at how bitter and disgusted I am with academia.

There's a lot of that "Deserving" going on, and if you aren't the chosen boy in the group, then you're there to spend your life working very hard and seeing very little for it. Hard work is not its own reward and if someone tells me it is, I look for exit doors.

I'm glad you are more confident and getting better at being able to reserve time and space for yourself. How did you work through that emotionally? I found that once I had space from the toxic place, I could start actually getting better. This required getting space from the toxic place as step one. The actual workings of the steps afterward are still somewhat a mystery to me, and I did them.

I am most curious. And glad for you to be out of there. It's bad.
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Kari Sperring
User: la_marquise_de_
Date: 2011-12-06 22:52 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Universities are some of the most toxic places to work I know of, sadly. A culture of overwork, of bullying management and of consistent undermining. I'm sorry you were subjected to it, too.
How I got through? I resigned, on the advice of my doctor, a psychiatrist, and the Occupational Health people from the university who trained me (as opposed to the one who employed me -- I learnt latter that the report they sent to my employer practically raised welts). And I was prescribed a lot of psychiatric medication, avoided hospital by the skin of my teeth and spent approximately 18 months doing not much apart from stare at bad television and reread books I knew wouldn't scare or upset me. I still can't listen to radio reports on higher education, or watch tv show about universities: I literally start shaking.
That was a career I'd worked hard for gone as a result of a toxic work culture. I do mourn that: I miss my students, I miss teaching, and feeling comfortable in academic libraries (they make me anxious these days). I miss some of my colleagues. But I love that I get to write again -- and I wanted to be a writer before any other career occurred to me, from the age of 6 or 7.
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inflectionpoint
User: inflectionpoint
Date: 2011-12-07 16:07 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
This sounds awfully familiar. I'm not in the lifestyle anymore. And yes, there are parts I miss terribly.

But I got a 50% pay raise walking into the next job, and I got the chance to start healing. It's taken years and it still progresses. (It's been ten years since the Event.)

Friended you, if you are curious about my ramblings.
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Kari Sperring
User: la_marquise_de_
Date: 2011-12-07 18:02 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Healing is good.
And thank you! I will friend you back.
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Marshal Zombie
User: skylion
Date: 2011-12-05 19:07 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I recall seeing King Kong on Christmas day with friends. During on of the many action scenes, I turned to a buddy and said, "You're GURPSing that aren't you?". He nodded eagerly and said, "Yes! And you're doing Savage Worlds aren't you?"

GUPRS and Savage Worlds are two pencil and paper role-playing game systems; both of them being our respective systems of choice. I've always seen RPG's of this variety as a form of storytelling. I collaborate with friends on it. We debate it. We tells stories to each other and we listen to each other. As I often take the driver's seat in these game, the first amongst equals part, the Game Master, I have written tons of scenarios and characters.

But it's the listening part that has driven me. I couldn't turn back from that. I wouldn't even know how. I can take a break from the driving part. No one has to listen to me. But I do need to listen to others.
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crystalrmartin
User: crystalrmartin
Date: 2011-12-05 20:38 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I am one of your more quiet peeps, but I read daily and keep up. Weirdly enough I too have been changed by my writing in ways I never imagined. My tattoo signifies the gift writing has given me. It is a butterfly leaving a lotus blossom with the kanji for creativity.

I was socially awkward also and kind of a late bloomer if you will. I have changed drastically since turning thirty. I am now thirty eight.

Writing has given me an understanding of myself and the world around me, and how I relate to everything. I am by no means a pro author yet, but I will get there. :)

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Keikaimalu
User: keikaimalu
Date: 2011-12-05 21:32 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Being a writer has been an important part of my identity since I was a child, so it's impossible to tease out the developmental threads from the writer threads.

I think being a writer means I observe the world more than most, and I feel I have license to indulge my curiosity, which is great. But I've always had a questing mind, even before I made the conscious decision that I was a writer. (I'm also a musician, and I don't think developing that particularly affected my personality either.)

Writing hasn't helped me with confidence or social skills. That stuff came in its own time, independent of writing. Making big sales was a great temporary ego boost every time, but it didn't fundamentally change my self-perception or personality.

Honestly, I think my personality shaped my decisions to become a writer and musician, not the other way around.
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mmegaera
User: mmegaera
Date: 2011-12-06 01:33 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I wrote like a fiend throughout most of my childhood and adolescence, then quit when I got married at twenty-one, not quite sure why.

It wasn't until after I got divorced in my early thirties (I'm 52 now) and started writing again, though, that I felt like I'd rediscovered a very important part of myself. So, yes, writing has changed me. Or changed me back...

I was more objecting to what I perceived as an introvert/immature vs. extrovert/mature association in your comment than anything else.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2011-12-06 12:18 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
My apologies. I obviously failed to communicate effectively, as I did not mean to draw a parallel between introversion/extroversion and immaturity/maturity, but rather to speak only to my own experiences.
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mmegaera
User: mmegaera
Date: 2011-12-06 18:54 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I thought that might be the case [g].

Anyway, I'm glad to hear it.
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inflectionpoint
User: inflectionpoint
Date: 2011-12-06 15:36 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Interesting. I'd agree with you both that introversion.extroversion aren't related directly to immaturity.maturity.

And yet, I learned social skills when I was more mature, so I became more extroverted, because it worked better when I interacted with people.

Bullying sets up a really bad loop for kids - I was bullied so badly and so inescapably (at home and outside the home) that there really wasn't anywhere to take space and time to learn how to do these things and do them better. Situations were already charged and I already had lost in so many encounters that after a while I just quit trying. Why bother when you are always going to lose anyway? Being invisible is better.

It wasn't till after college and in my early thirties that I had enough space to start observing and learning and trying things out. Once I did that from a place of space, things progressed very rapidly.

I'm always curious about other people who've made the transition. Where did they start, what did they achieve, and what do they still struggle with? From the outside, a person would have no idea how much I'm struggling with some of this even today. It's better but not done.
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That Which Fights Entropy: me with scarf
User: amberite
Date: 2011-12-06 22:59 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:me with scarf
I actually credit my personal growth to the effort I put into my writing, but that's probably somewhat arguable. I suspect it was an effect of delayed maturity more than anything.

I think that following one's bliss often has the side effect of becoming more 'mature' and more interesting to other people - whether it's writing or ditch-digging.

It's certainly a major piece of the romantic/social-life-building advice I hand out when asked for such advice: "Do what you're interested in and find a social space to do it in. Don't even pay attention to whether it's a 'partner finding hobby' or not; the members of the sex(es) you're interested in who ARE there are going to be truer friends to you than anyone you attempt to meet by having loneliness in common." Come for the writing/gaming/hacking/Ukrainian medieval history, stay for the love. Or something like that.

And I suspect the "second book relationship collapse" may also have to do with the fact that many people who stick together because they have loneliness in common find that it's not nearly as interesting when you have something real to be interested about.
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amphigori
User: amphigori
Date: 2011-12-07 01:19 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Writing, be it blogging, olnine roleplaying, dayjobbery writing for the web or fiction has impacted my life hugely. It's allowed me to get fantastic jobs in very cool industries, make friends all over the world (invaluable for when I relocated to New Zealand) and acts as a pressure valve.

Writing has always been my bliss and my release. So I'm finding it very interesting to watch my relationship with writing change as I focus on a spcific project. Structure. Focus. Dedication to a single thing. I'm surprised at the sudden resistance and the level of procrastination I can muster for the thing I love to do almost more than anything.

That being said, I think I've just created a strong enough outline and chapter breakdown that I finally can see it as a series of small, achievable goals than a huge, looming beastie.

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