How to be in a room with people

Sometimes, when you’re a writer or employed in another similarly lonesome way, it’s quite hard to be in a room with other people. You get used to being on your own. You have to, because otherwise you go nuts and never get anything done. And being alone is generally great for your productivity (as long as you stop yourself from searching out fleeting connections online).

The thing is, humans are by nature incredibly social creatures and that means that if you want to hang on to as many of your marbles as you can, you’re best to make contact with the outside world occasionally. It’s been about eleven months since I gave up my day job to be a freelancing lounger and literary bounder. So far, it’s been ace and I’ve not really missed sharing office space one bit.

So far so good. Apart from the fact that last month I headed off to a fab Arvon course at Monaick Mhor and immediately was petrified by being in such a gorgeous and remote location with so many other people. Lucky for all on the Advanced Fiction Course, the group was completely nutter-free and we all got along peacefully and productively, but that didn’t stop me spending the first night wondering what the hell I was doing.

I was out of practice. I’d forgotten how to deal with people for more than the short amount of time you might spend chatting to them in a bar or over coffee and it made me feel horribly out of my depth.

Now I’ve been reminded that no matter how much of an anti social Grinch you can be in a working environment, it’s good for you to make the effort sometimes. Other people don’t normally bite, but you might if you spend too much time frothing rabidly and wrestling with words alone at your desk. Or is that just me?

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6 responses to “How to be in a room with people

  1. I normally enjoy the freedom and satisfaction of travelling solo, but last week I booked a package tour of Ha Long Bay in Vietnam because doing it myself would be more expensive and just annoying. I was worried about being around people, but it was okay – though I still retreated to my boat cabin / island hut once enough time had elapsed and a convenient escape route opened.

    I found I felt a lot more comfortable talking to married couples and old-timer travellers than the backpackin’ party people closer to my own age though, who I don’t feel I have much in common with. Either a sign of maturity or just premature old age. I’m happy being an old man.

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  2. I’ve been to Moniack Mhor twice now and the first time I was very apprehensive as I had to share a room with a total stranger (a first for me) but it worked out fine. There were a few big egos on the first trip and it did feel like being in the Big Brother house at times and I often wished you could vote a couple of loud-mouths out. But the experience overall was fantastic and didn’t put me off going back last year. By this time, most of the rooms were set up as singles and I think that’s important to get a bit of privacy when necessary, The 2nd group dynamic was much better and I still keep in touch with a few of them. I’m happy with my own company too but also think it’s healthy to step out of your bubble and mix with others now and again. I’m glad you enjoyed the Arvon course, the setting and the whole ethos is hard to beat.

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    • Ha, I love the idea of you voting out a few of the big egos. I’ve heard that the group you’re with can make a huge difference and I do feel very lucky that I had a nice one, and a room to myself! Nice to hear you’ve kept in touch with a few people, that’s got to be one of the biggest bonuses for experiences like that.

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    • You know, I often feel like there’s a lot of pressure in the silence, so it’s only good for me if I’m editing or having something down already. I’ve seen quite a few respected writers saying that good work only happens in silence though, so you’re on to something!

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