Monday, June 04, 2007

Odd Man Out

Posted by Lisa

Wearing a cast makes other people, well, annoying.

As some of you know, I broke my foot April Fool's Day (fool that I am), and I was on crutches for six weeks. During that time, there were four or five instances when I nearly injured myself again. The scenario was the same each time:

Hopping quite capably on crutches, I approach a doorway. Bracing myself solidly on my good leg, I reach forward and pull on the door. It swings open, then WOOSH. Someone, most good-meaningly, has pulled the door open the full way, helping me, of course - helping me lose my balance and nearly plummet face-first to the ground. I catch my breath because I was startled. I smile. I say, "Whoops, you surprised me there. " I hobble through the now-held door and I mutter a disgruntled "Thank you" because I know I should.

On crutches I have been the odd man out when I pick up my kids from school. At our school, moms and dads rush into the cafeteria where kids are waiting, they collect their cherubs, and hurry on their way. Each day in my cast, people stared. I'm truly not much of a person who worries or even notices what others think, but why do I feel I must smile, and explain, telling them the same soccer story, day after day when they ask me what happened.

It's oh-too-much the same when people find out I'm a writer. They ask me about my writing. I give the same old answer, the same forced smile. Truth be told, I want to talk about writing, with writers. Because they understand. I have lived with this broken foot for weeks. I live with my writing day after day, year after year. I don't want to make idle conversation about either. Each is too close to home, too all-consuming in my life. Too important to me to summarize in a smiling sentence.

So, I am the odd man out. I write. If you're reading this so do you, most likely. We live different lives. My daydreams are centered on my characters. Non-writers don't get it. It's hard to be the odd man out.

13 comments:

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Lisa, you've nailed it. I think non-writers think I'm either a lazy person who sits around all day claiming I'm writing, or a rich person who sits around all day claiming I'm writing. And everyone who doesn't write thinks someday they will. Or that they've got the perfect idea for me to put in a book.

I've learned to smile and nod (probably like you with your cast) and not scream when, in response to mentioning that I've written a novel am asked, "Oh, is it fictional?"

kristen said...

Lisa,
Thank you for this. You are so right about all of it. I could talk about writing until the end of time with another writer, but nothing brings on the forced smile and the nod faster than an inquiry from one who doesn't. I'm so glad to know I'm not the only one who feels this way.

I can live with being the odd man out, just don't make me talk about it.

Lisa said...

One thing that might help you to get through the frustration is to remember -- in the grand scheme of things, getting any kind of questions because you ARE a writer is a good problem to have :-)

Melissa Marsh said...

I was just talking about this with my husband last night. He loves tinkering in his garage and there are always lots of people that come over. Sometimes I pop out and say hi, but I don't stay long, and I told him last night that they probably think I'm stuck-up or something. But no. He said, "I defend you. I tell them that you're inside doing what you need to do - tap, tapity-tapping on your keyboard." It's nice to have that support.

Beryl Singleton Bissell said...

When my husband and I decided to move to the North Shore of Lake Superior, it was for two reasons. First, we'd gone batsy over the view. Second, so that I'd start writing instead of just getting others published (I worked for Milkweed Editions in Minneapolis). Is it just a Minnesota thing that everyone you meet wants to know "what do you do." I could no longer say I was associate development director for a publisher so I took a deep breath and said, "I'm a writer." "Oh, and what have you written?" "Well, I'm working on a book." "Oh. Maybe you'd like to join our board of directors ...?" and so it went as if writing was not a job.

Trish Ryan said...

A friend said to me the other day (after I'd described a week of juggling deadlines and conference calls and strategizing about when to submit my next proposal) "Wow - that almost sounds like a job!" Too funny.

Whenever I start feeling weird about telling people I'm a writer, I remember the looks of boredom and dread I used to get when I'd say "I'm a lawyer." That's usually enough to snap me out of it :)

Maprilynne said...

I broke my right arm (I am right-handed) last January and it was the most miserable six weeks of my life!!! Plus you always have to tell "the story." Mine was that we hit a semi and totaled out car. So now my husband sounds like an incompetent driver. And you sound way defensive when you try to add, "But it was his fault because he decided to make a left turn across three lanes of traffic." *rolls eyes* So I am totally feeling for you!

Larramie said...

If truth be told, I believe being the odd man out is being considered as different, unique and special. Whether or not others view you in a positive way says volumes about them and whether they're worthy of being in your elite circle.

Therese said...

It's hard to be outside the norm, but good, too--maybe even preferable. In my view anyway.

But then that's what you'd expect from me, isn't it? :)

I'm just glad you're here talking about writing with the rest of us abnormal folks!

reality said...

Odd man out, you said. And the first words that came to mind were Last Man standing.
The words after that were Dead Man Walking.

I guess I am turning the extra screw in my head; in the wrong direction. : )

Ghost Girl said...

It's oh-too-much the same when people find out I'm a writer. They ask me about my writing. I give the same old answer, the same forced smile. Truth be told, I want to talk about writing, with writers. Because they understand. I have lived with this broken foot for weeks. I live with my writing day after day, year after year. I don't want to make idle conversation about either. Each is too close to home, too all-consuming in my life. Too important to me to summarize in a smiling sentence.

Lisa, I know exactly what you mean. I've been in both positions as well. My writing is the most sensitive of the two experiences. You get the raised eyebrow, "Can I buy your books?" and the deflated puff of breath that can only signify that "oh, you're not a REAL writer." This kind of conversation is just another case of spent dignity--mine.

I know hwat you mean about daydreaming about your characters, too. I do that all the time! I am lucky to have a few friends who, despite the fact that they are not writers, they are intelligent and artistic and get that artsy bend of personality.

So...count me in the odd pile. I'll help you even it up!

Lisa Marnell said...

It's so reassuring that others feel the same frustration when non-writers ask for the writing update (I suppose my misery appreciates your company).

Lisa

Tracy said...

Living in Los Angeles, few people do what they do. Most are doing something while they are waiting to do something else.

So if you are a writer, actor, singer, etc, expect eyerolls. But sometimes you make friends.