As a writer (for, even though I have not yet been paid to do it, that is what I consider myself to be), I spend a lot of time alone. I focus intently on a screen for hours on end, and I am – most of the time – lost inside my own head. A lot of the people in my life do not actually exist.
This, while wonderful, can lead to a few problems.
Actually, if you think about it, there are loads of drawbacks to having an active imagination. One of these drawbacks is that you see things everywhere. By ‘things’, of course, I don’t mean things like tables and chairs and spoons, and so on, or any of the detritus one might expect to see in any normal house; I mean things like the flicker of shadow in the corner of your eye which could be a) next door’s cat, b) an errant eyelash, c) a serial killer hiding behind the ironing board, d) a vengeful ghost or e) your own addled brain trying to drive you crazy. Perhaps all of the above. When this happens on a daily (or, perhaps, regular) basis, it is enough to fray one’s nerves, just a little.
Telling myself that bad stuff doesn’t happen to people in their houses doesn’t help much, either. Proof to the contrary abounds.
I tend to be a jumpy sort at the best of times. I’m a terrible person to watch any sort of frightening film with, even one which is only mildly scary, because not only do I spook easily but I also tend to scream and/or weep at the most inappropriate places. Scenes in a movie which would make a normal person laugh with derision will have me under the sofa, gibbering in terror. When one combines this with my, frankly, overactive imagination, then things can get a little hairy. It also doesn’t help that I’m on my own a lot; when I’m with other people, I can control my irrational fears out of a sense of propriety. When alone, my terrors have full rein.
I’ve been convinced, so many times, that I’ve seen the reflection of someone sneaking up on me in my computer screen. Imagine my embarrassment, then, when I whirl around in a karate stance ready to thump my ‘assailant’, only to find nothing there. Nearly every time I pass our kitchen window I tell myself there’s someone in the garden, but it’s just the shadow cast by the shed; whatever way it falls, it lands on my eye like a marauder, waiting to pounce. Most times when I pass the spare room, I am convinced there’s someone sitting in the chair – but there never is, of course, because it’s impossible. Every creak is someone breaking in; whenever the phone rings, I hit the ceiling.
It’s ridiculous. Being aware of it makes it seem even more ridiculous, if that makes sense.
Having said all this, I don’t mean to paint a picture of myself as some sort of Victorian-era lady, living on her nerves, clutching her scented handkerchief to her powdered nose, and spending every day in a paroxysm of horror. When I’m totally absorbed in what I’m doing, and when a story has me gripped tight in its claws, I tend not to let anything distract me – not even reflections which could be stranglers creeping up on my unassuming back, their fingernails dripping with blood, or strange dark shapes in the corners of my vision which could be an intruder lying in wait (but which are, most likely, a bag full of old clothes which I haven’t got around to recycling yet, or something similar). Perhaps, sometimes, when I’m tired or my focus is not quite right or something isn’t working in the story, I allow myself to get dragged out of my fictional world, just a little; my imagination is still on overdrive, though, and so I see and hear and smell things that aren’t real, for a short while.
At least, that’s what I tell myself.
All this is another reason why it’s important for us solitary workers to get out and see the world a little every day. If I’m going to be talking to myself and muttering at shadows, I might as well do it outdoors and get some fresh air at the same time.
Happy Thursday. I hope your day is slightly less neurotic, and equally as productive, as mine!