Writers (and artists in general) have a million quotes that all basically come down to the same thing: we feel like lightning rods for the human experience, and as such, we need to find a way to redirect all that feeling, emotion, darkness, and energy somewhere else, or we'll explode. We live the life of everyone we talk to. We dream of worlds no one has seen. We take all of the invisible, intangible bits and try to give them shape.
Being a person who walks through life feeling this way is complicated and exhausting, mostly because the only people who truly understand what life feels like to us, is other people like us (and we tend to not spend enough time around those types of people!) This is why my life changed when I first set foot inside the hotel at my first RWA National Convention. It was like Dorothy walking into Oz and seeing the world in color for the first time. I didn't have to explain myself to anyone. I didn't have to make apologies for needing a few minutes to introvert. I didn't need to explain that I love socializing and being alone. These were my people. 2,000 of them all in one place. There were other people like me in the universe (a lot of them!) who geeked out over information and reading, who believed in happily ever afters and the power of transformative experiences. These were people who could talk about hair and makeup one minute and the deep underlying meaning of racism and misogyny hidden in popular literature the next.
This is why I treasure the internet. It took me over 30 years to find other writers and artists to connect with. Without the power of the internet I wouldn't have the network of people and support I've been able to gather over the last few years. The internet is amazing. Conventions where you can spend time with people who have similar interests are amazing. The world is huge and it can be very lonely, but it doesn't have to be anymore. You can find your people.
I'm writing all of this because this weekend took a dark turn. Dark. The kind where being a lightning rod became too much and I really felt like I was on the verge of exploding. Actually, it felt more like a well of sadness so deep and strong was trying to escape from my soul that the only way out was by it spilling out of my heart like a tidal wave. That if I didn't find a way to let it all out, that sadness would carry me away with it--because it had to get out and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
I don't know exactly how that much sadness winds up inside me, but I suspect it comes from me being me. I pick up emotions from everyone I meet. I absorb them and take them in. Maybe I store them up so they don't have to, or maybe I accidentally leave them lying around in a back storage room until the room is full and there's no where else for the stuff to go. I'm really not sure.
In the past I dealt with this alone, but then I became a writer and I finally had a real outlet for this stuff. I could finally redirect all the feelings and stories I collected each day into a channel that could handle it. Along with that came finding friends who understood me and I was able to build a community of support that I've never had before.
And I want everyone who feels this way to know there are people like them out there, and that taking those steps to go to that convention, or meeting, or school is the right step. It can feel overwhelming, but it is worth taking the chance. Not every attempt will work out, but you have to put yourself out there in order to find the one that will. Find your art, find your people. They are out there.