Small talk is sometimes hard for me. Chalk it up to that deadly combination of shyness, introversion, uncertainty and social awkwardness — I can be challenged by starting conversations and keeping them going. I’ve learned to overcome it somewhat, acting the part of someone more confident, less shy, and more outgoing. And if I hit on a subject that I know and love, I have no problems, but it can take time to get to that point. I’m a good listener, and I enjoy listening to and hearing about what other people are doing, what they’re thinking about, and so forth. So, a lot of the time conversations aren’t all that hard, but there are some questions that just make me stop in my tracks. I’m okay if I don’t think too much about them, but sometimes my over-thinking trips me up in the face of a simple question.
“So, have any exciting weekend plans?” Or, “What did you do last night?”
Sometimes I can have an exciting answer, “Friends that I haven’t seen in ages visited,” or, “I have tickets to go to this performance.” But, more often it’s, “The same old,” or, “Working on some writing projects,” or, “My weekly Game Night.”
And I wonder what their response might be if I answered with what I’m really doing? Not the external appearance of what I’m doing, but the reality that I’m living within when I’m doing these things.
“Well, on Sunday I’ll be working with a team that is fighting evil cultists and demons that have infested an airship. I’m just hoping that my skills will come together to be of actual use….”
Or, “I’ll hopefully spend some time investigating strange magical things that are happening. There will likely be a sword fight or two in the process, but I really have no idea what to expect.”
Or, “I planned to attend an elegant ball with royalty from a variety of nations, but instead found myself trying to understand the sudden discovery of the truth of my parentage — and trying to figure out what comes next.”
I imagine the responses to that… Blank stares, confused looks, or simply confirming that I exist at a particular level of weird.
It’s become common enough to have “game nights” with friends. So a lot of time I’ll break up what sounds like a repeatedly monotonous life of “writing” with mention of Game Night. This can lead to more conversation, but often it’s a somewhat awkward conversation.
“Oh, what do you play?” (Sometimes they’ll offer up some games, giving me a little bit more of a hint as to their frame of reference — which is awesome).
“It’s an RPG game” (their expression usually lets me know if they have any clue what that means).
“Oh… so like… video games?” (is sometimes the response, though sometimes I’m surprised).
“Well… we play on the computer, but it isn’t a video game. It’s more like, Dungeons and Dragons style — we just happen to use the computer because of the distance between the group members.”
From here the conversation can go a few ways. Often they simply nod politely and move on. Sometimes they give me a look like they can’t possibly understand why such a thing would be fun (at which point I attempt to get into how I play because it’s a form of group storytelling that I love). If they do have some familiarity (occasionally “Dungeons and Dragons-like” rings bells for people) I get to delve into explaining the system we’re using, and perhaps real conversation will ensue and occasionally I get the chance to talk about the campaign.
But the other ones… to explain that I really enjoy spending the evening or weekend mostly just curling up with a good book, or hunkering down at my computer, or over a notebook trying to pull words from my mind or frantically translating thoughts to the page. Not because others don’t appreciate the wonders of getting lost in a book, but it gets boring as a response after a while. I’d much rather be able to tell what I’m really doing. Because as I read that story I get lost in what’s happening. I am no longer sitting on my couch, or outside, but in a world unto itself. I am living through the main character. It is far more exciting that simply, “reading a book.”
And when I am writing — that thing that has drawn much of my time, I am also immersing. And it’s a strange experience, because I can set out to do one thing — write that darned scene that I’ve needed to write — and end up with something completely different. I am living the story, trying to get into the minds of multiple characters, and it can be downright exhausting. But also a lot of fun and the time passes very quickly (unless, of course, I’m stuck, and the characters are being stubborn — then it’s not so fun, and time can come to a standstill). So I am not just “working on a story,” or “writing.” Rather, I am having an intense experience, a grand adventure. Just one that may be rather scattered, inconsistent, and not make a whole lot of sense to anyone not also steeped in the story.
While I probably will never answer questions this way – it can be fun to ponder it. To think about what the responses might be. Meanwhile, I relax knowing that even if it sounds like my life is terribly boring; I get to spend my free time creating worlds, telling stories, and shaping realities.