Introversion Introspective

 

There is no such thing as a born introvert. I may not be able to point out a specific research article or anything to back me up. But I do have my story. Maybe that’s enough.

 

All of us remember singing or dancing with exuberance as children. An awkward home video of a child singing not very well, what did you expect, not all of us are the next Taylor Swift. I my case it was a magic trick involving a camera cut. I stood there wobbly on my uncooperative ankles. A big flashy toy weapon hung in my hands. The camera cut on cue. I hid said sound weapon in a cardboard box. The camera started again with me holding nothing. A trick of the camera disappeared a toy thing.

 

Other memories of my singing along of ABBA for some ungodly reason. Dancing around with my sister as she spun me around by both hands. Listening to a ton of the Beach Boys, I had no idea what they were singing about. Something changed when I was around other kids my age. I clammed up and became shy. My parents never discouraged that behavior or modeled something different.

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Some traumatic event or more realistically a series of such events leads to introversion. The science suggests nature and nurture contributes to the continuum. I was always the smallest, weakest kid, so very few people were always nice to me. This initial trauma forced a tight limit on the number of friends that felt good. For, me that grew into focusing on a few close friends with the general exclusion of others. This started out well and good. The reality doesn’t sink in during childhood. Without exception these first dozen or so friends moved away, and I never saw them again. That’s a traumatic experience if it happens again, again, and again, and I almost forgot again. These friendships were all from my first elementary school.

 

The last two-thirds of sixth grade were in a new school. Unlike my old school, there weren’t many black or brown students let alone teachers, wah wah wahh. Let’s say some people didn’t like me very much as the wheelchair bound Indian kid. One kid, Mathias was showing me the lay of the land. Five dollar mechanical pencils were the equivalent of Letterman jackets. I didn’t really feel like investing in one such meaningless mark of social status. I had the cash but didn’t go there.

 

It was probably stupid considering what I did next. I got a broken Pilot G2 pen from Johnson, fixed the sucker, and never took it out. Then I asked the class jokester to see his whatever mechanical pencil. That kidder told me it was on his desk and I could look at it. Mathias stood right beside him giggling like the funniest thing was happening. I should have seen it as duping delight. That wasn’t on my mind because everyone was so nice. They always looked happy to see me, said Hi insistently, and were really friendly. Like a sap, I cruised down the really long hallway back to the classroom and looked. I was mad. There was nothing there.

 

I’m not trying to make an indictment here. That single event struck a fissure already deeply ingrained from everything before. Mathias and I became friends. I ignored Mr. Joker from then on. I also think the timing had a lot to do with it.

 

Just as the Fates turned on me, six months later they saw me back into their good graces. The school district boundaries changed and my middle school wouldn’t be the general vanilla of Osseo. The relative cornucopia of Brooklyn Junior was my future. That’s when my anti-social period began.

 

I wasn’t looking for friendship any longer. I hit the books for really the first time. I made a few loose friends but no one expect me valued those friendships. My mind turned over this intrinsic human need of companionship to my imagination.

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I watched everything and I mean every single thing going on. Using these observations, I storied their lives as I saw them. As flawed and isolating as this was, it created the components I now use to write. A few interesting characters were Harry, Gwen, and Veronica.

 

Harry was Mr. Cool. I felt he was really struggling in Honors. Basically, Harry was hitting above his average. His wardrobe needed work but the girls loved him as a friend. I could never really talk to girls throughout middle school or high school. Harry was my hero in that way.

 

Gwen was someone I always felt a connection to. I never worked up the courage to say a single word to her. The news got around to me through the usual ways. Did I mention the fact I hear like a bat. Eavesdropping was my skill that sometimes helped but usually kept everyone at arm’s length and gave me enough to feel a connection without interacting. Gwen was in the school play. Years later, I found a lot of similarities, more about that later.

 

Veronica was this person in all my Honors classes. I can probably still describe a ton of things that contributed to my story of her. I thought of her as a girl ahead on the maturity front, more open than most, a social butterfly, and a good person. This has no basis in truth, but I like to think it does.

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Now the part where I un-learn the lessons from all bad stuff delivered my way. I wasn’t that easy, in fact it was the hardest thing I had done up to that point. A few things motivated me to turn back the damage and try again. I lost the physical ability to speak. Very few people know that but there it is. I had stopped going outside and living some time before. The 20’s depression so many millennial’s have, had just ended with the beginning of my fiction writing career. I knew that marketing would be a big part of my future. I needed to escape the cage of my own creation.

 

This reclamation of my social self began with the common social medium of my generation, the attention trap that is Facebook or fb. I friended anyone I recognized from High School and on back, including everyone I imagined knowing. I didn’t recognize a few. This changed nothing because either the request is accepted or ignored. No friend requests are ever declined.

 

Then rejection therapy. I said hi to every single accepted friend. It was an internal battle each and every time. After the first hundred rejections things became a tad easier. I found a few people to talk to.

 

So I’ve exposed the possibility of rejection and faced it en masse. The next step was to learn the social lessons I passed over. I fb messaged like an awkward new-born. I talked about anything that worked. Each message ran a laundry list of worries through my head. Did I say the wrong thing? Should I apologize? This one I agonized over for days and weeks at a time. I projected my conscious into a shade of this friend and searched this new soul to understand what my friend was going through. I agonized, literally agonized this question. I’m not a nice person or a mean person. It isn’t possible to bridge the gap from being okay to being nice with an apology. I spent years ruining friendships thinking I could apologize my way to being a nice person.

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In time, by that I mean years later, I was ready to break through years of social anxiety with a final Karate chop. I made a list of secrets I had always been terrified to share with anyone. It was the usual stuff like bad experiences and the things you cherish the most. I forced myself to type them out and send them like clandestine missives, all on the very brink of a panic attack. My friends are the greatest, and I hope everyone can say that.

 

I went from a child having fun and not knowing better to a cynic with too many bad experiences. Now, I’m a speculative optimistic trying to get back everything I denied for years. People need friends. It might be easy to say forget them. If they can’t appreciate me, it’s their loss. I might be easy to say my friends love me. Do they really or just the part you show them. We all can have epic, radically honest, complete friendships. All we need is the motivation, the guile, and the bravery to confront the possibility of loss. Without that, what is the point to this maddening, meandering, mess we call life. There is no life in a vacuum.

 

Take life into your hands and make it your own. This is one story of my life. Take anything helpful and ignore the rest.

 

GK

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Ella Dawson, A Letter from a Fan

 

(For those of you that haven’t heard: Ella Dawson is internet famous for various reason. Being an optimistic person, fighting for a better future, her writing,  and blog make her famous.)

 

Dear Ella Dawson,

 

You are a great person. You have an optimistic outlook for the future interaction between different people. Despite the opprobrium, you continue to fight for your vision of the future. There is no reason for the stigma against STI’s except personal fear.

 

I learned about you through a creative non-fiction piece you posted on Medium. It, put simply, was amazing. Your simple, clear language brought an extremely complicated concept into focus. It drew me in and gave me something to think about. A quote stuck with me. “it sits on my tongue like a sugar cube” That phrase so clearly depicts what was going on.  I knew from that moment, I had to learn everything I could from you.

 

I was only previously affected by heavily literary works like The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. This pulled my earlier writing too far in the flowery, literary direction. This trend caused confusion and reduced my potential audience. For a relatively unknown author like myself, too much complex language becomes a problem. I needed a new goal. Didn’t Mark Twain say something about simple language?

 

I started reading your WordPress blog from the beginning. That Medium piece was too advanced for me to see the underlying technique. I needed more and earlier writings. The second blog post about your college thesis caught my eye. It was a definition of feminist sex writing. Basically, you were saying the feminist part comes in when the writing questions the social mores around sex. For example, what constitutes acceptable sex? What types of relationship work and how do they function?

 

A really surprising thing happened. I had been writing a book for the previous 6 months that started to ask those questions and provide what I believed were my answers. I have never tried to label anything. I find it extremely frustrating to squeeze myself into boxes. I stopped trying long ago. That definition you provided was something new, expansive and inclusive.

 

I also read a book you reviewed and liked. It gave me a window into your preferred genre. Reading helps me figure out what fits into a genre, the characteristics that make something good, and the established boundaries. Finally, I look for what works and try to incorporate those into my own writing.

 

The three short stories you guest blogged on Exhibit A gave me a chance to learn about your approach to writing fiction. I read Homecoming first. The relationship descriptions were so on point. ‘There was some Peter Pan syndrome to explain why she was here, lurking in the back of the library at just after midnight.” The story was real. There were the good things and a little grunge on the edges. The entire piece was about familiarity and comfort.

 

Camille was great in a different way. I left it with this picture of Camille through the eyes of another. I imagined a petite woman possessed with unbelievable strength. The true description of a character should be by someone that loves this person.  A couple of lines stuck with me. “She reached out with one of her tiny hands and brushed his hair out of his face, and she smiled as she poked some of the freckles littering his cheek. He grabbed her wrist and kissed her thumb.” That last line felt especially real to me. I suspect that originated from an actual experience. This story had a fierceness to it, paired beautifully with reverence.

 

The last one was Slush. It felt a little angry, frustrated, and wrapped up in itself, but isn’t that the way some relationships go. The two people are stuck between the end of psychological intimacy and the end of everything. The entire thing was evocative and filled with emotion. Your use of simile was superb. “Anger keeps them tangled like the links of a snagged chain. She knows eventually something will give and let them swing free with stunning ease but that day has not come yet.” I have yet to crack that.

 

A prerequisite to creative writing is going to different places and seeing ordinary, more importantly, relatable things. Having those physical experiences also helps. Consider those the raw materials for simile. Instead of loosely associating like with brainstorming, jump through ideas with an over-arching similarity. I can do that in social interaction but not yet in writing. Asking what could be a simile for things I’ve written about and things I feel, might be exactly what I need.

 

The metaphors were educational. It’s the precursor to the things that wowed me in that creative non-fiction piece mentioned earlier. “They used to love each other. The memory is a splinter driven too deep in her palm to dig out with tweezers: a dull and irritating hurt, worsened by the temptation to pick.”

 

Handy mnemonic device. A simile is like Red (Taylor Swift, Red). A metaphor is Clean (Taylor Swift, 1989).

 

Awesome writing. You are doing good things, not that anyone has to say it. Hopefully, everyone will see that soon. Keep fighting the good fight. Rock on!

 

Thank you for everything you’re doing.

 

Graham Kar AKA Girish Karthikeyan

 

GK

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The 25% Solution: Characterization

 

Character development is a big part of any story. Each character should be well understood by the reader and distinguishable from other characters. Establishing a strong character starts with a defined back-story. What events and personality traits make the character found on the page. There are several ways to build up a basis for understanding what internal and external factors form certain behaviors.

 

I employed the method of understanding every aspect of my own personality. Each of these components can be added to others found in the world to create a whole, realistic character. Another way to get there is by observing others and writing out a hypothetical life story that accounts for everything observed. I did this a lot in secondary school, during my anti-social period. Then, there’s the conversational method. Talk with people, have deep conversation, and try to understand this person. Share yourself and it should go both ways. Find someone that is comfortable with it, first. I did a horrible job explaining that.

 

The novel I’m writing now, there are four main characters. Their story arcs will mimic each other to some extent and have vast differences in other ways. Isn’t that how life is? There is Inslee, the proverbial third-wheel to Sloane and Dominic. Duncan is one of Sloane’s children. Dominic and Sloane have been together for the length of their 2,000 year interstellar trip. Feelings and reactions evolve a lot in 2,000 years. Each character has POV parts that make up the entirety of the prose. Now, the character descriptions of these four characters. We have Inslee, Dominic, Sloane, and Duncan.

 

Inslee is a sexy, savvy doctor that knows what she wants and is willing to do almost anything for it. She is currently in a situation where, everything she has tried results in nothing changing. From the first time she meet Dominic, she has been attracted to him. This eventually became unrequited love. That feeling would undoubtedly change through the centuries. Remember Dominic is almost religiously devoted to his life partner, Sloane. Inslee’s love, becomes longing for what she can’t have, which makes the feeling of love stronger. Then it makes absolutely no sense to love a person that much. She falls then for the idea of him. Finally she realizes she never actually loved Dominic, but simply what he has with Sloane.

 

Their relationship is complicated after 2,000 years of friendship, most of it crammed into an interstellar spaceship with a crew of 12. Consciously, she found other relationships to bury her feelings for Dominic. Even though she consciously released those feelings, her unconscious mind still holds onto hope. Unconsciously she sets up situations to accidentally be close to him and test his loyalty, basically flirting without being aware of it.

 

Each of these immortals has a method to unite body and mind. That is a required part of their existence due to that fact their consciousness is grafted into a new body. Each method of body/mind connection is trained into each blank clone body and practiced by each consciousness. A deep truth is inherent in what the practice is. In Inslee’s case, that is love.

 

Dominic is a happy go-lucky guy that doesn’t appreciate what he has. He connects with his body by re-experiencing his past. The best way to get him is to deconstruct his relationship with Sloane. After being with the same person for a while, most relationships loose the spark they once had. Each half of a partnership has to evolve and merge for the relationship to constantly redefine itself to work in any situation. I lost you in abstraction there. What about an example?

 

For that, there’s the history of the relationship between Dominic and Sloane. She protects him during Remember. Dominic helps her get accustomed to their new life without the support she is used to having. They are separated for a time and their feelings intensify. Then Dominic protects her. The feelings of love they have gets old. Based on who they are, two things can happen. Their relationship falls apart or they grow together the only way possible for them. They grow co-dependent in an almost healthy way. Everything is great when both are together and aware of each other. What happens to someone like Dominic when this separation takes place?

 

That is his central question in this new book. He becomes depressed and at times suicidal. Been there before and know it well. Either way, I am really good at describing emotional states without naming them. I could probably teach a master’s class on that aspect. That’s for another time.

 

Then we have Sloane. This character is almost a spitting image of me. Sloane is the person I would be if I was alive in this future time period. Sloane is as I’ve thought of her a compassionate person that tries everything to help others. This isn’t the mold for a likable character. It’s more likely I choose the more accurate personality. Sloane wrestles back her emotions through meditation. Meditation is her connection tool. Succumbing to these emotions is terrifying. In the influence of these extreme emotions, she is unpredictable. Showing both sides makes a more likable character. Sometimes she falls into the trap of recursive thought and abject abstraction, and she struggles to reconnect with realty. On other occasions, she falls into the other nectar trap, becoming the person people expect her to be and loosing herself in the process.

 

Duncan in the son or daughter of Sloane and Dominic. The fusion of his parent’s personalities results in a strong, silent type that meditates in private and deep religious roots. Dominic doesn’t appreciating what he has and along with Sloane propensity for extreme emotions, this results in the silence of their son.

 

Writing each character through the entire story works for me. Two characters interacting gets tricky, but that’s the trade off. I’ll probably write out a full plan for this one. More story ideas to come.

 

GK

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Thriving in Spite of Reduced Ability

 

Throughout my life, a few things have remained the same. I have Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy, a progressive muscular disease that slowly weakens me. This results in a lose of ability over time.

 

I have found things that are inherently impossible for me now. Walking is an example of that. Everything else is possible with motivation and hope of getting better. Those are the two things required to be the person you want to be.

In the beginning of my life (before age eight), I knew there was something different about me and didn’t quite know why. Firstly, I started using a wheelchair. The issue of my emigration from India provided another possible source for my differences. Some version of this probably went through minds of other kids about themselves. Everything changed a little after understanding this wasn’t the end of my difference, things would surely get worse.

 

Let’s be clear about something, I never thought of myself as disabled or damaged. I am just different, like a person with green eyes is different from a person with brown eyes. Never allow another person to define what and how you can do anything. Living without a hindrances is a great gift, but beating what everyone thinks is a greater reward. As with all things, the more effort employed, the better the outcome. This way of thinking changes your perception of yourself. You know for a fact that you are not less able than anyone else. Never put artificial limits on yourself.

 

I have never attended a support group. Almost everything I’ve gone through deals with itself, apart from the first near death experience. This isn’t an ongoing struggle. This is who I am or who I always was. Nothing that comes your way is beyond your ability to cope, whether that means sharing your story with others or dealing with it in your own way.

 

This brings me to my experiences with other kids when I was also that age. Every year throughout high school, I along with other kids struggling with purely physical differences attended a gathering. You know the almost forced gatherings setup by well-meaning adults for discussion.

 

We were asked questions to setup conversation, so-called icebreakers. Would you take a cure if it was available? This is one I remember well. The majority answer was no, excluding myself and one other among the 50 or so others. My reaction to the majority sounds in my head. Why? The answers went something like this: it would change who I am.

 

I reacted with silent cynicism and confusion. This makes no sense. A cure isn’t retroactive (someone won’t go back in time and cure you at birth, anyway that would make a cure much easier). How can you possibly refuse the cure when it is almost my deepest desire? Then it hit me. My 15-year-old self thought they simply can’t hope because the low likelihood hurts them too much. It helps them cope. The disease is an ingredient of who they are. If the question wasn’t hypothetical, they would stop lying to themselves and say yes. That was what a teenager would think. I stopped bothering with other people as I grew older.

 

I now think a cure just administers physical improvement, keeping you the same person inside. If the cure would change more than that, the disease has too much power. That is the generally accepted conclusion, a really bad disease limits what opportunities that person has. I admit that without Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy, I would have a different job, but I don’t think my personality would have changed that much. I would be more social than I am now, but isn’t that a good thing? Limitations are a bad thing. Never cripple yourself without trying. A battle that is lost in the mind, is pointless to fight.

 

This post is getting a little too long for one day (hands tired). The key lies in finding your purpose. Take what qualities you have. In my case that is a fighter personality, maximum effort yields maximum results, observation of everything, railing to challenges, and keen memory. Find what you are supposed to do. I am supposed to push through the expectations of others, show them they can do great things, and show them what I can accomplish. Never give up or die trying.

 

GK

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