As the annual Associated Writing Program conference inches closer I contemplate attending, again. I came across this blog entry I wrote a few years ago for a site dedicated to the conference.
But: For introverts and malcontents, like myself, competitive and conspiratorial introverts, conferences are a test of wills. I find the entire enterprise to be exhausting on so many levels I often chide a higher-ranking myself in mid-conference stream for having fooled a lower-ranking myself once again in attending. You’re never alone when you’re schizophrenic, I might say jokingly to myself while humming Ian Hunter.
And then there are the people. I love people, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve come to adopt Dostoevsky’s stance “demands of the particular,” which states — “the more I love humanity in general, the less I love man in particular.” Heartstrings trill until someone plucks with me. I see an arch nemesis; a hectoring former professor trailing neck-scarf, their own tomes artfully arm-pitted; the jilting agent latte whore or the plainly insane publisher borderline plushie who inched your manuscript across the glass desk with the tips of her manicured fingertips as if the leaves were a dead carcass – and I lose my mind.
The hoards don’t help either. All sweaty and earnest swinging bulging, hemp book-bags. All the theorists in fancy eyewear, all the writers in torn cardigans.
Because I’m a writer. And there is nothing lonelier save perhaps a svelte long-distance runner than a writer sans his or her community of ink-stained neophytes and blithering zealots. I go because writing is the most important thing in the world and it is an art that is maddeningly elusive and achingly beautiful. I go to commiserate, to conspire with dead poets and novelists, to sing, to mingle in some circumscribed manner; and learn, learn, learn. I am not done yet, and even so acknowledge: the only way to grow and know is to rub up against that which produces friction. I go for this heat.
I have attended writing conferences for many years now and yes there are many instances where I find myself in a stuffy banquet hall nodding over my cooling Styro’ of coffee glancing at the dais and thinking: I could have given this presentation. But I go. And I go now, unlike in the past, knowing a lot more about myself, and why conferences are a test for me.
A few years ago now, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder II, a disorder of hypomania and depression on the spectrum of autism, Asperger’s and other bipolar disturbances; some days a little ebullient, on others, bluer than blue. Couple this with my Jungian personality type — INFJ — of the introvert (where energy is reaped through solitude, a good book) who feels his way through the world by way of intuition, feelings and judgment and conference-dread makes sense.
Well this makes sense to me anyways.
So I go? This year?