The Detachment of Writers

“I begin to see that writers are liable to become callous.”

I read this quote yesterday in I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith (which I’m loving, by the way) and had one of those ‘so true’ moments. I’m not sure if writing makes you look at the world in a different way or if looking at the world in a different way makes you write. But I do know that I’ve always had a kind of detached ‘outside looking in’ feeling. I often see the more intense parts of my own life as though I’m watching a scene in a movie- standing on the sidelines and judging my conversations and movements. And those of other people, of course. It often means my words and actions are the result of calculations as to the probable result, rather than impulse. Perhaps writers really are just shy actors. 

As a child, though, I thought this was the case for everyone. So I saw an element of acting in most people’s reactions. I rarely saw emotions like anger as being wholly genuine. So I wasn’t very sympathetic. I’m still not, even though I now understand that most people don’t experience life as I do. 

But I’m betting that most writers understand this kind of detachment. That we’re aware that when someone is angry with us, or flirting with us, or upset about something, a part of our mind is not really present. It’s outside, analysing. And later, while we’re writing, we know what hand gestures someone uses, what their body language should look like when expressing a particular emotion. We just know people. 

Please tell me this isn’t just me? 

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8 thoughts on “The Detachment of Writers

  1. Tracy Erler says:

    You’re on to something, especially in the last paragraph. Sometimes there’s things I think/feel/know that seem instinctive and I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been reading since a very young age and so I started subconsciously picking up body language and gestures and facial expressions and I just pay more attention to it now or if maybe I’ve always been wired with a writer’s brain and being a reader has helped me develop that. It’s hard for me to describe what I’m trying to say, but I do get what you’re saying: when we’re interacting with people (or observing them in conversations with others) our minds, whether consciously or subconsciously, are filing away everything we see away for the next time we need those details in a scene.

    Liked by 1 person

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