Hello, hello, and welcome to the middle of the week, dear readers. If you are feeling a little run down or if Friday is feeling a bit too far away, I encourage you to check out Writer’s Quote Wednesday, a weekly event hosted by Colleen of Silver Threading and Ronovan of Ronovan Writes.
For my contribution this week, I have chosen a quote from the poet Franz Kafka.
Franz Kafka was one of the major fiction writers of the 20th century. He was born to a middle-class German-speaking Jewish family in Prague, Bohemia (presently the Czech Republic), Austria–Hungary. Kafka’s first language was German, but he was also fluent in Czech. Later, Kafka acquired some knowledge of French language and culture; one of his favorite authors was Flaubert.
His unique body of writing—much of which is incomplete and which was mainly published posthumously—is considered to be among the most influential in Western literature.
His stories include The Metamorphosis and In the Penal Colony, while his novels are The Trial, The Castle, and Amerika. His work, which fuses elements of realism and the fantastic, typically features isolated protagonists faced by bizarre or surrealistic predicaments and incomprehensible social-bureaucratic powers and has been interpreted as exploring themes of alienation, existential anxiety, guilt, and absurdity. The term Kafkaesque has entered the English language to describe situations like those in his writing.
Kafka’s writing attracted little attention until after his death. During his lifetime, he published only a few short stories and never finished any of his novels, unless The Metamorphosis is considered.
Prior to his death, Kafka wrote to his friend and literary executor Max Brod: “Dearest Max, my last request: Everything I leave behind me … in the way of diaries, manuscripts, letters (my own and others’), sketches, and so on, [is] to be burned unread.” Brod overrode Kafka’s wishes, believing that Kafka had given these directions to him specifically because Kafka knew he would not honor them—Brod had told him as much. Brod, in fact, would oversee the publication of most of Kafka’s work in his possession, which soon began to attract attention and high critical regard.
Max Brod encountered significant difficulty in compiling Kafka’s notebooks into any chronological order as Kafka was known to start writing in the middle of notebooks, from the last towards the first, etc.
“Writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself.”
— Franz Kafka
I used to think I was an extrovert. I liked being around people, and I found talking and interacted to be easy. Yeah, I was a little shy with new people at first, but once I got talking, I could go on and on and on. I thought introverted meant you were very shy or found talking and interacting with people difficult or uncomfortable. That wasn’t me.
But I realized that after a few hours of being around other people, I felt exhausted. Their questions and expectation begin to irritate me. I start to wish they would all go away or that I could escape. If I can’t leave or if they won’t I usually end up putting my headphones in and choosing to ignore people so that I can pretend to be alone.
Recently I learned that being an extrovert or introvert is not about how easy it is to interact with people, the terms “actually relate to where we get our energy from.” Extroverts gain energy from being around people, introverts, on the other hand, get energy from being alone. I realized I am actually an introvert.
Looking back over my life, it all makes sense. I don’t like group activities or sports. I don’t like working as a team. I never feel very excited before seeing friends or going out among crowds. I like people, but I like being alone more.
That may be part of why I like writing so much. It’s something I can do alone, something other people cannot be a part of. After being alone and writing I feel better. I feel like I can jump back into deep and lively conversation, for a while.
I am lucky that the people around me understand and accept that I need to be alone. They don’t take it personally, and they don’t try to force me to talk or laugh with them. They think it is just because I have to write they don’t know, or understand, that I need to “recharge.”
I need the world to slow down. I need the world to quiet down. I need to be with just myself so that I can adjust myself to myself and absorb, contemplate, and categorize all that has happened to me and around me. I need to process everything slowly and deliberately and note the ways I have changed in the past few hours.
It might sound unnecessary to an extrovert, but for an introvert, and a writer, it’s important that I not let my own thoughts and feeling be overshadowed or forgotten in the flow of conversation and events that happen whenever people gather.
I need time to think about what it all means and how I feel so that I can use it in my writing and then return to the world, surer of who I am and where I fit in this world.
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Featured image via Adam Lofting