I'm going to be a jerk and openly declare that I'm irritated by the TA (hereafter known as Skinny Jeans-- I don't understand how she can breathe in those things) for my Creative Problem Solving class. I admit that the problem is me, not her; she's a normal grad student in her late 20s, but I have something hard-wired into my brain to be really irritated by people who are in a life stage that I recently left. I am amused by the freshmen who were still in preschool when I was their age, but someone so close in years to myself-- I have a harder time giggling at her foibles. See? I told you I was a jerk.
Anyway. Last week, the class brainstormed together to get ideas for the research project that we each have to do this semester (identify a problem and research possible solutions, or do a case study of a person/entity who solved a problem). At the end, we went around the room and each shared one possible topic. My classmates came up with lots of good ones, hitting all the current highlights of public life: Obesity, health care, education, the environment... I've forgotten most of them, but you get the picture. So when it came round to me, I said, "A case study on how NASA changed after Challenger."
I kid you not-- the other 14 students, in unison, said "Wow." That's never happened to me before, nor do I expect it to happen again, but it was definitely a high point of my day. There's something to be said for having 14 extra years' worth of experiences to bring to the table. Skinny Jeans was less impressed:
Skinny Jeans: Cool. But how does that apply to you?
I (confused): It doesn't, except that I was really traumatized by Challenger.
SJ: Well, okay, but you need to do something that relates to you.
I'm sure that she is correct, and that applicability to my life is a big part of this assignment. But, I have to say, I think that statement gives away that she isn't a writer. (You were wondering how I was going to bring this round to writing, weren't you? No? Oh.) Because anything I write becomes a part of me, because I put a part of myself into it. And when research is involved, especially three months' worth of research, I'm even more connected to my writing material. Even though this is academic writing, not creative, the principle is the same: Once I write about something, it's part of me forever.
This, I am sure, is one reason that writers are collectively weird. And why our Google searches might one day get us arrested. And why we pass our time in public intently staring at strangers or writing notes in a restaurant. And why, when the muse is on duty, it would take a nuclear bomb going off in the same room for the writer to be distracted from his/her work. It's not just because of an addictive personality; it's because we're in the process of shaping ourselves, giving and taking with the material, changing and being changed by the very words we record.
For the record, I'm not doing my project on NASA or Challenger. It's still a hard topic for me, and I mostly suggested it to jolt my classmates out of talking-head mode so they would throw the net a bit wider. But whatever I choose, it hardly matters whether it relates to me on February 3rd; after so much time with a topic, I will certainly have internalized it come May 6th. Because I'm a writer.
Please, please tell me that I'm not the only one who does this, and that your writing also gets deep into your head. Or share your best writers-act-weird-in-public story.