I was a high school dropout, so most of my jobs (and I've had plenty) have been of the low-skilled, low-paid service variety. I was a miserable human being during the years I worked in fast food restaurants, clothing shops, telecom offices and insurance brokers. At the time I thought my misery was caused by the degrading and incredibly dull nature of the work; now that I've been out of that kind of job for a few years I think that the work itself was only a minor contributor to my wretchedness.
See, the thing about the service industry is that you are constantly surrounded by people and noise. There is always another customer waiting to be served, a phone needing to be answered or a bored co-worker wanting to discuss her plans for the weekend. Only when I started working full-time from home and began to go days without seeing or speaking to anyone did I realize how much being around other people drains me.
Since I've been working alone my entire personality has changed. I'm calmer, kinder and more creative. I do not growl at shop assistants and postal workers. When I see friends and family now I feel genuinely pleased to be in their company. I do not answer the phone with a weary sigh. My insomnia persists but when I do manage to sleep I no longer have nightmares about being crushed by a crowd.
I know that for many people spending 12 or so hours a day in a windowless shoebox of a room, leaving only to throw a high-sodium frozen dinner in the microwave or make another pot of coffee sounds depressing as hell. To me, it is bliss.
When I wrote about my introversion for the Sydney Morning Herald I received a lot of mail from people who related to my need for solitude and were grateful to have an article which embraced rather than sought to overcome the 'condition' of introversion. It's odd, I suppose, for people who love being on their own to find comfort in knowing they are not alone, but there you go.
Anyway, this is all a round about way of explaining how I feel about my upcoming book tour. I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to talk about Taming the Beast with American readers and to finally meet some the people behind lit-sites I've been reading forever. But then there's the anxiousness that comes with having to leave my little cell, and the worry that I will disappoint everybody I meet. There's the fear of messing up in front of an audience, or worse, that nobody will show up.
These are common worries for authors going on tour, I hear, so what's nice is that I'll be facing them with two other writers by my side. Heather O'Neill, author of the Lullabies for Little Criminals and Sarah Hall, author of Haweswater, and I will be touring together. I haven't met Heather or Sarah yet so I don't know if they share my neuroses and anxieties, but either way — and I never thought I'd say something like this — I'm happy I won't be alone in this.
Thanks to Powell's for letting me guest blog here, and thanks to all who've read and commented. I'm off to the airport now to begin the hellishly long flight from Sydney to New York. Maybe I'll catch up with some of you at the other end.
Books mentioned in this post
Emily Maguire is the author of Taming the Beast (P.S.)