26 Sep

I’m in danger of becoming desensitized.

I realized this the other day, at the party store where I work. A balloon exploded right next to me, and I didn’t even flinch. A customer pointed it out. “Wow,” she said. “You didn’t bat an eyelash. You must be used to this.”

I smiled wanly and nodded. I’m like one of those ‘bomb-proofed’ police horses that stay calm amid gunfire and explosions. Trouble is, I’m not sure this is a good thing. Does this mean I’ve disengaged from the world around me? That I’m not paying attention? That I’m tired? That I’m old?

As a writer, sensitivity is an asset. It helps to be able to crawl inside someone else’s head and imagine what it feels like to be them. Maybe that’s why I’m having trouble moving past page fifty of my next novel. I need to dive a little deeper into the whole process. But it takes so much out of me. Afterwards I’ll feel like a wrung out sponge.

On the flip side, being too sensitive can be difficult. I turn off the radio or television if there’s a story about an abused animal. I just can’t handle it. It’s too painful. My sister is worse. Her husband cuts articles out of the paper that he knows she shouldn’t read. Yes, it’s the ostrich in the sand trick. But it saves our sanity.

Is there such a thing as the perfect amount of sensitivity? Enough to empathize and write a kick-ass novel with characters that emotionally connect to your reader, but not so much that your nerves are at the surface and you run screaming from the room at the sound of a balloon popping?

Where do you fit on this continuum?

Talk to me ;)

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