Before I was a writer, I only had one really annoying trait. Well, I mean. I’ve always had flaws. I’m bad at picking up subtleties. I don’t have a conversational filter. I can’t back down from a fight, I whine, I obsess, I hold grudges, etc. All of this has always been true.
But before I wrote, I had only one trait that everyone who knew me complained about. People who disliked me, people who liked me: Everyone asked me to stop, at a certain point. Every single time I spoke, I said the word “sorry.”
Sorry, I’m not in the mood to go out tonight. Sorry, I think the mustard is on the other shelf. I really hope Bush doesn’t get re-elected, sorry. Your shirt is really nice, sorry if that’s weird to say. Sorry. It was constant. I felt that everything I said had to be prefaced or concluded with an apology for speaking. This is a gender thing: Women do this, lots of women do this, and I was one of them; my therapist eventually told me that I only got one use of the word “sorry” per session, and he would cut me off mid-word if I did it more than once, which I always did.
So, after a few years with that therapist, I lost the habit, and I became much more articulate. Once I wasn’t paralyzed with self-consciousness, and tripping over my words, I started to seem more intelligent, and people started to tell me that I was funny, and smart, and pretty good with words, and I should write, because what was the worst that could happen?
After a year and a half of writing, the “sorry” started again.