For a long time, I've suspected that poet's were different to other people. I'm talking about true poets here, not people that throw the occasional poem together, or like to read Ted Hughes or Sylvia Plath on an idle afternoon. There is something about the way poets think about the world, about the very way they experience events, that makes them different. We can get into the nature/nurture argument, and try to decide if being a poet alters your perception of things, or if you become a poet because you have a different perspective in the first place. While everything is a balance, I'm tempted to say that poets are 80% nature 20% nurture. Feel free to disagree - you can even right a poem about it, if you feel so inclined.
Here's the thing though, for the first time, I've begun to suspect that short story writer's may also be different to other people. I understand that most novelists are crazy - I've met enough to be able to discern that - but I always thought that short story writers were more like normal people, grounded, able to catch little slices of the world and record them for others to share. Sure, they may have a knack with words, perhaps they spent some time as a journalist or did an English Lit degree, but fundamentally they are good people watchers - often introverts - who like to see the world and then experiment with it on paper. You should always be wary if you spend time in the company of a writer, because anything you say may be taken down and used in their next story. Yes, even that highly traceable anecdote about your aunt's haemorrhoid cream being accidentally used as toothpaste.
As a short story writer myself, it may be that I'm delusional. I like to consider myself normal (don't we all?), and it is clearly everybody else that is insane. It has occurred to me that I may have this the wrong way around. My brain seems to trap and store little stories and fragments like a spider's web collects flies. I thought everyone was the same, but I'm slowly coming to the conclusion that this is not true. Writer's brains are wired for narrative, and while everybody loves a good story, it seems that only some people seem to grasp how they work. I wonder what a good metaphor for short story writer's should be? Are we like rock collectors, collecting shiny pebbles and polishing them until they shine like gems? Or perhaps butterfly collectors, trapping and pinning living things to a sheet of paper. There are some writer's I've read that are more like palaeontologists, scratching away at a large block of text, gradually revealing some huge monstrous beast that was previously hidden.
They say every person has a good novel in them. How many short stories does every person hold? The real question though, is whether these adages are true, or if most people have experiences, but only a few people are really writers, because it is a philosophy, a lifestyle, a species. What do you think?