I came across an old email from my narcissist, who used to be my teacher, and I was really struck by how stilted his writing was. It occurs to me that all the narcissists in my life have been awkward, stilted writers, and that this is a good way of identifying these people early on.
My N would send out emails to his students all the time, and all of them were full of grandiose, very formal language, large words (often misused), and ideas that were very hard, if not impossible, to untangle. Other students of his would read these emails and then ask me about them: "S___ sent me an email, and I didn't understand it. Do you know what he meant?" And I didn't. At the time, I just thought, "He's not a very good writer," and I felt a little bad for him, because he was clearly trying so hard to convey something to us. But now it strikes me that this was not a failure of verbal skills so much as it was a failure of feeling skills. He was parroting things he had heard elsewhere, or read somewhere, without understanding them. The emails were hard to understand because he wasn't really saying anything. We didn't know what he meant because HE didn't know what the hell he meant.
And it occurs to me that if I had gotten to know him purely through his writing, rather than through the charming, handsome man he was in person, I would have been really turned off.
I noticed this because some of the emails and the poetry Lisa quotes in her book, from her husband Andrew, sound strikingly like my N's emails.
The original narcissist in my life, my dad, sends out blizzards of emails that sound like this too. They bug the hell out of everyone because they too are meaningless and nonsensical, and because, though he often talks about other family members in the emails, it's clear to all of us that he uses these emails to draw attention to himself. He often brags about the accomplishments of various people in the family, and these people are often mortified and worry that others will think they are bragging. "But don't worry," we all say to each other. "Everybody just deletes his emails without reading them." And I'm quite sure this is true.
One of my sisters is a bestselling writer, and when her first book came out and did well, my dad sent out dozens and dozens of emails crowing about various awards she had won. He even took credit for passing on his own writing talent to her. (We got such a huge, albeit rueful, laugh out of that! "He's the worst writer I know!" my sister said.)
My point is that when people have short-circuits in their ability to feel, to make truthful, reality-based observations about life and their place in it, and to communicate about the world, they reveal this to us, and their writing is a great place to look for it. Good writers are honest and can communicate clearly, regardless of their vocabulary or spelling. They can make you feel a connection to them. Narcissists can't. We just need to keep our eyes open and be aware of what they are showing us about themselves, when they try to communicate with us.