Friday, January 21, 2011

A Solitary Life

This week’s prompt asked the question whether writing was a lonely proposition or not. Originally, I spent quite a lot of time trying to see the potential two sides of this subject. I looked at the traditional writer sitting at a table, pounding typewriter keys by candlelight. I pictured this person spending many hours in the quiet solitude of a library, doing research. I saw them walking the city streets with their head down, deeply lost in thought. Next, I began contemplating the other side of this. Soon it became evident that the first side was a picture of a time gone by. At least it should be….

Certainly, the creative part of writing is done alone. We might be alone with our laptop or computer, alone with our thoughts, alone with the muse or alone with music. I find classical music works best for me if I need to drown out home noise; my kid yelling into his Xbox 360 wireless microphone, calling in reinforcements, for instance.

I understand that sometimes we can be surrounded and yet still feel alone. Unless our spouse or other family members are writers, they probably don’t get it. Recently, I was told that I really didn’t need to reply to every comment that I received. Rather than argue against that opinion, I just let it go.

Personally, I really don’t see how one can expect to write well, if they do not interact with others. I think it’s important for seeing the world as well as to help build believable characters. It is certainly critical for support. With the rise of the internet, it is so easy to find groups of people with which to interact, and not only that, but to build great friendships.

Let’s take a look at the first point: seeing the world. There are some things that I can research on my own. I learned recently about the stages of light just before sunrise and just after sunset. I also learned about police equipment. For my second novel, I had to learn about fishing boats, about the real city that I was using as a location as well as other items of interest. Yet, current fashion and style of communication are examples of things that I can’t know, unless I get out and people-watch.

The next point: support. If you are blessed with a supportive family, whether they are blood or just great friends, you’re still going to need a group of folks that understand what can happen to the psyche when one’s work has been rejected frequently, what it feels to be sleep-deprived because of a deadline or perhaps what it’s like to have a fight with one’s muse. They can be local buddies or they can be like some of mine who are literally everywhere in the world (and many of you are reading these words now).

I have said this before and I will say it many times before I am through, but I have met some wonderful people in this writing journey that only began about a year ago; men and women across every spectrum. Some which sound as if they might be my long lost twin and some who I share only a writing life. They have been mentors, counselors, shoulders to lean against, a wall to bounce ideas off of and an occasional flirt (purely for research, I assure you). The point is there is a group of people out there who know what the writing life is like, and everyone is always welcome in that club. If a writer feels as if he or she is alone, it seems to me that it really is a shame-on-you kind of thing.


  1. Nice post, James.

    I don't agree that everyone is welcomed in 'that club', (too much genre bashing, fake concern, back stabbing and ego thumping in the circles I've been exposed to) but I'm thrilled that you have found your cluster to help you in your time of need. (*big smile)

  2. i.love_nyc = me, George. I have no idea how that identity came up on my Google account. (*rolls eyes) It suxs being a computer illiterate.

  3. You're indeed among friends. The community teaches us, and helps us see where we end and the "others" begin. I love listening to everyone's stories. I would not be the writer I am today without this community.
    Some of the people that have friended me on FB have been truly remarkable, and like you said, I feel like I'm their long-lost twin. And I find very little of what George talks about above: back stabbing. But then, that's usually an issue with the person doing it and has little to do with the person being stabbed. If I remember that, it's easier to accept it and move on.
    There's this great 4-letter word we like to use in our family: NEXT.

  4. Sharon - I liked what you said in regards to the back stabbing = being the issue of the other person.

    It kinda goes along with my new years mantra posted on the bathroom mirror - "Don't take anything Personally..."

  5. You got it, George. That's a great mantra. Don't let 'em hurt you. There's too much value inside you to let it stop you for more than a second.

  6. Beautifully said, James. Who the heck told you not to reply to all your comments? I ALWAYS do, in every blog I participate in, for every facebook comment, for every twitter comment, etc, etc. Sometimes I miss a couple, I'm sure, but not on purpose!

    Why do I reply to comments? Because once upon a time I was the fan wanting to ask the author/musician/actress/etc. a question and they never responded. :( Fans are invaluable and one day I will have fans and I will treat them right by answering their comments! *holds up right hand and vows*

    George, I have also met some writers who left a bad taste in my mouth (they seem to breed in the chat room), but they are in the minority. Most writers I've met are wonderful. And I agree with Sharon. If they give you crap, drop 'em.

  7. George, Sharon, J.D.,
    Thanks you guys for the comments today. I read everything as soon as I received the e-mail notices to my Iphone, but was simply too busy at work today to respond. TGIF!
    I hope this week's prompt has been a positive one for the readers and a reaffirming one for us as well.
    You guys have a great weekend,

  8. Great post James. You're right that sometimes it FEELS like we are alone when we are surrounded by even the most loving family who just don't GET IT! My husband is my biggest fan and supporter but he's told me on numerous occasions that I should be locked up for arguing OUT LOUD with my imaginary characters! LOL So, at that moment I do feel a little alone. But all I need to do is log on line to a blog or skype and see my best friend JD or get on twitter or facebook and TADA! Thousands of people that understand me! The internet is truly marvelous!

  9. Ana,
    Your post reminded me of something I once heard, "You can argue with yourself, but you know you're crazy when you start interrupting."

  10. Loved reading everyone's responses here today - great topic and a great week we've all had! Jimmy, I agree with Jen - I try to respond to all the comments I get. I think not to do so tells the commenter you aren't interested, and that should never be the case.

    Sure, I bet I mess up occasionally, but I hope not too often!

    And hey, a little harmless flirting is okay as long as it never goes "private". If it stays in comments and out in the open rather than a person emailing/messaging you direct "Hey, I meant it when you should take your shirt off on your next vlog."That would be crossing a line in my opinion. ;-)

    George and I have a lot in common - I've been stabbed in this business too. Which is why I cut out of all the organized writing guilds and slowly developed my own circle of peers I trust. I'm off to read his post next, I'm sure it will strike close to home for me!

  11. Anastasia, Sharon, C.J.
    I think it has been a very good week. This was a good subject to be putting out there. I hope everyone got some positive energies out of it. I know I did. By the middle of the week, I almost felt as if I should post something else, since we seemed to be agreeing with one another for the most part.
    Thank you ladies. Have a great week,