Wednesday, January 19, 2011

WANTED: Lonely author seeking same for companionship...

“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness, but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.” Ernest Hemingway

Alas – the lonely writer. A dying breed of the classic author. A throwback to the romantic writing era when one claimed to be a serious writer, would sequester themselves for days on end. Haunted by inner demons, the sober somber author of olde would draw down the shades, live off booze and cigarettes, and become one with the typewriter.

Ah, their stamina! Their power! Their ability to flail themselves upon the keys and churn out something worthwhile and holy! The mere thought of those stoic kindred spirits of the past make me want to grab my crotch, hock up some sinus phlegm and hope I get published.

You see, by today’s standards, I am in the minority. I am a lonely writer.

Even while using the plethora of writer’s community opportunities that are at my fingertips, there are those nights where I sit in my dark, studio apartment and cry in the isolation I find myself in. Yet, I ask for no sympathy because this is a path that I have chosen.

That’s right. I choose to be alone.

Perhaps it’s due to my bi-polarism. And the fact that I have the attention span of a Golden Retriever. I’ve never been one to fit in with my peers. I don’t get all excited to go to writer groups and workshops. I don’t get inspired working on my story in a clustered coffee shop. I am not a social creature. I loathe the social interaction of Twitter, Facebook and Skype. It steals my creative energies and takes way too much time away from my first love – my story writing.

I guess I tend to look at things outside the box. I love the solitude, the aloneness writing provides me. I love to squirrel myself away for days, weeks, doing nothing but typing, research, plotting, editing and occasionally taking time to sleep and eat. It exorcises my personal demons, it cleanses my soul.

I love the quiet bliss of a story unfolding under my fingers with no distractions other than the occasional furry ones under my feet. I believe solitude is a state of mind rather than an environmental state, and one that writers should realize and embrace. Not many do. And while I hold those quiet qualities with the zeal of a born-again experience, I have to accept the inevitable: loneliness will be a part of my life. And I’m okay with that.

For the most part, I have made peace with the fact I will have those pangs of author loneliness. My angst breathes strong on the nights where my labor has ended and I’ve birthed some beautifully written piece. Why? Simply because I would rather live in the world I created, where the setting, the characters and the plot are more appealing to me than my real world.

Sometimes I forget what it means to ‘have a life,’ not because I don’t get out and interact with society (I am very active when I choose to be), but mostly because my characters are not a part of it. You see, the voices in my head are so real, so genuine; it’s hard to remember they aren’t flesh and blood people. And when I feel nobody else can understand where I’m coming from, that’s when I get lonely.

Another time I feel lonely is when I think about the bigger picture. Since I share my thoughts, feelings, experiences and views to the world through story, I often ask myself: ‘What is the purpose of this story? What do I want to achieve by writing it?’ And, more selfishly, “Are my stories gonna touch anyone? Will it be worth all the blood, sweat and tears I have poured in?”

Take for example, Father McKenzie in the Beatles song ‘Eleanor Rigby.’ Many writers believe that their creative efforts will be in vain. No one will read it. Could this be what blossoms the loneliness belief – the fear of obscurity which then leads to a fear of mortality? I mean, when you really think about it, only a handful of writers live on in the infinity of their works. The rest of us only pray our stories don’t turn to dust in the wind at the same time our mortal bodies get pumped full of cold preservatives.

Whether my loneliness is brought on by self-imposed isolation, an overwhelming feeling of being insignificant in this world, or if it is magnified by a particular piece that touched my own heart, the fact of the matter is: I cherish my moments of loneliness, for the power of its yearning is what drives me to soar beyond the threshold of emotional stagnation and to challenge myself by achieving greater heights in my writing.


  1. Loneliness:

    Like starting "Author's Group of America" to meet and talk with other Author's, and then not participating much myself?

    Like sitting alone in my room writing away, and feeling guilty hearing the laughter of my family in the other room, thinking I'll join them later?

    Like joining other author's groups, paying the due's and never going to a meeting?

  2. George, this is -- beautiful. And I totally relate. When this topic came up I didn't think about the lonely feeling I get when I have to face the bills, temper tantrums, and every day stress of life and wish I could crawl back into my make believe world with people who understand me. So, I didn't talk about these things. I guess, I'm so used to having people not understand my writerly mind that I don't really talk about it. So, in a way, yes I am alone. I hide in my own imagination afraid the world will find me crazy and lock me up.

    I think that is why I force myself to be on twitter and facebook at all. In some glimmer of hope, I can find people that I relate to on some level. They still might not fully understand ME and my head, but they do more than the non-writers in my life. It is nice to have that connection when I want it and need it. And luckily, since I can log out, ONLY when I want it or need it.

  3. Anonymous - Yep. Exactly!

    And with the family thing (when I had a family) - not only was there guilt with not being with them, there was guilt if I chose to be with them, and came back later and stared at my unfinished scene. (Ex: A good writer would know how to balance life and art.) Feeling like a failure twice over, the loneliness would come - dammed if I do, dammed if I didn't.

    I'm currently a part of three small writers groups, that meet in three different small cities, at three different places, consisting of three different types of writers, focusing on three different aspects - meeting once a month that physically meet once a month, and strangely enough, I feel 'lonely' being among them. Go figure.

    And as for the paying the groups dues and not participating much - I've done that as well. Especially with on line author groups. I start off really well in participating in them, and go fairly strong for several months - then suddenly, I start to back off, to the point where I just don't bother to do anything thing again.

    When I lived in the Detroit area, I was with our local RWA group -- and the only way I made sure my butt was at every meeting was to volunteer to be the newsletter editor.

  4. George, Buddy. You wouldn't be able to stay away from me if you lived in California, well, San Francisco. Wouldn't let you!

    I do relate to some of what you say too. And I think I'm like Ana in forcing myself to become involved in all those things, because I am basically shy. But I'm selfish about it. I don't think I have the talent you have to do it on my own. I have learned so much as a writer by being involved with other writers, or my process would take years and years longer. Now with the internet and self-pubbed possibilities, I think it could actually start to pay off, and I mean pay off in terms of getting recognition, readers who like my work. I think most of us do it for that, right? The income is nice. We do it because we have to, want to, enjoy doing it.

    I understand being alone in a group. Most groups I feel that way about as well, even though sometimes I put up a more cheery front. Self doubt is a killer. But when I do reach out, it is a signal for me anyway, that I am healthy, and about to learn something fantastic. I honestly think I would have quit if I didn't have the fellowship of other writers to not only celebrate with, but commiserate with as well.

  5. Hi Anastasia - and welcome to my world! (*grin)

    I'm so used to being called crazy it doesn't bother me anymore. However, the loneliness does seem to hit very hard, when I AM in a group of writers (on line or in person) and they all seem to stop, raise an eyebrow in my direction and scoot their chairs a fraction of an inch away.

    I mean, come on! It really suxs if I'm considered eccentric by the standards of my fellow peers, in a profession KNOWN for it's perculiar and quirky folks.

    For if I find myself lonely among other writers and authors then something must be seriously wrong with me. And if there is something seriously wrong with me, maybe something is seriously wrong with my writing? Maybe I don't have what it takes to make it?

    Oh dear! What if I'm a fraud? What if someone finds out I'm experiencing writers doubt? What if I'm not good enough to play ball with the big boys? Anxiety builds and I close myself off -- and the old Gilbert O' Sullivan song plays over in my tormented mind..."Alone again, naturally..."

    Sometimes I'm able to stop those train wreck thoughts and think, "Okay. What is the deal? Why do I feel lonely in this crowd of writers? Is it because of genre snobbery? Could it be because I'm not as accomplished? Do I have something green stuck in my teeth? (The later is currently NOT a problem, as I am missing my six upper front teeth - though that in it's self has lead folks to treat me as if I was a leaper.)

    As for the on line social groups and networks - I too, have to force myself to participate. There are many delightfully creative people out there, but unfortunately, the idiots of the population mingle around as well. I have to be 'in the mood' to deal with over flated egos (OH? You have nothing published YET?) and armchair writing warriors who seem to have the answers to everything (<---snort) and they forget that they wipe their butts the same way I do.

    And perhaps it's just me, but the thought that one can't really make it as a writer in today's society without having an 'interesting' website, or one must piddle away time to build a name via facebook and twitter just annoys the hell out of me. But then again, I do claim of having long, stretched out moments of anti-socialism and I hate being forced to get back on line with the groups to say "Uhhh. Sorry I dropped off the face of the earth. My voices were getting aggitatted and I needed some alone time..."

    Yep. Nothing can clear a room faster than to admit out loud you have voices in your head, though on behalf of my voices, they are far more intelligent and entertaining than most people I know...

  6. Sharon - (Hugs) I would love to come frolic in your gardens! Looking at your website last night made me realize how much I miss my own gardens (I had to give them up when I lost the house last year). On a positive note, I do have house plants and a small strip of soil, butt up to the south exposure of the building I live in. This last summer, I planted 6 tomato plants and had fresh tomatoes up until the first week of December.

    Like you, I have to 'force' myself to trod forward and mingle with the commoners (grin). Some days/weeks are infinitely easier than others. I guess it all depends on the chemical composition of the 'feel good' hormones coursing through my brain or how I'm hanging on the day in question.

    On the whole, I am fairly active outside 'my cave'. I figure I have to be, because getting my fat, hairy arse out of the closet and onto the streets via volunteering, in person research, exploring the the oddities that abound in the state of Michigan, and even mental health group therapy (which by the way, gives me a FODDER of story ideas you wouldn't believe) help build within me a healthy mind, which in return builds a healthy, more versatile writing arsenal for my creative exploits.

    I think what helped me in the end, was to accept the fact that I have a pre-disposition to being lonely (even in a crowd) - and that it wasn't right or wrong - it just 'was'.

    Since my loneliness is a part of who I am (and not necessarily put upon me because I am a writer), I needed to examine it's strengths and weaknesses in my life and go forward, choosing to not to wallow in my loneliness (read: 'much' - as I have my days)- but to grab it by it's balls and make it work for me, on my terms.

    In other words, I refuse to be a victim of loneliness and all it's other minions that tend to plague the life of an author, if not held in check.

    By facing this particular demon in this matter, I find that in most situations, the loneliness I battle as a writer need not drown me, but can be manipulated to enhance my writing experience (if that makes sense)

  7. That makes total sense, George. Hugging you back. You come and frolic any time you want, darlin'.


  8. Dear George,
    Your exploration of loneliness in your post and, even more so, in commentary responses to others, is illuminating and deep. You may be a troller, gleaning what works for you from those group/social connections you make and leaving what doesn't work behind. You made me think of Natalie Goldberg's early words on the inner critic who is so ready to judge, censor, limit our creativity.

    Then, in response to Sharon you have shown us how you, in fact, are a part of the social fabric through your gardening, mental health group, volunteerism and appearing here.

    While our created worlds and their characters often possess and dominate our conscious and sleeping lives, they so often have grown out of our experiences and perceptions of the "real" world and that is what gives them their energy.

    Your quirky mind is fascinating. Thanks for coming out and sharing.

  9. Arletta - your comment has made my day! I can honestly say that today is one of those times I feel less alone... *smile

  10. I think I relate the most to what Sharon said. Especially the part about having some one to celebrate my victories with, no matter how small.

    It's strange because in real, non-computer, non-internet life, I am a loner. But, I don't FEEL lonely even though I physically am alone. Right this very second, I am alone in my room, sitting at my computer desk. But I don't feel lonely.

    I think it's because my family is very supportive even though they are absolutely clueless as to what goes on inside my bedroom. And, of course, the support group I have built in the past year via networking. I know I'm loved, thus I don't feel lonely even though most of my daytime hours are spent alone in my room. Make sense?

    Now, truth is, I would get a lot more writing done if I disconnected the internet, LOL. I do find it easier to lose myself in the story and actually WRITE when I turn off Facebook, twitter, and everything else. But, for me, it's more fun to write with Skype on so I can bug Ana at the same time. :D

    *hugs* I'm sure every writer has their own method to get done what needs to get done. Lonely or not, writing is NOT a career for everyone. It takes a lot of determination, passion, and self-discipline to write. Be proud!

  11. Wow, George. The guy in this post sounds like me (well, except for the bi-polarism and the Golden Retriever and...)

    And J.D. is right. This piece is deep. Nice pics, too.

  12. This is a very profound piece. And very, very much how I feel about myself. I'm often saying "I'm alone but I'm not lonely," when people question my state of mind. I think that's hard for a lot of people--especially non-creative types--to understand. 'How could anyone prefer the things made up in their head to reality?' some wonder. For me, I can't imagine why anyone wants reality to be their usual hangout.

    I actually have a large circle of friends and am very socially active, but I prefer being alone, being able to write and edit and create worlds without distraction. I've actively avoided being in a romantic relationship for years now because I'm afraid it would take too much away from my work and I wouldn't be able to be alone as much. I'd rather have one of my published works in my hands than someone in my bed, and that's the conscious choice I've made.

    And yes, forcing myself to be part of the 'writing social network' is always tiring to me. I'd rather be working than talking about it.

  13. JD - you are blessed to have such a wonderful support system, both in life and on line.

  14. Greg - I always look forward to your comments, as you make me laugh my arse off. Thanks for making me smile tonight, buddy.

  15. Lydia - Thank you for taking the time to comment.

    I totally understand where you are coming from, especially about placing romantic relationships off to the side. It takes a lot of time and energy to nurture such a commitment - and like you said, the intrusion upon the much desired solitude would wear thin.

    I think for you to come to the conclusion that this is what you need at this time in your life is awesome. In this day and age, so many people are afraid to examine themselves deep enough to make choices like that. Kudos.

    I have lived life both ways - writing with a full house, and writing solo. Though I miss the days of four little boys running around and the presence a partner to argue over sex and money --- I have to admit, the older I get, the less patience I have with interruptions, and the more drained I become when forced out of my solitude.

    It never ceases to amaze me how diverse writer personalities are.

  16. George, once again you impress and inspire simply by being YOU. What you describe sounds more to me like a personal choice for you - one you need in order to balance and control aspects within your life. Inner demons can often plague someone who chooses to be alone - but I think being alone is a far cry from being lonely.

    If it's what you need to create, what you need to feel whole, and what you feel best doing on most days... then doesn't being alone also equate to being happy? Sure, there will be lots of black days, especially when doctors like to "try" new things on us.

    But, if you're life is the way you want it then I think isolation with forced interactions - like your gardening, meetings and volunteering is a balance that works for you.

    Believe it or not, I often have a hard time balancing all the larger aspects of social networking and interacting with my peers. I, too, have joined large communities like, an indie author's group, a large forum on Amazon, and Savvy Authors only to find myself having to back off when the numbers become to overwhelming for me.

    I do better in smaller groups. Ones where we get to know and trust one another's opinions. I'm physically alone a lot in this new career, but I'm never truly lonely.

    You ever need a person to chat with, George, please doesn't hesitate to email me. I like you and respect you as a writer. Which also means when you need your alone time and need to tune out, I'll never judge you.