Writing and Loneliness
Updated: Oct 26, 2021
Welcome back. I am so glad you decided to stop by. I am actually changing into my cardigan and sneakers as I write. (That is a Mr. Rogers reference for those of you who are too young to get the reference.) I know, it sounds impossible to type and change ones cloth, but I am a master multitasker. Just ignore the fact that my underwear is currently on my head, and I am wearing my Naruto t-shirt like a diaper.
Moving on. I, like all writers, tend to write about what I know. This is why just about every writer blogs and YouTubes about writing. Even if they are like me and are a relative virgin to the art, that's still what will probably be on their mind. In fact, most of my close friends and relatives are actually sick of hearing me talk about it. Honestly, I think this might be why we writers write about it so much. If no one we know wants to discuss it anymore, then why not write blogs and articles about it instead? (That and to procrastinate on writing our current WIP. That’s what I am doing right now.)
In today’s blog I want to take a break from my ongoing series about my favorite animation characters and touch on something a little more serious. Writing is, after all, a lone art. Yes, we can collaborate with others, and we have our family and friends to talk to, but in the end, it always comes down to you sitting in front of your computer alone with your thoughts. I often tell people that most of the conversations I have are with imaginary people. No matter how vivid your imagination or how real your characters seem, they aren’t, and that fact can make writing a very isolating calling.
Now, most of my writer friends are married and they have a significant other around to kind of buffer the feelings of isolation that can creep in. But what if you don’t have one? This is, for me, one of the toughest things I face as a writer. I don’t have a significant other and haven’t for seventeen years. Yes, I have two children, but they are grown now. That fact has enabled me to find the time to actually finish my first novel, but it has also led to me having to wrestle more with loneliness.
If I want to actually become a successful writer, then I need to make time to write consistently. In order to do that, I have to sacrifice time that could be spent on other things. Well I don’t know about you, but between work and sleep, there is very little time left for anything else. My kids used to fill the bulk of that time, but now I try to use it to write. If I am using that time on other things such as: spending time with friends and family, partaking in hobbies, or simply doing the things in life I enjoy, then I don’t write. The fact that I have yet to hit one writing goal this year is a testament to that. If I use the time to write instead, then I am sacrificing those other things. Sacrificing your free time can and most likely will lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.
I have a feeling this is why every writer I know is obsessed with cats. I hate cats. My kids are severely allergic to them, and they won’t come visit me for any significant amount of time if I have them. I do, however, love dogs, but for me, having a dog has never truly filled that void. (I know that is just blasphemy to those people whos pets are more important to them than humans, but I am not one of those people and never will be.) For me, I need human interaction to feel fulfilled and happy. Sacrificing my social time to reach my writing goals is very difficult for me. For others, however, just having another living creature with them make them feel less alone.
As a divorced man and a parent of two recently grown children, loneliness has been a constant companion on the road of life. I grew up in a big family with five brothers and sisters and a grandma that lived with me since I was six. I shared a room with my two brothers until I went to college, and there I lived in a dorm and had room mates. I lived like that until I got married and then I had a wife, and I was even more so never alone. Two years latter add kids, and bingo, not even the bathroom is sacred anymore. You parents know exactly what I am talking about.
The truth is, I loved every minute of it. When my wife came to me and said she was leaving me and wanted a divorce, it was the darkest day of my life. The rejection of the person you love the most in the world is life shattering enough, but the realization that I would be alone, was just as terrible. I had never in my life ever truly been alone. At first it was not too bad, because I still had my two children with me; but when it was all said and done, I ended up with two to three days a week with them. That meant, that I was alone four to five days a week. For some of you I am sure that sounds like heaven. For me, however, it was a living Hell.
Since that was over seventeen years ago, I have become intimately acquainted with loneliness. Not the, well I am alone for an afternoon and have no idea what to do kind of loneliness. No, the crippling heart wrenching dark abyss of loneliness. It is a place you never seem to escape from. Sure, you have moments like work, church, or a day with a friend; but in the end, they are just temporary reprieves. When all is said and done, you will be going home alone. There waiting for you will be your old friend loneliness.
Writing can be like that sometimes. It is lonely. It is something you really have to do yourself and it requires a tremendous amount of time and energy. None of us have boundless mental and emotional energy. I know I don’t. We all have a limited supply, and we must chose what we are going to spent it on. If we spent it on writing, then other things are going to be sacrificed. I am sure I have writer friends who are better at this than I am, but I would be willing to bet, that they have wrestled with this as well.
If being a writer is something you absolutely must do, then know you choose a lonely road. Like me you will need to find ways to combat the loneliness that you will face. Finding a supporting significant other, friends who are walking the writers road with you, going to conventions, becoming part of a writers group, and simply making sure you spend time with real people, are all ways to help alleviate loneliness. They are essential if you want to keep your mental health.
Yes, writing is a lonely pursuit, but you don’t have to go it alone. Just look next to you and you will see that people just like me are walking it with you. Come find us, we are always ready to talk about writing and to be your companions on this road. Writing is, after all, one of the greatest adventures a person can ever partake in and there are plenty of us on this journey to befriend. Just like you, we are always looking for someone else to talk to about the worlds we create; and you will also find, we want to hear about yours as well. Come find us and know that you are not alone.