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Monday, January 8, 2018

Dealing with Loneliness


One malady commonly associated with writing is loneliness. Writing is what I've heard someone call an "anti-social activity." You sit at a computer and work away, living in your own little world, alone. If you are like me and prefer to work alone, that's great. But other than having to deal with people who don't understand writing and may argue or whine against your chosen activity, if you truly pursue writing, you'll probably experience a sense of loneliness, in one form or another at some point.

Personally, it takes a lot for me to feel lonely, but even I get little bouts of it from time to time, which tells me others probably get it way worse.

What's weird, though, is that I feel like these days, people will take any problem and cite it as a reason not to pursue something--but if you waited around for the perfect something, you'd wait around forever. If you waited for the perfect job, you'd wait around forever. It's better to pick your problems--what you are willing to deal with, what cost you are willing to put up with.

Nothing is perfect, and when you make a choice, you are also picking up the cons with it. For writing, one of those cons is loneliness. No, you might not feel it right away, but should you decide to pursue it seriously, it will probably come in some degree at some point.

I took my first ever creative writing class in middle school, and I distinctly remember one day where my teacher was talking about pursuing writing as a career, and he said in a grave tone, that being a fiction writer is a great job, but it's "very, very lonely."

My best friend, who knew I wanted to be a writer, was in the class. She immediately looked over at me, raised her eyebrows and smiled in a way that seemed to say, "uh-oh, he's talking about you."

Now, I'm not exaggerating when I say that he said it in a grave tone. It was very grave and dangerous sounding--it was a warning.

So while the the class seemed to grow still and silent, want to know what my reaction was?

Meh, I can deal with that.

And I have, and so do countless other writers.

When you pick your choices, you also pick your problems. 

Frankly, we have it so much easier today than people did in the past. Everyone seems to be connected to everyone online now.

But here's the thing, while it relates and correlates, loneliness does not necessarily have to do with the amount of people you have in your life. You've probably heard some rendition of the concept that you can feel lonely in a crowd. Perhaps loneliness has more to do with feeling connected, accepted, loved, and understood by others.

This is probably particularly true of writers, who tend to want to connect with other human beings on a deep level--through their writing.

And funny enough, you could pursue something else, and feel just as lonely. Loneliness doesn't have a monopoly on writing. Everyone will feel lonely at some point in life.

For some reason in our society today, I get the sense that we have an unrest, when it comes to negative feelings in life. If we feel lonely, we must eradicate it. If we feel downhearted, we must get away from that. If we feel guilty, we must escape that. Do we have a low tolerance for negative experiences? For a lot of us, probably.

That isn't to say that we shouldn't try to make things better, or get better. But there is a balance, and negative feelings and experiences are part of our earthly life, and if we forever evade those, we are missing that part of the human experience. We're never going to find the perfect life.

Sometimes I think that because in this day and age we have so many opportunities to excel in so many areas, that we expect to find perfection--perfect circumstances, a perfect life. Worse, we try to find perfection in all areas. In fact, a study was released just this last week that found that Gen-Xers and Millennials struggle with self-crippling perfectionism--from both pressure they put on themselves and pressures they feel from others. And apparently it's getting worse and worse.

It's okay to live imperfectly. It's okay to feel guilty, downhearted, and yes, lonely. We don't necessarily need to view these things as black holes that we have to spend our lives evading. We can't evade everything.

So pick your problems. Choose what you love. And love your choice.

And there are of course, ways of dealing with or alleviating feelings of loneliness. Unlike generations of writers before us, we are more connected than ever. Often friends are just a click or text message away. Okay, okay, I get that some people see that as a negative thing and that we need more face-to-face interaction, and I agree, but for a writer in the industry, their work inherently lacks the same amount of face-to-fact interaction.

Many writers like to get involved in the writing community, either online or in their area. They like to join writing groups, go to open mic nights, attend conferences. All these things are great and can help.

But at some point you might run into another problem: They all take time. And for some, they may actually take time away from writing rather than tend to that time.

For example, in college, I was part of a writing group. It was fantastic. Now I get paid to give feedback and edits on unpublished work, so to join a writing group now and do that stuff for free, on top of already doing it all day, well, I'm not convinced that is a great idea.

Sure, I can talk about writing online with other writers--but the time I spend typing messages could have been time I had spent editing or writing.

So it depends on what direction you are going and how deep you want to get into this industry. That's all up to you. And one approach is not necessarily better than another. You can still be a writer without being in the industry up to your neck. Don't let anyone make you feel otherwise.

Alleviate feelings of loneliness where you can. Make sure it's manageable, rather than self-crippling. But also recognize that you chose to deal with it when you chose to pursue writing.

The same attribute that leads you to wanting to connect so deeply with others, is the same attribute that leads to you being a great writer, and the same attribute that makes you feel lonely. 

If you are afraid to pursue writing because of some of the negative feelings that may manifest from it, don't let that stop you.

Whenever I get a little bout of loneliness, you know what I think?

Worth it.

Related Posts
The Privilege of Picking Your Problems
Why Some People Don't Support Your Writing Goals
How to Deal With People Who Don't Support Your Writing


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Excellent post - I really needed to read that right now :-)


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