The Lonely Life of the Writer
People often ask me what I do for a living. If I say “I’m a literary agent,” I’m likely to receive a blank stare. I quickly tell them I work with authors to help them get their books published; sometimes I’ll say, “You know how actors and athletes have agents? Well, authors have agents too.” Occasionally (depending on my listener) I might say I’m like Jerry Maguire, but for authors. Show me the money!
The point is, most people in the “real world” are pretty clueless about the publishing world. And those who think they know something are quite often wrong. But you can’t explain it to people — if they’re not involved, they just won’t get it.
As a writer, you experience the same thing. Much of your energy is consumed with writing and the pursuit of getting published, but the people around you — in your job, your church, your school — don’t have a clue what the writer’s life is like. It’s hard to have satisfying conversations with people because you are so deeply immersed in something they don’t know a thing about. The divide is deep.
People rely on stereotypes for their understanding. In my case, Jerry Maguire (or Ari Gold for you Entourage enthusiasts). In your case, Stephen King, or JK Rowling. Of course, none of these bear any relation to what our lives are really like.
As either an agent or a writer, it’s easy to feel lonely or separated from many of the people who populate your real world.
Do you find the writing life lonely? What do you do about it?
“Do you find the writing life lonely? What do you do about it?” (Click to Tweet)
“Do you find most people are clueless about your life as a writer?” (Click to Tweet)
“I’m like Jerry Maguire, but for authors. Show me the money!” (Click to Tweet)
Just started reading your blog last week and am really enjoying your advice. So, when I was searching for information on the loneliness I feel as a writer and saw your name popped up, I was thrilled because I knew I would get some good advice. While this post is short, it connected with what I am feeling. It’s that divide between what I am immersed in and trying to relate to people in my everyday life not to mention trying to connect with people online. If you have more advice on this topic, I would love to hear it. I am going to search your site more, but I wanted to connect via comment too. Thank you.
When I wrote my first book, I must have sent it to 30-40 friends, relatives and business associates. Was I disillusioned. Only one person read it, and that was months afterwards.
I’ve learned since:
Don’t expect your friends to become fans
Or your fans to become friends
But another writer can be both.
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Actually working on writing and related things isn’t lonely for me. As others have said, I like to be alone, especially when I’m doing something I love like writing. But I do get lonely when I’m out with friends who are doing all this other stuff that is much more visible, and I realize no one really sees my work. It’s great to be able to be a part of writing communities online and such to make up for that sort of thing.
Writing is a lonely life, but I think most writers prefer that type of lifestyle. I know I do. On the days that I feel like I need to come up for air and socialize I will meet a friend for lunch. I also have other outlets, such as being in a book club, that give me an opportunity to socialize on a limited basis (we meet once per month).
I recently watched a TED talk on introversion and discovered something new about myself. I’m an ambivert. I LOVE being with people and I LOVE being alone. As a writer, this works out pretty well for me. I can do the writing, then have a blast socializing at readings:)
You are so right, people have no idea what it takes to get a book into their hands to read. And until I wrote my first one I didn’t either.
Writers, agents, publishers, Illustrators, printers, Marketing people, we all work hard. ;0)
I don’t find the writing life lonely at the moment because I’m only writing part time. The rest of the time I’m busy wearing my other hats, so there’s no time to be lonely or even alone.
Sometimes I wonder how nice it would be to have more blocks of time to write, to be able to focus on my MSS for a stretch of uninterrupted time. I’m sure I could double or triple my daily word count that way LOL.
OTOH, there is a good thing to writing part time: I’m not always in my Hobbit hole. I see people all the time, so I don’t feel isolated as a writer.
If you have the luxury of blocks of writing time, treasure those minutes, hours. Time is a slippery fish for weekend writers.
[…] The Lonely Life of the Writer […]
I think the loneliest thing about writing is spending the whole day with imaginary characters and then having no way to talk about “what happened at work today.”
I’m an author just getting my feet wet, but I know when it’s time to get down to the writing process, I need my alone space. For me, it’s a nice escape from my daily life. As a beginning author, I am also carrying on a full time job of teaching, where I gather so many wonderful ideas. Thanks for sharing the information as I begin this amazing endeavor.
[…] different locations. Literary agent Rachelle Gardner today posted to her blog an article titled The Lonely Life of the Writer. Her point is that, since the largest part of the world doesn’t understand what it’s […]
Isolation and loneliness are not qualities I associate with my own writing. Solitary times, yes. Chosen by me. But, as an anti-gregarious soul, married to a wonderful woman with a similar outlook, I find the writing life excellent. Writing at home, I have my wife for company when we both seek such. But we’re able to live aspects of our lives separately – she is also an excellent proof-reader, so that’s another plus – and then to be together whenever we choose to be. So, no, I don’t find it a lonely life. But I fully understand you comments about non-writers having no idea what it really means to be a writer. And, of course, I come across those dreamers who tell me they want to write a book, always have wanted to. I simply tell them to go and do it, then.
I’ve never been accused of spending too much time on introspection, so I honestly don’t know whether I’m lonely or not.
Nor do I care. Isolation is simply the environment in which I perform the functions of my chosen profession.
I have noticed this – I talk much, much less than I used to, when I’m in another’s company. Perhaps writing has helped me to realize that I actually have relatively little to say, beyond what goes into print.
I wonder if anyone has noticed, or felt anything similar?
Definitely. I homeschool my kids, volunteer, and teach classes at a home-school co-op. I get reactions to both writing and the rest of my life that are sometimes, almost, funny. Sometimes people think that I have all day to write (haha), or they think that I must totally ignore my kids to write (that wouldn’t work either), or they think I need ideas. Umm no. I need time. That’s it. And I get it by waking up early, going to bed late, and squeezing in my writing while my kids are in dance class.
Anyway, sorry to rant here. I guess, I’m just taking a long way to say, yes . . .non-writers don’t really get writing.
And when I run into that, I call someone who writes, or I get into blogland and read a post from another writer. It helps to know that I’m not alone.
Writing has led me to all of my best friends, so I’ve never found it to be a lonely life. I have belonged for years to an active critique group of five writers who offer me support and encouragement every day online and in person twice a month.
It is true that my family and non writing friends don’t understand what it takes to write a novel. But I don’t understand the details that go into a day of building roads or planning the plumbing for a high rise hospital. Every profession has its own vocabulary and inside knowledge.
I respect and admire the people in my life who do those things and I think they respect and admire my books, even if they don’t understand exactly how hard it was to produce them.
Yes, it can be a lonely life if you let it be that way.
I joined writing communities to deal with the loneliness. My latest discovery is my local RWA chapter. They have changed the way I look at writing and they keep me motivated.
My solution is hanging out with other writers, be it for coffee, at a critique group, or online. There’s a lot of valuable support out there, but I had to look for it.
[…] Of course, you want to read the full post here. […]
The most common comments I get from people who hear I am writing are related to money, like they expect every me to write a best seller every 6 months and have a life of endless royalties. When I explain it is ‘not like that for most writers’ they still seem convinced that I’ll be the exception (which is flattering, but hardly helpful).
I am a complete people person. Being around others inspires me, encourages me and motivates me. When I have to go into my writing closet I make sure I have scheduled some good family/friend time around it. Now I’m looking for some good writing minded friends to discuss words with. I so hope to find a good writers group nearby but if not I have all of you online.
Yes, it is an isolated world as far as being understood goes. I find I even shy away from telling people that ‘I write’ for fear they will ask me what that means!
We do spend a lot of time alone, but I’ve always enjoyed time by myself. There’s nothing better, in my mind, than having a free afternoon, or heaven forbid, an entire day, to play with words!
Do I find the writing life lonely? Yes, but only when I compare it to the active social lives of others in the real world often portrayed in captivating detail on social media and makes me feel like I’m missing out.
BUT then I realize that if I did NOT have all this time to myself, I couldn’t be a writer because I’d never get any stories written! So the loneliness/isolation of the writer life is actually a blessing in disguise and it’s not ALWAYS lonely, I still have time to spend with family and friends every now and then.
As for what to do about it? I try to live a balanced life– spending time away from my beloved computer to be with family and friends, go to church, go to the gym, go SHOPPING and yes the Barnes & Noble bookstore (my third home after my real home and my church). 🙂
Thanks for writing this post! I appreciate your work as a literary agent.
Do you find the writing life lonely? What do you do about it?
I guess it depends on your definition of “lonely”. Like many of the posters here, I’m an introvert. I don’t mind working alone or not talking to anyone all day. But it is definitely a lonesome feeling when I can’t talk to anyone around me about writing. I might as well be speaking a foreign language.
I live outside a small village on the edge of nowhere. I connect with other writers through the internet. Just reading blogs like this and seeing all these other writers who feel exactly as I do is a big help.
Rachelle, I really don’t find being a writer to be lonely. Possibly that’s because writing is so well integrated with my “other” life as a pastor, and because I’m married to a writer. I do find that most people don’t understand what writers (or editors or agents) do. Used to get that same blank stare when I told people I was a book editor!
I hardly ever feel that it’s lonely. I love being alone and my thoughts are usually busy. But I consider myself an intro/extrovert. When I get a chance to be with people, I love it. Become very engaged. And then, somewhere along the line, I’m done and can’t wait to get back to my work. Sort of a best of both worlds thing.
But explaining to people that I spend most of days at my desk, I get a lot of blank stares. They really don’t get it.
I am probably the shyest guy you’ll ever meet when it comes to promoting my own work or rubbing elbows with people in publishing. But I’m currently in my second semester of an MFA program, and that’s changing. Now I’m attending readings, conferences, craft talks, reading my work in public, and trying to get the hang of rubbing elbows. I’m still shy, but at the very least the workshops I’m in are a huge boost to my writing. In 2013, I guess you can’t just hide in your little writing room and hope some agent will connect with you through your blind query letter. You’ve got to get out there and make some connections.
I completely understand!!!
At the last two social gatherings I attended everyone shared what they did for work. With each there was a discussion about that type of job and what not. When it got to be my turn they all thought it was a great idea to change the subject and start talking about the weather.
It feels great to be surrounded with other writers – that’s why I love conferences!
If people(readers)understood us(writers), they could think like we think and our voice would cease to be unique and interesting.
We don’t have to be lonely because we work alone–many people feel alone when mingling in a crowd.
One reason I took on the writing life is because I already WAS lonely in many aspects of my life. The writing life can be a lonely one, but it also seems a good fit for those who already are, in many ways.
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I’m like Paula. One of the best things that every happened to me was joining my writers group. I also like some of the online writers groups and blogs like yours, Rachelle, where we know others “get” us.
Oh, man. The blank stares from people I love the most . . .
The answer for me is to dig into a group where I am understood. One of the best things that ever happened to me was joining a local ACFW chapter.
The writing life suits me just fine. I prefer working on my own and choosing when to see people. I never feel lonely. The problem is how to convince others that writing is work, so they leave you in peace and quiet to get on with it.
Rachelle, you write exemplary posts, short and to the point! Result? Lots of comments! And yes, the writer’s life is terribly lonely, particularly if you live in Italy like I do, where English speaking and writing communities are few and far between (there’s one in Matera with a Women’s Fiction Festival in September and a Brainstorming Session at the Spa with about 20 authors and one literary agent, meeting for 4 days in March).
My defense strategy? The Internet! Visiting nice blogs like yours, leaving comments and hoping for a response! And that maybe sometimes someone will come and visit my blog or link up with me on Goodreads. Yes, Goodreads where I started a group discussing boomer novels, that too is a great place to link up with like-minded souls…Anyone interested? Here’s the link to the group: http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/81261 I’ll be happy to see you there, we have grown to over 220 members in just 3 months and we have a Facebook page and a Twitter account!
Do you find the writing life lonely? What do you do about it? Do you find most people are clueless…?
The actual solitude and peace I experience when writing is necessary to hear the “voices” in my head that dictate my story. However, I only feel lonely when someone asks me to explain “what takes so long?” Many non-writers are indeed “clueless,” particularly those well-meaning people who think you just write the words, send it off to your agent and it hits the shelves.
I think this whole “loneliness” and “clueless-ness” becomes greater when you do not have an agent and have not been published yet. It’s difficult to explain why you keep writing and writing and writing if no one gets the pleasure of reading your words yet. We begin to feel alone in our pursuits but then…
…you read a lit blog, add to your word count, write a killer scene, attend a conference or webinar. You begin to feel connected again and not so lonely.
Thanks for keeping a lit blog to help us out!!
Profound difference between “lonely” and aloneness. An independent publisher published my four-part historical/fiction series about the Civil War. For the past three years, “lonely” fails as either an adjective or adverb to define any part of my life.
However, I love to enter my study, close the door, extinguish the lights (except for the illumination the monitor provides), and in dwell the aloneness of writing. What a joy! Those who understand it as such, comprehend the mystery of creativity.
I can definitely relate to the blank stares when I tell people I’m a writer. I’m not sure I find the writing life lonely, though. Maybe before Twitter and blogs I might’ve said it’s hard to find people who can relate to the writer’s life, but now I have so many writing friends I feel I can share this journey with. I also have writer’s group (four women I met at a writer’s conference three years ago) which meets once a month, and they’re a great source of camaraderie.
There’s also a fun flip side to meeting people who may not know much about publishing and think it’s very glamourous–when I tell them I have a book coming out, they get so excited, you’d think they’ve just met a celebrity. I still haven’t gotten used to that!
I stay at home with kids…four of them all combined throughout some part of the day. I find myself walking around with a pad and pen to jot down thoughts/ideas and then blissfully fall in front of the laptop when the house is finally quiet at night! So, I’m exhausted but happy for the momentary solitude. I look forward to the day when I can be tired of being alone in my own head!
A loneliness factor certainly exists. The problem is not so much the solitude required to put new words in a w-i-p, but the lack of care or understanding by anyone. I can’t say that I have any relatives or any close friends who give a …hoot about my writing. Anyone who asks is merely being polite about it. I can tell that because if I tell them how a book is going, they zone out. Even my wife will zone out when I try to tell her about how I finished a difficult scene or say, “Only 10,000 more words and I’m done.” So I’m learning to keep my writing to myself. If someone asks I just say what I’m working on and that it’s going fine. No one ever asks for follow-up info.
I’m learning to accept it, and understand why so many writers down through the years didn’t marry and have families.
Rachelle, How interesting that you would write about this today. Just two nights ago I was on the phone with my closest friend in the world trying to explain what I’m doing writing a boook proposal. To say “she don’t get it” is a monumental understatement. The thing is that after living a hugely busy and totally “out there” lifestyle I’m now, in my more mature years, immersed in the thing I’ve wanted to do all along…publish the book I’ve been writing for the last five years. My friends, family, husband are supportive but don’t understand what this entails. I’ve quit trying to explain it to them. The writing is the best part. The work of getting the proposal together and into the right hands is grueling and more isolating than the writing. Your blog is so encouraging. Thank you for doing it.
So few people understand the time it takes to write and publish. They can read a book in a weekend, so it must not take that much time to write it, right? The actual writing isn’t lonely – I’m surrounded by my imaginary people. But talking to people about my writing, people who don’t understand the time and effort involved? That’s not worth it most of the time.
Twitter and my local writers’ group have done the most for me in this area.
I used to ask my church friends to pray for me about a specific need in my writing. I got so many blank stares with questions that got real old to answer. Now I just say “It’s going great!” with my aritificial smile. It’s so much easier than explaining.
It is a lonely pursuit. I wonder why I don’t have too many friends. When I’m not writing, I’m painting. Both things are lonely endeavors. But I’ve got my fun characters and my pretty paintings.
I love being alone — which is good since it’s how I spend the bulk of my time. But when my husband comes home, we talk usually nonstop for hours. And when I go to the grocery store, I think I sometimes want to chat a bit too much with everyone…
BTW, I love that you describe yourself as Jerry Maguire. Loved the movie, love the description!
Ironically, because I tend to be quiet, I find writing as a great way to connect with others — even if the connection will happen later when they read my words!
After hours of working alone, I am hungry for time with people. That nudges me into those face-to-face relationships and contacts that are so important for self-promotion.
Oh my yes. I have found it to be intensely lonely, even after I got a publishing contract. Loneliness set in big-time during the months I was writing my manuscript. I have a background in newspaper reporting, where I received almost-immediate feedback on my work –within hours, or at least by the time the morning paper landed on your doorstep.
Now that the publisher has the manuscript in hand, I feel much better, like I’m “in this together” with someone.
(Important note: I’m grateful that I have a supportive husband who tries to understand me and who tolerates my neurotic mood swings.)
“Do you find the writing life lonely?” That is the funniest thing I have heard this morning. I almost fell off my seat laughing. – At myself. So that’s the problem; I am a writer. I have been moping about the house trying to deal with over-introspection and isolation in a wise way and blaming it on lack of finances and therefore beating myself up with, “If you just work a little harder at finding another miscellaneous job to add to your collection.”
Sigh. It is the writer’s burden. How many chapters can I make out of it?
I agree with you Kathleen, some people don’t get. I also have friends and family who get annoyed because I have lessened my social time, to write. I enjoy writing and I cherish the time between phone calls, outings, and everyday tasks to do so. I never feel lonely.
I write off and on, not so much to publish as to just get things down on paper, thoughts, memories and such. Sometimes pele you should write this or that down for your children, I am an immigrant. But honestly, I do not think they will care. Their world is so different than mine was, it is too hard for them to feel themselves into a post-war Germany. I was just a child born in the fortieth. But I do enjoy being alone and write or read. Frankly, I have never been lonely, books are my most steadfast friends. But if I want people, I will connect to friends. Grateful I have some, though they have different mind streams. Sometimes I like to write poetry just because.
I agree that most people don’t have a clue about what I do “in my spare time.” I do have friends that get annoyed when I say I can’t go for coffee because I’m in the middle of writing. They don’t get it. I treasure my moments of solitude and my writing time, it’s a catharsis for me, my stress reliever. I wouldn’t call it lonely as long as you have other writer friends who are going through the same thing as you. Sometimes it helps to reach out to know you’re aren’t alone.
How can I be lonely, with all these voices in my head? The hard part is: “Which one should I listen to, at any given time?” “Who’s out of sorts?” “Who’s a bully?” “Who’s got an ax to grind?” “Who’s downright provocative, with a message needing to be heard?”
So, I stay inside (my head) with my compadres, and then I go back out and join the real world.
I think that the business side of writing can feel lonely and isolating from the writer’s point of view. I imagine it’s like being an immigrant in a country where you don’t know the language or culture, and you have no idea how to accomplish simple stuff, much less something complicated like getting a book to market. Learning the rules is very Darwinian.
Since entering into the writing world, I’ve actually had the opposite effect—to a degree. I’ve homeschooled my special needs son, and even though there is a thriving homeschool community in my area, the activities never seemed to fit my son’s abilities, so I retreated into near-hermit stage for a few years. I spent a lot of time in much needed prayer.
Then, I started to write and learn about the business of writing. Because it spawned interest in many things, things I needed to learn about for my stories, I had to get out more. Now, with the need to build a platform, I volunteer for various Christian events, meet lots of great people and hear incredible stories of faith I never would have in my hermit years. Though, writing still has its “lonely” time (which I desperately need after all the activity), I’m much more social now than when I first began.
I don’t find the writing life lonely. I find it relaxing and peaceful. I work full-time and I’m a single dad with plenty of responsibilities and activities. I have a large social support group, both real and virtual. I only write 1-2 hours per day and that’s my down time. And I’m not pursuing a publishing deal right now as it would limit my time writing. I love what what I’m doing.
Spot on Rachelle! Non-writers have no idea how long it takes to research, write, edit and publish a book. We live in an instant society: zap a meal, send a text etc. It is almost impossible to explain how reworking an intricate scene can take half a day. In this way, you’re right. Writers live insular lives. (Thank goodness for blogs like yours!)
True. My husband actually thought it only took a couple of months to write a novel and I was the slow one until I dragged him to a book festival. After listening to other authors’ stories, he finally understood writing takes time…lots of time and patience.
I’m finding that there’s a difference between being creatively alone and physically alone. My sister is getting married soon, and I’m faced with more and more “alone time.” This is usually incredibly hard, and makes for a rough day/week.
On the flip side, when I’m writing, the loneliness is peaceful and helpful. In fact, I can’t write without it. I think it’s all in the definition of “alone.” Do you mean “isolated from people” or “alone with your thoughts and creativity”?
The second is not difficult to deal with at all…except for finding more of it. 🙂
I enjoyed reading your article immensely and it’s certainly gotten me thinking. I admit that there are times when the writing isn’t going as well as I’d like but when a twinge of loneliness sets in, I like to take a break and go visit people or just pick up the phone and make a few calls. I’ve never considered writing my life but rather just another thing that is part of my regular day. 🙂
I think it’s important that you learn to be good company for yourself if you’re going to spend a lot of time on your own. I don’t mind the solitary work, and treasure the moments when I have the house to myself. (My son is the same way, so maybe being an only child has something to do with it.) What I genuinely appreciate is having writer friends who GET what I do. As much as my family loves and supports me, they will never understand how a handwritten note on a form rejection letter can make a writer’s day, or why finding exactly the right pen for your journal is important. I’ve given up trying to explain my work to non-writer friends. Their eyes just kind of glaze over; it’s soooo not their world. Fortunately, I still teach part-time, so there’s no problem in talking about my ‘real’ job. Have a creative day, everyone!
“Do you find most people are clueless about your life as a writer?”
Yes. I find that people believe writing is a glamorous job where writers work in their PJs whenever they want and make tons of money. “Isn’t it nice to have a job where you sit at home all day,” many have said to me.
Boy, couldn’t they be more wrong. First off, I have a life and kids. This means, I can only work when everyone is out of the house and I’m not participating in daily chores. And second, writers barely make enough to support themselves which is why most writers have a job(stealing more time away from writing) to supplement the lack of money. Third, writing is hard, lonely, and misconstrude.
What I meant to say was, a writer’s life IS hard and lonely, because outside views are misconstrude.
I lead two lives: one is the everyday one of a husband, father, grandfather, church member, frustrated golfer, ever-hopeful Texas Rangers fan.
The other begins when I go into my little cubby-hole of an office, close the blind on the single window, and sit down at the computer. That one’s best characterized by this line from Meg Chittenden: “Some people hear voices when no one’s around. They are called mad, and sit in a room all day and stare at the walls. Others are called writers, and they do pretty much the same thing.”
Great quote, Dr. Mabry!
Did you know the human head weighs eight pounds?
When I get lonely I reach out to other writing friends who get it or who’ve been there.
Here’s a great quote from Stephen King:
“Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to make speeches. Just believing is usually enough.”
Thanks for believing!
And now I will refrain from singing Journey lyrics at the top of my lungs.
Happy Friday, Rachelle!
Wendy: Don’t stop… believing… (sing it now).
Like a few have mentioned on here, I don’t mind the long stretches of being alone with the quiet. In fact, I relish it.
But, at least for me, I also realize that it’s not always good for me to isolate myself too much. I try to connect, very intentionally, with people outside the writing world. They definitely don’t always get what I do, but I don’t always get what they do either! It makes for good conversation.
I also have a circle of writing friends online and off and it’s with them that I find the hearts who understand my passions, frustrations, joys, and weird writing obsessions.
The opportunity for long periods of alone time is exactly what draws me to writing. I know well-known writers who are extroverts and they admittedly struggle with writing. It’s more a means to an end. For me, being immersed in the world of thought and words is invigorating and enriching.
Absolutely. I’m an introvert, so I’m good with being on my own most of the time…but that’s just ‘most’ of the time. I find that it’s difficult to talk to people about what I do. My regular friends don’t want to hear about my struggles with a scene or hear me explain how rewriting one paragraph took me an hour. They also don’t understand my excitement when I get something to work right. They look at me as if I’m an alien. So often, even when I’m not alone, I feel isolated.
“most of the time,” – key words, those.
For me, writing isn’t the lonely part. I’m an introvert, so I’m cool with being alone, save for close friends/family. But finding fellow writers to share/critique/commiserate with has been the hard part. It could be because of my location, since I live in a pretty small town. But online critque sites and a few college/blogger friends that write have helped ease the loneliness a bit.
I don’t like the lonely parts. I like the team approach to anything in life. I think we are social creatures and get farther with other people around us. My writing is infinitely better when someone looks at it.
Great question about whether the writing life is a lonely life.
It can be at times and it depends on how well you are in tune with God and the Universe and yourself.
First, I will share these two quotes about the darker side of writing and loneliness that have some merit:
“Writing books is certainly a most unpleasant occupation. It is lonesome, unsanitary, and maddening. Many authors go crazy.”
— H. L. Mencken
“What people really want … is to be broke. At least, that’s one likely interpretation of a new YouGov poll that shows more people [in Britain] would rather be a writer than anything else. Now, it’s possible they’ve all got their eyes on the J. K. Rowling squillions, but the financial reality is rather more depressing. Most book manuscripts end up unwanted and unread on publishers’ and agents’ slush piles, and the majority of those that do make it into print sell fewer than 1,000 copies … It’s not even as if writing is that glamorous. You sit alone for hours on end honing your deathless prose, go days without really talking to anyone and, if you’re lucky, within a year or so you will have a manuscript that almost no one will want to read. Your friends and family will come to dread requests for constructive feedback …
— John Crace writing in “The Guardian”
That’s the not-so-much-fun side of writing and being alone.
Then there is the other side – it is called creative solitude.
Here are a few quotations from people much wiser than me to place loneliness and solitude in proper perspective.
“A man who finds no satisfaction in himself, seeks for it in vain elsewhere.”
— Francois, Duc de La Rochefoucauld
“If you can only make it with people, and not alone, you can’t make it.”
— Clark E. Moustakas
“I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel alone.”
— Robin Williams
“Solitude makes us tougher towards ourselves and tenderer towards others; in both ways it improves our character.”
— Friedrich Nietzsche
“You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with.”
— Dr. Wayne Dyer
To me, the last quote by Dr. Wayne Dyer is the most powerful.
In short, you must love God and yourself and the world before you can serve the world. Then you will learn how to accomplish, to achieve, and to triumph when alone. You won’t always need other people to be fully involved in life. Above all, you will truly get to know God and yourself — and in God and yourself is the universe.
Ernie J. Zelinski
International Best-Selling Author
“Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free”
Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
(Over 175,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working’
(Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)
Ernie – wow, some great thoughts for us writers in there.
I agree with you, Dan. I love these quotes, Ernie! Well stated.
It’s funny that I’m reading your post about the lonely life of the writer, when it’s 12:30 a.m. here and I just wrote another thousand words (I hate word counts, too, by the way). But I had an idea, which led to another, and I just seized the moment. Now the idea is, well, it’s not on paper but it’s saved in the document and I’m headed to bed!
I write at different hours of the day, but preferably when noone else is around. It is isolating at times, but, once I get going,I’m on a high, and almost can’t stop. Now Im waiting for an agent who has requesed a partial to get back to me, 30 days and counting! Thanks.
I think I’m drawn to writing because it is a lonely thing. I’m an introvert, but very much ‘out there’ for and with my family. Writing indulges my loner hermit side.
Since I don’t earn my bread with my writing, it’s a different sort of loneliness. It’s when you inadvertently start talking about something to do with the novel you’re writing and you quickly become aware of the awkward ‘oh no, she’s talking about the novel she thinks she’s writing and she’s still not finished. How long does it take…’ I have a little sense of isolation rather than loneliness. But it passes, because I love, love, love writing and can’t stop myself. Rachelle’s blogs always seem to address all the little issues that pop into my head, so that counteracts the loneliness 🙂
I’m like you, Angela. I LIKE spending time alone. My mind and body crave it. Besides, as you get to know your characters, you aren’t really alone.
Well, mu hubby comes home everyday, and I have quite a few friends and family that I see a few times a year. I still enjoy other solitary activities though: movies, novels, etc.
Some of us were meant to spend time alone and some of us aren’t. Personally, I felt the most lonely in my life when I was around a lot of people, but didn’t feel any connection to them so I guess a lot of it is in our heads anyway! 😉 <3
Couldn’t agree more … Also, I’ve read that most good books don’t come out of a vacuum but from collaboration…. So i am about to join a writers space in CBD Sydney where I’ll pay for a desk each month. Can’t wait!
Is there one in your city?
That sounds awesome! I didn’t know that such things existed, and I used to live in Sydney. When I move back there, eventually, I’ll seek one out.