Loneliness

7 05 2010

Being a writer can be damned lonely. Maybe I’m feeling this way right now in particular because I just found out that one of my ‘Uncles’ (a family friend that I grew up with as a little girl) just passed away yesterday, and that his funeral is tomorrow, and I got the message about it on my cell phone voicemail. And that I’m sitting here alone, and feeling sad and isolated from my family (whom I have a very difficult relationship with), and wishing on some level that things were different.

And then, I thought, let me write about this. Because writing is the one thing I can do when I’m feeling lonely that sometimes—not always—but sometimes, makes me feel a little less so.

Which is ironic, because writing is a very lonely act. I think that’s why when we get together with each other—especially when we find a group of writers we like and vibe with—it’s like we can’t get enough of each other. That’s what happened a couple weeks ago after the reading I did with a few other writing buddies from last year’s VONA workshop for writers of color. Five of us read at a local cafe to a small but attentive audience, and then we proceeded to head out to a nearby restaurant/bar to hang out, eat, talk writing, laugh a ton, and just be.

It felt good, warm and right to be there with them. We don’t hang out all the time—I hadn’t seen one of them in almost a year—but we share a bond as writers that I don’t find with other people, even other artists. And these moments of connection with other writers can do a lot to assuage the intense loneliess I sometimes feel when it’s just me, here, at my laptop, at home alone or even in a cafe surrounded by a sea of strangers, typing away, trying to articulate something that dwells deep inside my psyche—and sometimes succeeding, oftentimes failing.

I think this loneliness factor—that the act of writing by its very nature is a solitary act—is what spooks a lot of people about writing. I was at my dentist earlier today getting my teeth cleaned, and talking about my writing and other work, and he said, “Well, it’s a gift, isn’t it? Not a lot of people can write.” I wanted to say, “Well, they can, it’s just that they choose not to.” But I decided to just nod and let him stick metal instruments into my mouth.

Sometimes—I would say maybe 30% of the time—the loneliness and the solitary nature of writing doesn’t bother me. At these times, in fact, I enjoy it. The loneliness becomes a blanket of serenity, giving me the quiet stillness that allows me to really listen to my mind, to let the images in my head flow out of me, to allow my consciousness to pick up on the subtleties of language and meaning that otherwise get drowned out by the quotidian distractions of modern life. At these times I guess I’m able to transform or distill the loneliness into concentration—and the result is often decent, if not good, writing, and a full feeling of satisfaction which motivates me, ultimately, to keep writing during those times when the loneliness just feels shitty and well, lonely.

But right now, I’m remembering Uncle Tito, and allowing the loneliness to wash through me, and letting it work for me by writing about it here. And maybe you, a writer yourself or an aspiring writer or just someone who likes to read about writers, will feel a little less lonely because you’re reading this.

Or maybe not, and that’s all right too.

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8 responses

7 05 2010
JV

Yes I know what you mean. And my auntie–my mother’s sister–just died in the Philippines. I’ve had some good times with writers in the Bay Area. But down here in Elkhorn, with the goats and chickens, it gets pretty lonely!

11 05 2010
Rona

Sorry to hear about your Auntie, Jean. Hope to see you around the Bay sometime soon!

12 05 2010
satsumaart

Hi Rona, I found your blog while googling VONA. Curiously enough, writing doesn’t make me lonely — maybe I just haven’t done enough of it yet — but sometimes, being with other writers does. I feel kinship with them, yet I also feel like an oddity. I think it’s the outsider mentality I wrote about once: http://satsumabug.livejournal.com/2008/07/30/ I’m curious how this will pan out at VONA this summer.

I’m sorry to hear about your uncle.

14 05 2010
ronagirl9

Thanks for reading! It’s interesting to me to hear how different writers experience loneliness. I hope you enjoy VONA. It’s been a real literary home for me the past several years.

14 05 2010
satsumaart

Thank you! I’m so glad to hear that. I didn’t expect to get in!

14 05 2010
satsumaart

Thank you! I’m so glad to hear it. I didn’t expect to get in! But I’m looking forward to it. 🙂

19 05 2010
mel

rona, so sorry to hear about your uncle. writing can be lonely, but i’ve found that many artistic types can feel this way. take heart, and take care.

29 05 2010
Rona

Thanks Mel. Yes, I think that us creative types, being more emotionally sensitive and (hopefully) insightful, feel loneliness more intensely at times. I’m trying to appreciate it when it’s helpful. It’s interesting that I’ve had several writers tell me they like loneliness too. I told one friend, ‘I guess that’s why we’re writers!’

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