The Loneliness of the Writer
Writing is often a solitary pursuit, as the only person able to effectively capture and remove characters and a tale from your own mind is you. That being said, there are always opportunities to spend time with other writers, from writers’ groups to local events and even literary festivals.
Although writers are often alone, the actual act of writing is far from lonely. Characters running around inside your mind, doing whatever it is that they do, and you putting this into words is an exhilarating and—strangely—crowded experience. Whilst you may be physically alone, mentally you are not. If your characters are more than just cardboard cut-outs, and are fully realised individuals, then you will struggle to get some space to yourself. You are never alone, until you are.
It is when the characters step away, when the story stops flowing, when you get stuck and see nothing except a blank page—both in front of you, and in your mind’s eye—that you suddenly and inexplicably realise you are completely and utterly isolated. You feel abandoned. You are truly alone.
That is the moment you need company. Specifically, you need the company of other writers. You need to be around people that are not only there, talking and spending time with you, but that understand exactly what you are feeling because they have also all felt the same way. You need this, because you need to understand that it is not just you that feels marooned in a desolate wasteland since your characters went quiet, but it is all writers. Every writer ever has felt that exact same thing at one stage or another. We all know it, we’ve all felt it, and we are with you.
If and when this happens, go to your nearest writers’ group. Just drop in and see what it is like. If there isn’t one near you, then look harder, as there will be. If there really isn’t one, then find a few writers online and meet up somewhere public. Talk face-to-face. Online messaging may be comfortable, may be easier, but the reason you are stuck, alone, is because you are comfortable, even if it doesn’t feel that way. Push yourself. Arrange to meet a writer for a coffee and a chat. Until you’ve tried it, you have no idea how much it will help. Present your plot problem, or your character issue, and talk it through, and you will become aware that you are not the only person going through this, and that the answer was in front of you all along.
You might find the writers’ group or people you met are not right for you. That’s okay. Try again. Try more. Go to a few groups until you find one that suits you. Make sure you get something out of it, and do so by committing to give something to it. Writers’ groups work by everyone putting in ideas and thoughts and critique, and therefore everyone gets something from it. Listen, learn, discuss, be part of it and take what you pick up away.
You are not alone, you don’t need to feel lonely, and by spending time with other writers when you need it the most, you will find out how useful it can be.
© 2019 Seb Reilly
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
Seb Reilly is a writer, fiction author and occasional musician. He lives by the sea in Thanet, Kent, with his family and two cats.