Lonely Writers, You Are Not Alone

It is not an uncommon for a writer to experience loneliness, but there are ways to try to combat it.

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Writing, by its very nature, is a solitary pursuit. All too often the writer will opt out of contacting friends, engaging in family activities, or joining other more sociable pastimes in preference of working away alone in their writing space. Writing is what they enjoy best. Writers feel compelled to write; simple as.

However, there are times when this separation from the world at large can become a damaging curse on the writer. When things go wrong, choosing solitude can rapidly turn to its ugly counterpart: overwhelming isolation. A sense of being trapped behind a wall or shipwrecked on an uninhabited island, as loneliness is often described.

There are often underlying reasons as to why this may be so for the writer; for example the story may not be going well, raising feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. Frequently, this isolation can lead to further withdrawal from others in fear of reprisal, exposure as an imposter, or being told by well-meaning non-writers to give up. Loneliness may manifest as a result of a writing deadline that the writer cannot meet. Undergoing this kind of pressure—whether self-imposed or otherwise—may cause the writer so much angst that they spend more time worrying than hitting the deadline. Panic ensues, followed by a downslide into hopelessness, by which point the writer well and truly believes that no one can help them. There is also the type of disconnect from others that comes about from having too much going on inside the writers’ brain. Too many characters’ voices, too many plot lines to hold on to and no time to get them out onto a screen or page. Being at the point of overload does not allow a writer a clear enough head-space to spend time engaging in what they may perceive as unnecessary communication or chitchat.

Whilst all these feelings are perfectly valid—we are after all, in part, made up of what we feel—it does not mean that they are rational or that the lonely writer is beyond help. It is perhaps an uncommonly known fact that loneliness distorts our perception of others, leading to a no-one-will-understand-my-suffering syndrome, yet the syndrome itself is simply not true. Whilst feelings of loneliness and isolation are very real, they are often alleviated or lessened by sharing or talking about them to the right people. There is no need to be fearful of addressing this problem. Loneliness no longer carries the stigma it once did and there are now articles in the media, self-help books and novels with this subject as the theme to prove this so. It can and does help to express such feelings to someone else, someone who is willing to listen.

Opening up to a partner, a friend or a peer of some description is often a first step. Admitting that you are struggling with loneliness, as opposed to blaming the writing out loud, may help the other person acknowledge your difficulty in return. Joining up to a writers’ group in the local area is better still. Despite loneliness being a subjective condition—one writers’ experience of loneliness will not be a mirror image of another—other writers will almost definitely understand the pitfalls of being a writer and how this can lead to loneliness.

If such face-to-face discussion is not what the writer believes will move them forward, then there is always the option to break out from behind the wall of isolation and became active online. Joining up to a social media platform is one way of ensuring the writer has means to escape pressures and simply chat. The writer may discover other outlets and writing benefits that break the pattern of difficulty that spiralled them into loneliness, thus enabling them to put things back into perspective. Although, being mindful of sharing personal information in open-to-all online forums is advised.

“People who feel that they belong less strongly to their neighbourhood reported feeling lonely more often.”

Loneliness 2016–2017, Office for National Statistics

With this in mind, getting back out into the local community, though not necessarily by joining a group, is another positive step. Something as simple as a regular trip to the local library is a great way of both supporting and receiving a community benefit, and potentially with resourceful books to be found on the shelf on ways to tackle loneliness. If a library is not available, then perhaps a trip to a local bookshop which may carry literature specific to writers with a loneliness problem.

If things have reached a point where the writer is not helped by any of the above suggestions, then perhaps they should consider seeking a more expert opinion on how to tackle the issue. There are organisations giving access to professional advice on how to overcome loneliness. Contact details may be found online, on healthcare noticeboards, in relevant books and literature, even via magazine articles relating to health.

In other words: writer loneliness can be overcome.

Bev Rigden is a Thanet-based aspiring children's novelist who believes in the mystical, the magical and all things fantastical.

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