The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Writer

lonelypanda

In the end, we all write alone.

As a performing introvert, sometimes I revel in the solitude and sometimes I get edgy and want to talk to other people about the things I am writing about. Not imaginary people, like editors of journals and their subscribers. Real people with faces and names and opinions. At least, that is what it feels like.

I don’t know a lot of poets these days. Working in academia, I know a lot of fiction writers, scholars, science writers, bloggers and at least two recovering journalists. This is usually enough, as the issues we all face in terms of writing process and simply putting down the right words in the right order are ubiquitous regardless of genre. Having some writer friends is not only helpful; I would argue that it is necessary for your long-term happiness as a working writer. There are some things that only other writers understand:

  • the habit of leaving a notepad in the bathroom for 3 am inspirations
  • the frustration with having thought of the almost-right word (no, that is not good enough, dammit)
  • the victory of writing 1665 words a day for more than two weeks in a row
  • scribbling the lyrics to a new song idea on the inside of your Dunkin Donuts bag, sometimes before you get around to eating the donut
  • those white-noise days when you stare at page or screen for hours and produce nothing
  • the feeling of “Damn, I’m good!”* when you finish an exquisite bit of writing even you didn’t know you were capable ofdamnfinemug

You can experience the joys and pains alone, but it is exhausting, especially when you are also submitting work to those imaginary editors out there in Journal Land and receiving form rejections back in a much higher proportion than the acceptances. And, alone, you can solve the obstacles in your writing—the clunky transitions, the fifth draft ending that still sucks—but it will go faster with a friend.

When I think of this, I think of otters, who sleep on their backs on the water, holding hands so that they don’t get separated. Sometimes, you just need a buddy.

otters

* A college friend of mine had a mug that said this. I have always thought it would be a great mug for a writer. George Eliot at the least would have found it invaluable.

8 comments on “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Writer

  1. Simon Perchik says:

    Susan, I’m new to this www world and am not sure this will reach you. Want to thank you sincerely for the kind words about my work. I once wrote an essay that deals with the same subject your site is concerned with. I send it on as an attachment in the hope you find it of interest. In any event, I hope we can stay in touch. Si.

    Like

  2. I have yet to be so inspired that I need to write something down at 3 am in a bathroom.

    That said, the “almost-right” word is evil. It taunts me with its relentless mantra: “Hey, I’m close enough.”

    Like

  3. PJS says:

    “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter — it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” — Mark Twain, Letter to George Bainton, October 1888

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lora says:

    I used to have little pieces of paper with my writing notes all around the house. Now my smartphone has taken over 🙂 thanks for a great article (I love the picture of the otters btw)

    Liked by 1 person

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