Most of us feel lonely from time to time. For writers, loneliness can come with the territory.
There's this image in our heads of the solitary writer, head bowed over the desk, the space illuminated by a lamp, working through the dark hours of the night ...
They're probably doing that because the late hours are the ones where there are no distractions. Everyone's gone to bed, the house is quiet, the phone isn't ringing and the river of emails has dried up until tomorrow.
If we're full on and in the middle of a piece of work, we cut ourselves off even more. We go out of our way to avoid people, declining invitations, shopping in the half hour before a grocery store closes at night, taking our daily exercise by the light of the moon.
Carolyn Murnick, a senior editor at New York Magazine, said, "I've always had a sense that it's not the healthiest to stay inside for three days writing, because then when you go out into the world, you feel a little out of sorts. In the same way it takes some time to get into the writing headspace, it'll take you a while to get back into the space of being with people."
I understand that. If I've been on a writing bender, then go out into the world to buy cat food and run into someone I know at the shop, I get tongue-tied, often can't remember their name, have little to talk about, feel the flush of embarrassment rising and hastily make my exit.
Solitude seems to come with the writing life but ask a writer how she or he feels about this and they may well reply, "I love it. It's great. I've never been happier."
Hmm. What's with that?
I look at my own writing life and I am content. It is a lonely occupation. I spend the greater part of every working day here, alone, with Betsy the cat. I may not speak to another living person all day but I don't mind it because the solitude gives me the space I need to write. It's hard to do that with a lot of people around.
And yeah, I get lonely sometimes, the deep-seated sad type that moves in like a grey, dampening mist and settles in for the long haul, and then I wish I had a more sociable job. Being too much on one's own isn't the best, even for writers, and finding a balance requires pushing out of the creative cocoon, making sure you do see your mates, go for walks, see movies, drink in bars and have trips away.
It was about ten years or so ago that I finally understood, and accepted, that writing would become my life. It was almost like going into a convent, giving up social interaction, sacrificing a great party for a night before the computer, and other things I had to give up, not the least of which was a good income.
I knew the loneliness that lay ahead, the unique disconnect from the world that, in the strange way of creating, enables me to write about it and communicate my thoughts and so involve myself in the passing parade and the flowing river.
Was it worth it? Yes. Of course.