Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Writing Heart Is Not a Lonely Hunter

In The Right to Write, Julia Cameron talks about loneliness, and the common perception that writing is an inherently lonely occupation. And yet, she says, this is not her own experience, and she feels like something of a heretic: “So much has been written about the loneliness of the writer’s lot that it feels like heresy to report the truth as I know it: in my experience, not writing is a lonely business. The minute I let myself write, everything falls into balance.”

She could be describing my own experience as well.

It doesn’t matter what I write. It could a short story, a poem, a speech, a blog post, a letter, work on a novel, or a news story, it really doesn’t matter. I never write alone. And it’s been that way as long as I can remember.

There may not be another person in the room, but that doesn’t mean I’m alone. And that’s because when I’m writing, I’m inside a character’s head or the middle of a scene; between the lines of a poem pulling out what will be coming; thinking about the people who may be reading a blog post or article; or, if I’m writing a speech for someone, that person is figuratively sitting on my shoulder so I can hear the voice, how it sounds, what it says well and what it mispronounces, and what will communicate with listeners.

I have interior conversations with all of these people and scenes. I play with words and silently yell at them when they don’t work or don’t string together like they should. I puzzle of where a new character suddenly erupted from. I watch a scene in a story unfold, and I don’t think of myself as the director but more as one of the actors in the scene.

I didn’t say it wasn’t weird; all I said was that I don’t feel lonely.

Frustrated, out of sorts, short-tempered when I can’t write? Absolutely. And also lonely.

But lonely when I write? Never. For a writer, it's not writing that's one of the heights of loneliness.

(And yes, my apologies to Carson McCullers for adapting the title of her novel for this blog post.)

Over at the High Calling Blogs, Laura Boggess is leading a discussion of Cameron’s The Right to Write. Take a look and see what others are saying, commenting and posting. Last week’s discussion was about going deeper in your writing. This week’s discussion is about loneliness, writing as witness and where a writer writes.

Related:

Love.Letters by Nancy at Poems and Prayers.

Out of Sorts by Nancy Kourmoulis.

Lyla Lindquist's A Little Help from Mr. Fusion.

Day 21: Right Day, Right Time by Melo.

Erin Straza's Let's Be Brave.

Morning Pages by Cassandra Frear.

Witness by Laura Boggess.

17 comments:

Maureen said...

You give good example to what I think most of all us who are writers feel. I long ago learned to write amid distractions (my desk in an open office at one job was just steps away from the receptionist's and the kitchen), to shut them out to be alone with the writing. And to be alone to write has never meant being lonely.

Kathleen Overby said...

Is this why most writer's are considered 'lone wolfs' because they are most comfortable NOT feeling alone when writing? I earnestly await your first book.

M.L. Gallagher said...

I'm with you on this Glynn -- and Maureen.

When I don't write, I ache. My psyche yearns. My soul craves that connection that I can only feel when immersed in words, in the creative process.

together in writing...

n. davis rosback said...

pick up the pen
a thresh hold
step
that begins
the dance

togetherforgood said...

I agree you. I am better, and never lonely, when I write.

lainiegallagher said...

Lonely during writing? Never! I feel lonely when I don't have opportunity to write...

S. Etole said...

you have some excellent companionship in your writing ....

Kelly Langner Sauer said...

It is odd to hear you say this... When I write, I am alone, but I love the alone, because it is there that I learn how to be with others. I don't argue with words; I just let them come and leaver them where they fall most of the time. I didn't realize there was any other way of it.

You've opened my world a bit. I like that.

Jennifer Richardson said...

Yes! You've described so well the homesickness I feel when I am blocked from reaching for my pens and paints. I love what happens to my breathing when I am able to sink again into that comforting place and open the valve again...it's the most at home in my skin I ever feel. What a treasure to find your blog; I look forward to visiting again.

Mr Lonely said...

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marion said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Laura said...

Those voices keep me company as well, Glynn. It's hard to describe to non-writers, isn't it? I love what Cameron says about writing being a witness to our lives. I feel God's presence in the process very acutely.

Billy Coffey said...

I think the mark of a real writer is that he or she has to write, regardless. I guess it can be lonely at times, but it's the sort of loneliness that smoothes over the rough patches and makes everything else seem much better.

L.L. Barkat said...

I don't write unless I'm in community with it somehow. That's just the way it goes.

So I'm not one of those "romantic writers" who can't go without it. I sure can. It's people I can't do without. And writing is one of my best ways to connect. :)

(I liked that you stole her title. That was a very communal thing of you to do ;-)

sherri said...

Well said.

I write. I need to write. It is my exhale.

Joana said...

A really, absolutelly true diagnostic. We,writers as hobby or as a job, must all suffer from the same disease!I agree with the author of the quote when she says that writing doesn't feel lonely.(I first thought this was a review of my blog, because my blog is called The Writing Heart lol).
This is the first post of yours I read and I like it! Keep doing such good job!

Joana said...
This comment has been removed by the author.