Writing: The Loneliest Art Form?
‘Writing, at its best, is a lonely life,’ said Hemingway – and for many writers that is true. Some great authors have, at least openly, courted solitude: Lord Byron flamboyantly stated, ‘I only go out to get me a fresh appetite for being alone.’ (We challenge you not to read that in a hammy Louisianan accent. We’ve tried, and we cannot do it.)
The potential loneliness of writing is multifold. Literally, physically, you need to remove yourself from company to do it. You can discuss your work with others but – unless you’re a group of screenwriters in a writers’ room – there comes a point at which you just need to take yourself to a pad of paper or a keyboard and get the words down. As the science writer Isaac Asimov put it: ‘Even if a writer socializes regularly, when he gets down to the real business of his life, it is he and his typewriter or word processor. No one else is or can be involved in the matter.’
But there is another dimension of loneliness for many writers: very often, we just aren’t the most social creatures. Whilst in many ways the most highly socially astute of people, able to plumb society’s emotional depths, alive to the very subtlest social nuances, writers can also be anti-social, awkward, even prickly. That might be due to the compulsive instinct to observe: if you’re watching from the outside, how can you get fully immersed? Just as you must detach yourself physically from others in order to sit down and write, so you must detach yourself in order to view others with the full observational objectivity necessary to capture character.
But the best way to combat loneliness as a writer is to share your writing with someone else – someone you like and trust. This might seem like the most terrifying thing on earth – we understand how personal your writing can be, and how closely guarded – but it really can boost your confidence immeasurably. It also has the benefit of re-invigorating your work, since you get a chance to view your plot and characters through someone else’s eyes. Finally, it’s just comforting to know there are other people out there doing the same thing as you.
If you haven’t already, consider joining a writing group. This could be a group of friends, if you know other aspiring writers. If you don’t, see information on our Group Workshops here – or, if you prefer anonymity, you might consider joining an online writing community. Our favourite forum is Critique Circle, which has been around since 2003 and creates an encouraging and constructive arena in which to give and receive feedback. If that doesn’t work for you, there are countless other online communities that might be worth a try: have a look at this article to find out more.
And of course, though we may be biased, we believe the best possible way to counter loneliness and lack of inspiration is to sign up to the Ink Academy course. You’ll benefit from sharing your writing with someone with experience, who is truly committed to your work. It will bring structure, guidance, encouragement and constructive feedback to your writing. Your tutor will be your sounding board as well as your editor. And – by sharing your writing with someone who both knows what they’re talking about, and gets to understand you and your work – you will feel much less isolated in this rewarding but demanding endeavour.