Last fall while on a business to trip, I was in a vast conference hall filled with hundreds of people. My job was to sell certain college textbooks. I couldn't count the number of participants eager to learn more about the subject matter, their eyes alight, ears perked. I watched how they greeted each other too, rapt in conversation, fascinated by the most innocuous details of their field -- one in which I had zero interest. I was terrible at my job. At one point, I had to excuse myself to the restroom and lock the stall door before the tears fell. These are not my people, played an endless loop in my head. I'd never felt so alone.
I always imagined the writers life as one of angst and loneliness. And while I've certainly experienced the angst, I've yet to know the aloneness. When I'm writing, I never feel separate. Rather, I have a sense of true belonging -- to my characters and their world. I'm never so happy as when I'm sitting in this chair, typing at these keys. If I had no other responsibilites, that's what I'd do all day, everyday. Happily.
Perhaps I don't have that sense of of alienation because I have the women of my Writers' Group for support. It is no small comfort to know I can discuss any aspect of this business -- no matter how sensitive -- and be confident that they will not only understand my perspective, but protect my privacy. I believe they know I will be equally discreet with their thoughts. There're a handful of other writers with whom I'm building a similar rapport. They are all my people. As a result, I've never experienced the loneliness writers so often express.
Perhaps writing has been tagged as a lonely profession because we writers are so guarded, not only with our material, but with our feelings. When we submit our work to publications, agents, editors -- worse yet, other writers -- it's as if we ourselves are splayed out to be inspected. Safer to hide it away, protect it from the critical glare. Hide ourselves away too.
Talking to my Writers' Group and to other writers makes me recall that day in the conference hall. When we debate the merits of a semicolon versus a comma, when we share articles in Poets & Writer or gossip about the latest deal on Publishers Marketplace, I understand the people at the conference discussing their passion. Only a another writer would care about ours.
It's not the writing that's the lonely part. No, it's the journey. So find someone in your community, online, or via this blog to share your journey with, each and every painful, glorious step. Be among your people.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007