clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Sunday, January 25, 2015

You Are Not Alone

Who am I kidding?

At left, Mark Twain writing at a desk with all his buddies in a photo whose copyright has expired.

You do your best work alone. Sure, you might go to a coffee shop or the library; but, when you are writing you are alone in your mind.

Depth of the grey days here. Does it show?

You are alone when you execute on your ideas. You long for those hours in the laundry room or the storage closet downstairs where you can slip away. "If I can only be alone for twenty minutes," you tell yourself.

You're lonely, though. You miss the interaction that is rewarding with respect to the topics you believe you care about right now.

It is my belief that those writers we come to admire write because they are innately unable to express some emotions in any other way.

There seems to be a class of writer who so desperately desires to be socially involved that it drives them to write. The people on the pages - the characters - provde the surrogates for the friends we do not find.

Not as friends. As people of interest.

It's a very one-sided relationship.

How can I explain to someone at a superbowl party that my most pressing concern is the treatment of a wife beating suspect in a small county jail? I'm concerned if the fellow wears a flannel shirt or a denim shirt. I care if the sheriff gives him a ticket to Denver or just threatens to burn him alive and bury him in a feedlot if the cops are called again.

How can I say I'm more concerned with the injuries sustained by a fictitious person than the cold your kid had last week that kept him home from daycare for two whole days?

There is a social disconnect when we have a story in our fore-brains. We want to make the decisions and solve the problems on the page. We want to share that experience and yet know to never talk of our writing socially. [ Just one "Oh, I have this idea for a book" conversation ought to teach you that, dear colleague].

There is something wrong with us for staying inside and writing when our friends are playing baseball after school.

It makes us lonely.

We can't help ourselves.

Loneliness or that horrendous itch of having a story you've slacked on and let drift away? Which is it you want rubbed into that raw spot on your psyche?

You are going to feel alone. You are going to feel isolated. You are going to feel that something isn't fulfilled there in your soul.

Isn't that a big part of why you started writing? Think back.

My guess is that you did not pick up a pen at the birthday party when the girl in the blue dress announced that you were her bestest friend for all time and that she couldn't wait to play with you every day after school.

If you started writing for fame or fortune or to be known as an "artist" - well. Maybe there is a clinic nearby to treat your growing disillusionment.

Retirement income? Well, good luck with that. Three words for you: cat food sandwich.

You don't get the monetary reward for writing that is equivalent to the emotional cost of whatever convinced you to start. Not. Even. Close.

You were happy and well adjusted and loved and secure and decided to burn a few years and a million words just to become competent at writing? I'm not buying it. 

Writing happens between you and the paper. You are going to feel lonely.

You are not alone, comrade. We're all right there in the hermit colony of the laundry room with you.

You see, we know. We know the collective self-doubt and worry and embarrassment of imagining success and the fear of the same when you mother sees herself on the page - or when we've botched the job and she doesn't.

We know what it is to give someone our work and that they might say "not your best work." We thought it was, when we gave it to them. We know how that moment stings.

Our psychic energy is that penetrating warmth you feel.

Or it could be the dryer. 

Rotate the laundry, will you? Sorry I turned the buzzer back on. Hope it didn't break your train of thought.

I'll give you another thirty minutes alone down there but then I need to talk to you about Julia's soccer game on Thursday.

How's the writing?

"Fine," you say.

"That's good," they say.

 And you're alone again with your thoughts, and lonely.

We know.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Well put, Jack!

Yes, we sort of create our own friends, don't we? Sometimes family will tell me that I didn't listen closely to something they were saying (and this isn't good because it means I forgot something). I'll say that I was "living in the neighborhood of make-believe." Just like Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, remember?

The worst is when I've written and thought about my story for a long time and realized I wasn't lonely at all...ugh. This doesn't bode well for an interactive future for me.

jack welling said...

Join the hermits. We've got jackets and a potluck on Thursday night!

It's a strange little activity. We spend hours alone in order to communicate with the world. Such dichotomy.