Writing is a loner’s business. Now before you ask isn’t that a typo? Let me be clear. There is a difference between being alone, being lonely and being a loner. The first step in any writing journey involves dreaming out loud and awake. In these mindful moments, stories unfold, characters come to life and for me, at least, the voices are distinct and clear.
While a writer’s success does not occur in a vacuum and others are involved along the way from crit partners to editors to proofreaders and eventually readers themselves, the first steps, the crucial steps are taken alone. It can be difficult to remember we are not alone when we are trapped in the throes of a story, when the outcome is literally within our grasp if only the characters will cooperate, discover the right clues or let themselves believe happiness is possible.
Choice is Vital
Writers, in my opinion, more than anyone else understand that you cannot force someone to be happy. You cannot force them to be different from who they are. The characters have to choose it, they have to embrace the chance and they have to leap for the ring.
So why is writing a loner’s world? Because truth be told, sometimes to hear them we have to not hear everything else. The world is noisy. Social media is a loud, blaring obnoxious scroll of PAY ATTENTION TO ME and OMG moments. Those distractions can yank us from the story, more, they can drown the voices we need to hear. Beyond the obvious distractions of the Internet are family, friends, pets, and my most loathsome enemies—the door-to-door solicitations which knock at the most inopportune moments, set off the dogs and must be discouraged from bothering us.
Creating the Write Space
You may say, but those are easy to take care of. Send the spouse to work, the kiddo off to school and don’t answer the door. Sometimes that’s possible. Most of the time it isn’t. If the dogs are barking, it’s hard to ignore them. If the kiddo is at school and needs something, texting makes me thirty seconds away from a response, and even the spouse has moments—fun ones, bad ones, necessary ones—all things that need to be answered.
Kiddo needs a doctor’s appointment? That’s a phone call. Kiddo’s teacher needs a response on a grading assignment? Email which can’t be ignored. Bills have to be paid? Order is misplaced? Prescriptions picked up? Details—life is in the details—and they don’t stop because you’ve left the so-called real world for the life of your characters in a book.
The Loner’s Journey
The best moments, are when you, the loner, set off without distractions to see where the story goes. I’ve been so deep before, I didn’t hear the phone, I didn’t hear someone come in and yes, the dogs had to shove the desk away to get me to stop writing so they could go outside.
I have had the discussion with others before, the basic necessity of needing alone time. Of craving it. I don’t reject offers to do things with others because I don’t like them or what they want to do, sometimes, it’s purely for the story. I need to be alone so I can delve into that world without all the background noise of this one.
Lonely vs Alone
Now and then, writing does feel lonely. It doesn’t seem as though anyone else can comprehend the time sunk into the imagination, of the emotions experienced as the characters rise, fail, then rise again. When the story ends, when we type those last precious words The End, we sag with exhaustion. I refer to this as a time of post-book coma. The world comes back to us in splinters for our attention, and we’re walking around in a hazy cloud of satisfaction infused weariness.
It’s done. We can send it to the editor. We can breathe again. We can catch up on all the things we’ve had to set aside…until the next story opens on the fresh page on the computer and we dive back into a new world, a new adventure, a new set of characters.
We’re Not Alone
At the end of the day, we may be loners who write alone, but we are not lonely. Readers join us when the story is in their hands, they go on the journey, following the path we created and trust me, there is no greater compliment a writer can receive than to hear—I couldn’t put it down. I forgot to go to sleep. It wouldn’t let me go.
We know how that is, because the story doesn’t let us go either. Not until we’re done.