I’ve seen it written time and time again that writing is a lonely profession. There is truth to those words by design. If you are putting all of your time into your words and your words are all going into a printed abyss; then yes, that is lonely.
A few years ago when I did the actual writing of my novel, it didn’t feel so lonely. At that time, my husband and I were living in a darling apartment in Hingham, Massachusetts, and when he left for work at 6 am, I got up to begin my writing day, which began with a brisk walk along the bay and up to Starbucks and back. Then, I planted my bottom and began to write. If you’ve ever written, you know that eight hours can feel like one, so I set my alarm for 3 daily to shower and walk to the market for dinner supplies.
When my husband returned home from work around 7 each evening, we enjoyed a nice meal and went for a walk or watched a couple hours of TV together. At least two (often three) weekends per month, I flew home to see the kids. At that time, I could get a round trip flight for $78. This was not a lonely life. This was a dream life, that was cut short by a change in my husband’s work circumstance and then shortly thereafter, my granddaughter’s health concerns.
The year after Hingham was maybe the most devastating year of my life. I’ve suffered tragedies (deaths of parents and siblings) but never a sequence of tragic events like that year. One minute I was living the empty nester’s dream—and the next, my husband was losing his job of 32 years; I had to move back to the small town in Pennsylvania that I had rejoiced in leaving; my granddaughter was diagnosed with a terminal illness; and I had to witness the utter disparity of my daughter and her husband while they tried to come to terms with the knowledge that their bodies had together created the horrible disease that would go forth and haunt their future generations. Like I said, not a good year.
I think you can understand why I couldn’t bear to think about my book for a very long time. I had too much pain to process. Have you ever had a moment–or two–where it felt like things were finally coming together and then it all crashes again? If so, then you understand the depth of disappointment I’ve been working against.
But, we are a family of fighters and so we fought. The fight to level out Susannah’s health has been a long, laborious, and often fruitless one so we are now working on acceptance. We moved to Maryland so that Steve could retire instead of trying to find another job, which served two fold; it got me back out of Pennsylvania and put us close to Susannah so we could help as needed. And last of all, I finally accepted that I am never again going to live the writing life I had for a precious 1 1/2 years and if I ever want to see publication, I need to stop wishing and start working. From now on, any writing I do will have to be at the expense of something else as there are precious few extra hours in my day after work and family.
I don’t mind sacrificing every spare minute to something I love—but it sure helps to get a little reminder every now and then that I’m not in it alone, especially since all of my social time is now committed to the solitude of writing. Just when I think I can’t do any more, I get a comment, or a follower on my blog and it rejuvenates my spirit. I’ve discovered that writing is lonely only if nobody cares about what you write.
Each day, after I’ve been started awake by my alarm at 4 am, I instantly check my cell phone for any new emails, even before getting out of bed. Each time I press that button, I get butterflies in my stomach—you know, that ‘hopeful’ feeling—in anticipation of hearing back from one of my queries. I’ve only queried five agents, and if what I’m reading from published authors is true, it may take upwards of 300 attempts…but nonetheless, I am filled with anticipation daily.
This waiting game is a challenge, since I waited nearly 40 years already. Every now and then I awake to a wonderful surprise; not an agent response, but someone will have commented on my blog post. If an agent isn’t reading my query submission, at least it is rewarding to know someone is reading my words. This morning I awoke to a blog post comment that filled my eyes with tears and my heart with joy. It was a quote that said, “Friendship must never be buried under the weight of misunderstanding. – Sri Chinmoy” If you’ve been reading my blog since the beginning, you know what this means and how much I love this person. I am so thankful that she has not given up on us.
Fortunately I have received other such motivational comments in these past several weeks. A beloved friend told me that my words have been a daily comfort to her. Feeling as though I might be making a difference in someone’s life puts new fuel in my soul. Another friend contacted me via Facebook saying she has been following my blog, was away from her home computer and needed the link because she missed reading it. These may seem like trivial words to you, but when you work hard at something daily and it seems as though nobody notices…well, you know how that feels. I want to most sincerely thank everyone who is reading and a special thank you goes out to the people who have taken the time to inspire me with a comment. Right now, I am living for words like this.
We all have the need for validation: to know that what we do in our daily lives has meaning. At your workplace, a pay raise tells you that you are appreciated and doing a good job. As a writer, it takes a reader to tell you that you’re doing a good job.
Words are not only the beginning (the joy of a baby learning their first word: mama or dada) and the end (a last “I love you” said to a dying loved one), but words of support feel like a gift when you hear (or read) them, so don’t forget to offer them up whenever the opportunity arises. Search for one person in your life…really ponder the impact that different people have made…and share some kind words with them…give someone some words to live for, today.
“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson