Friday, July 3, 2015

Alone is not Lonely

Year of Living Authentically: A writer is never alone.

I was a kid who spent a lot of time alone, but looking back, there are very few times I felt lonely. Even as early as third grade, I would choose to be writing or reading, rather than socializing and that's probably why I don't have the suave social skill of my little brother who loved to be in the crowd. I had the people in my books and the people in my head and a family who took me to the library every week. 

As I grew up and life got decidedly less fun, I would retreat into the world in my books and the people in my head. While others were boozing away their Thursday nights in collage, I was curled up with a spiral notebook creating the world that would become Diaries of an Urban Panther. I have characters in my head who have been with me longer than some friends.

I teach as part of a writing program and we are always talking about building your writing tribe and finding others who speak your language. I talk about the synergy of writing with a group of people and the relief that comes when someone else gets a 'Call to Adventure' joke. How finding others who share your passion for writing is one of the best things a writer can do.

But fundamentally, writing is an alone process. It is you and your story and maybe a cup of coffee. Writing isn't lonely. You have characters who are making you as you are making them, but the process is not a communal one. You have experiences that you crafting for others to live, but you can not share in the creation because it is creating you as you go. The writer you on page one  is not the same writer you as the one who finishes the manuscript. You have been changed. You know more about yourself than you did on page one and that change is just as important as the one on the hero went through.

Writing is an intrinsic force that almost demands you shut yourself away from the outside world to focus on the internal one. Writers are stereotyped as hermits, because hermitting is a natural reaction to the need to form a cocoon around yourself so change can happen.  I haven't met a writer yet that doesn't fantasize about cabins in the woods or cabanas on the beach where they can just "be" with their stories.  

I advocate both. Find quite time. Find a ritual that takes you to that internal world and spend lots of time there. Get your story on the page before you share it. But then, find flesh-and-blood humans you can talk to this stuff about, who you can share this process with, who understand the desire to hide under a blanket because change is hard: writing is hard. Find those who understand that a first draft is a new creation, fragile and still hardening its wings, and will respect it as they do their own. 

So when you see that girl in the coffee shop with her over-the-ear headphones typing away at something, instead of making a big show of 'why does she even come here if she's just going to take up a table on a Saturday afternoon,' give her a knowing smile, so she doesn't feel lonely, but let her be alone. She's already got a table full of friends, and maybe an enemy, and there is magic happening right before your eyes. 

Until next time, YOLA!

Amanda Arista
Author, Diaries of an Urban Panther

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