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ACW

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

The loneliness of the long distance writer by Veronica Zundel

'No one but a fool ever wrote except for money', said Samuel Johnson famously . On a day when the papers are telling us that the gap between the income of  'top' writers (JK Rowling et al) and that of the average writer is bigger than ever, his saying bears thinking about. But that's not what I really want to say. Let me instead suggest a new saying, which may or may not catch on: 'No one but an introvert ever enjoyed being a writer'.

Don't get me wrong. I love writing, and every time I do it I remember just how how rewarding it is, whether or not money is likely to be forthcoming - although it's nicer when it is. It's not the actual writing I don't enjoy, it's the being a writer. Because let's face it, being at home with no one to talk to but the cat and the computer, doesn't really work for extroverts. And I am, as numerous Myers Briggs profiles have shown, an extrovert. I don't mean I'm mouthy and a show-off, although I can be both. I mean I need to be among people, or at least outside the house, to gain energy and motivation.

I don't always have to relate to the people. Wandering round a food market, with strangers milling around, will often do. But what I know is definitely bad for my mental health  is being alone with my thoughts for more than a day at a time. Yes, my husband comes home in the evening. And yes, our son, having (hopefully temporarily) dropped out of university, is around to disturb me, usually when I've got stuck into a particularly difficult piece of writing. But that is not enough.

Many writers, of course, get that extrovert hit by being speakers as well, which also does marvels for one's public profile and book sales. But I'm not on the Christian speaker circuit (probably on account of being a shameless heretic) and besides, I'm not that kind of extrovert. Public speaking fills me with dread. So how to avert the gloom of writer's loneliness?

In my email address book I have an group called 'Lunchladies', consisting of other women with whom I occasionally have lunch (and a couple of men both of whose names end in 'sop'). When I start feeling too isolated, I fire off a group email to them and hopefully get some positive responses. But people have busy lives, especially in London, and the initiative has to come from me. I'm a long way from my goal of having a lunch date every week.

There is probably no easy solution. Perhaps group blogs like this go some way towards feeling more part of a community. And Facebook, provided it doesn't take over, is a lifesaver. Nevertheless, being a writer is isolating, and always will be. After 35+ years, I ought to be used to it, but I'm not. Anyone else out there feel the same?

Veronica Zundel is a freelance writer whose latest book is Everything I know about God, I've learned from being a parent (BRF 2013). She also writes a column for Woman Alive magazine, and Bible notes for New Daylight. Veronica belongs to the only non-conservative, English speaking Mennonite church in the UK, and also blogs at reversedstandard.com

7 comments:

  1. Even as an introvert I too find that going long periods with nothing but books and a computer can give me cabin fever and a need for socialising - great thoughts :)

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  2. Enjoyed reading this, Veronica; as an introvert I love the times when I'm away on my own writing, with lots of conversations going on in my head. But I can see how that would be draining for others.

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  3. I don't know how I'd be, at home as a full-time writer. I really wouldn't mind the chance to try it out, though!

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  4. Thank you Veronica for coming out on this. I am the same. Empty house can I still an abstract dread and I need to go out. Even just for a wander, so as to mingle with humanity a while! Writers' retreats are not for us. Thanks for sharing the loneliness Of the extrovert writer.

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  5. 'Instill' - the stupidity of computers meant it 'corrected' a word it didn't understands!

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  6. Interesting post Veronica. I agree with Fran that I would like the chance to try out being a full time writer, but as you said the income one makes from it is not much and I live alone so need to make sure all bills are paid by going out to a job.

    However, I did find when I was unemployed that being on my own sent me almost doolally (I did get much more writing done though!). I am an extravert and get depressed very quickly if I spend too much time alone so it probably just as well I don't work from home. I love public speaking. I come alive when speaking to a group of people. I think of myself as a speaker who writes rather than a writer who speaks. But I don't make much money at either!!

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  7. Really interesting post. I'm an introvert who finds herself constantly in company so the idea of the house to myself sounds wonderful. I have no idea if it would be so appealing if I had no choice in the matter. I do know that I only write when I'm alone and undisturbed, whereas I realise that some people can disappear into their own minds and be productive in the midst of family life.
    As my Grandma used to say, 'It takes all sorts to make a world.'
    Doesn't it just.

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