The Blank Page is a new weekly series on Novelty Revisions dedicated to any writer who is just beginning their journey or starting again after a long pause. Check back every Monday for more tips and inspiration.
Writing — and being a writer — is as fulfilling and worthwhile as it often sounds. There are downsides to every hobby and profession. Writing is also exhausting, sometimes overwhelming and frustrating. But that just makes the entire experience worth the occasional struggle.
Something that isn’t talked about enough is writing and its relation to socialization — mainly that you don’t always understand how lonely writing can be until you experience it firsthand.
It must be discouraging to finally dive into the hobby that could one day become your dream job, only to realize how isolating and lonely it can feel. Especially on days writing is more of a struggle and you wish you had someone to talk with about your frustrations.
There are more benefits to writing alone — and even being lonely, in some contexts — than you might think. Even as a writer who’s just starting out and getting the hang of things.
Writing is just as much about self-discovery as it is about connecting with other people. Not every writer is an introvert. I know plenty of people who love to write, and who actually benefit from the seemingly constant stimulation of being around other human beings. Writing itself is a solitary activity, but that’s not just about concentration.
As a writer, I think I’ve learned more about myself through my own writing than I could have ever expected when this long and winding journey began. I write alone because I just naturally think and create better on my own. I enjoy it, most of the time, because of how much I get to learn and grow in my own private space.
That doesn’t mean writing doesn’t get lonely — or rather, BEING a writer. Of course it does. There’s a reason you really shouldn’t try to spend all day every day writing. You can’t spend all day every day on your own. But you CAN benefit from that alone time, and use it to your advantage in the meantime.
Spending time alone in your own creative space teaches you to be constructively critical. Unpopular opinion? We rely too much on other people to tell us whether our writing is “good” or not. We lean too much on the opinions and criticisms of other people. And it’s only hurting our chances of success.
The best way to learn to be critical and engage in self-improvement is to practice analyzing, critiquing, and changing your own work — even the way you DO that work. And that often happens alone, on your own time.
There is nothing wrong with asking for help. We all need it every now and then, some more so than others. And that’s okay. It’s good, even. But there isn’t always going to be someone around to give you the kind of feedback you might be looking for. You have to provide that for yourself as often as you can.
You can still connect with other writers, even if it’s not about sharing your work. The same goes for other people in general. Sometimes it’s healthy to step away from your writing and your own thought processes and spend time in the real world — yes, even virtually if you must — with real people, hearing real voices, seeing real faces.
Loneliness is a real problem for many different kinds of people, and there’s absolutely nothing shameful about admitting that you need to talk or spend time with other humans. But there’s a reason I often advise people not to make writing their “whole” life. Because it isn’t. It can’t be. It can’t serve as your only source of comfort or means of conversation. You have to give yourself reasons to step away from it and live in the real world.
Writing is lonely because it’s supposed to be. That doesn’t mean we’re doing it “wrong” or that we have to rely on anyone and everyone to get us through it. When you need to, shift your focus away from your work and onto the other people in your life.
In the end, they’re going to be the things that matter more than words on paper.
Just starting out as a writer or returning from an extended hiatus? Let me know how I can help. Just drop a comment below with your questions/concerns — I am here to serve.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is an editor and writer, and a 12-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food, and Star Wars.