Poetry and personal blog – Spilling my guts to strangers

Only the Lonely

I compiled a Twitter list called Help for Poets and Writers. The tweets coming from this list run the gamut from advice on the finer points of  writing to how to market your book to pithy quotes from famous writers. These tweets are thought provoking and a source of inspiration to me.

A while back, there was one that particularly struck me. The quote, “Writers are too self-centered to be lonely,” was attributed to Richard Condon (author of the political thriller, The Manchurian Candidate). I’m not too sure I agree with that statement.

To be sure, writers are self centered, which is not to say that we’re bad people or that we don’t care about others on a personal level. But when we write, we are invested in our point of view, aren’t we? We have to be in order to say, “Here it is. This is what I think. Read it and weep.”

Furthermore, everything we write, fiction or nonfiction, is filtered through our knowledge, senses, and emotions (or that of our characters and personas) and presented as truth: The truth, according to us, according to our world of which we are the center.

Maybe Condon meant that writers don’t mind being alone. We do need a certain amount of  solitude so that we can hear our thoughts. Sometimes, even when I’m not writing, I just want to be alone, period. When I’m in this mood, interacting with people seems like a chore and I just feel tired. I simply withdraw.

But at times, does a feeling of loneliness creep in that comes from occupying a space that no one inhabits but you, and in the center of that space is a point–a black hole, if you will–that is difficult for even you to touch, let alone let anyone near? For me, the answer is yes. Is this space peculiar to writers or does everybody have this? I wonder if writers are more sensitive to it and put up more defenses to try to protect it, and does being sensitive make us feel more vulnerable, less likely to trust? Does being self centered protect you from loneliness or make you more prone to it?

From  time to time, loneliness is a necessary occupational hazard for a writer because in that space uniqueness and truth reside. So while I don’t wallow in it, at the very least I acknowledge it, and I’m trying to understand it and draw from it.

© Sweepy Jean and Sweepy Jean Explores the (Webby) World, 2010.

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Comments on: "Only the Lonely" (16)

  1. Great idea on the Twitter list. I will have to check that out. Lately I’ve spent far too much time online with headphones rather than in the complete solitude necessary for creation. I feel more guilt about the lack of writing than lonely, but I revel in the quiet after the kids are asleep.

    • It’s hard when you have a family to fit everything in. I know you’ll forgive yourself and fit it in when you can. In my book, tweeting counts as writing. 😉

  2. Sweepy Jean my mother taught me that it is not polite to talk when another is talking. Perhaps writers are simply listening — to life, to their heart and to the stories of life around us.

    First visit here, thank you!

    • Welcome, Beth! I’m sure you’re right, but I wonder if everyone hears what we hear?

      Thanks for your comment and I hope you’ll continue to visit.

  3. Thanks for compiling this list! I’m following it now. Have a great weekend! – G

  4. Hi Sweepyjean,

    I’ve started to comment on this a couple times but always end up writing a novella, so here’s a short attempt. I mostly agree with the statement. Being “Self-centered” is a good thing in my book. Many people gladly give up individuality (their “own” voice) to fit into society and on a smaller scale their own unit of society (family, couplehood, etc.) Writer’s I admire challenge the status quo, and thus are often shunned by the more society friendly. In myself, this means I won’t pretend to follow convention and this limits my companionship options. For many, companionship is their #1 priority,For me it’s around #4. I think that some detachment from the world is necessary to portray its conditions accurately. That is a part of me, that I won’t sacrifice for anything. So while I may be alone, I don’t get lonely, because I value my own company. (That doesn’t mean I don’t miss people or value them, only that I am a whole person and others are an addition to that.)

    • I love your thoughtful response, Brent, so write as much as you like! I want my posts to be thought provoking. That detachment you mentioned, I liken it to being a stranger on the outside looking in. Keep being true to yourself.

  5. Compared to those who need to be surrounded by people constantly, I guess I would say that I don’t mind being alone. Even when I’m with friends, I’m usually the more quiet one, taking things in & observing. Maybe it’s a writer’s thing? Great post btw! 🙂

  6. Jean, one the great things I’ve learned over the past 15 years or so is that I need time alone. I was never a person who wanted to be alone. I was always getting myself involved in something else so I would be “busy” & not be alone. It was only through this process that I was able to start the transformation of my life. Writing is still new to me….oh I’ve written technical stuff as well as many training classes but real writing for me began last June when I was laid off.

    Thanks for your thoughts, I hope you’ll add me on twitter I’m @timberwolf123.

    Hugs,

    Bill

    • As they say, sometimes when one door closes another one opens. It could be that fate has given you an opportunity for introspection. Now that you’ve begun to do a different kind of writing, maybe the insight you have gained will help you in your next employment (self-employment) venture?

      Thanks for your comments. I’d be happy to add you on twitter!

  7. The twitter list is great, thanks.

    The loneliness isn’t just the writers, it seeps into everyone. The creative and not, the self-centred and withdrawn. I am both, at different times, and lonely and loved in equal measures.

    • I suspect every has a measure of loneliness. Like you, I have a lot of love in my life, but in my twisted thinking, the loneliness is way more romantic. I wonder if any good can come of this.

  8. Beautifully written post, going to the heart of the matter. I don’t know if you saw my piece I called The Ultimate Interview– I pretended to interview myself– how egocentric is that– but I got to some stuff, interestingly, in re loneliness. I do feel at times that I am writing to fill up the space at the very center; am learning late in life that it is the making of art that does this and none of the other fixes I tried. I was telling a friend tonight I have a kind of post-partum depression about finishing the draft of a memoir and he said, “start on something else.” I love the point you make about the allure of pain/deep loneliness. I know that pain so well; it is my lover. xj

    • Thank you, Jenne’. We think alike in so many ways, and I, too, realized late that there is no substitute that satisfies as much as writing. And, yes, it is sexy.

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