The Lonely Life of a Writer

writing

Writing is a solitary enterprise and that, overall, suits me just fine. After a day at work surrounded by other people, love them though I may, I long for some time alone where I can think, reflect, and just be without interruption or diversion.

To be a writer is to selflessly shed the blood of one’s most intimate thoughts and feelings, along with otherwise underutilized charm and wit, only to, for the most part, suffer the subtle rejection of silence. It is to always be on the verge of the unknown, to throw out ideas and not to know where they may land.

Reading too is a solitary endeavor. Readers sit in blessed silence, submerging themselves into another world that opens them up — intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally — and enlivens them. It makes their daily existence in the tangible material world even more meaningful as the two worlds become forever intertwined through the conscience of the reader.

But writing is also a conversation between writer and reader — and one in which the reader too often remains silent. Written text is a private conversation that takes place in a hidden world full of secrets that neither reader nor writer will ever fully visualize or understand. Each retains their own perception of the text and the vivid worlds they have created together remain distinct in many ways. The world of the author and reader too often do not connect in authentic or purposeful ways.

Readers unfortunately most often respond to the writer (at least to this writer) when they are in disagreement, when what has been written somehow violates the social, cultural, economic, political, intellectual, and/or emotional arrangements they have made for the world in which they live. Like when a reader responded to my kind offer to share a copy of Ashley and Tiana by writing a long-winded, scathing review in a way that only a bitter middle-age man could. The world I created did not in any way intersect with his — and in addition to that, I had the nerve to use an en dash instead of an em dash.

Several years ago, Public Enemy engaged their fans in the process of writing a song. While I chose not to participate at the time, and rap music historians thank me, I really appreciated both the intent of this project and the process that surely unfolded. But opening yourself up in such a way as an artist also brings a great deal of risk — especially of destroying the sacred pristine expression of all that is good and true to you. It takes a lot of courage to co-create with others, particularly when those others are able to self-select.

Yes, vanity likes on social media are nice, and validation of my ideas is also sincerely valued. It is heartwarming to know that there are other people in the world who notice, understand, and appreciate my perspective. But it seems shallow to not desire more, like provocation of life-changing self-realizations and inspiration of ideas that positively transform the world. Or maybe that is just selfish.

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