November 12, 2018
Writing advice: how to combat loneliness
by Michael Seidlinger
Writing and loneliness go hand-in-hand.
On both sides of the term, writers talk frequently about turning to the page to feel less alone as much as they discuss the craft of writing as something that will, at times, make you feel lonely. No matter how you look at it, writing taps into the essence of one’s condition, and so malaise will often bubble up to the surface, begging to be explored and understood. Here are a few tactics to help when you’re deep in it, feeling that weight bear down on you.
1. Acknowledge it.
It seems obvious but this one’s actually the most difficult. You’ll likely run away from feeling so lonely, understanding that even in the busiest of writing conditions, you are the one that is sitting there, stringing the sentences together. But instead of ignoring it, consider acknowledging how it feels. Maybe even embrace it. Hiding from it will only make you feel worse. You don’t want to end up avoiding the act of writing due to how miserable you feel.
2. Positive touchstones.
Think about what you need around you—both the items (be they books, coffee, etc.) and the nature of the space—to feel at home with even the most troubling and trying tasks. I personally love having a candle lit, a few representative books (just books that put me into the mindset I want to be in while writing the current piece), darkness (yeah, I’m a night writer), and music. With all of these readily available, I am better able to slip into the groove, thwart the realization that I’ve been/will be sitting at a computer focused and disconnected from the world for possibly hours. You just might surprise yourself at how great you feel mid-session.
3. Community outreach.
Ritual and routine help produce results, true, but you’ll lose your mind if you never take a break. Loneliness will increase dramatically with consecutive sessions, so it’s good to have a support network of writer-friends or confidants wherein you can turn to, even if it’s nothing more than texting someone, “I HATE WRITING OMG.” Rant, whine, be upset and frustrated; just like learning to embrace the loneliness, be sure to let yourself feel this way, understand why, and talk about it with those that are right there with you. It can be the perfect cleanser.
4. (Pretend to) give up.
Don’t actually give up. I didn’t say that. Really, though, one that’s helped me so much is playing and toying with the idea of stepping away and never turning back. Strange, but true. Think of it as ideation, the writing version. If it feels like you can have a plan B, you’ll feel less despair when things are aren’t going well, the words taking forever to end up on the page, and you only have yourself to hold accountable. Pretend to give up–maybe even fantasize about doing so… but then return to the work-in-progress hours, maybe a day later. It’ll feel different, the kind of difference that just might thwart loneliness.
Michael Seidlinger is the Library and Academic Marketing Manager at Melville House.