Monday, September 1, 2014

When It Seems Like No One Gets It

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at
Writing is one of those things that can be very lonely. Sure, you might have some friends who think it's cool that you write stuff, but they never seem interested in actually looking at it.  It's especially hard when your family either doesn't care that you write, or they even actively discourage you.  

Writing might not seem lonely like this at the beginning of a project, when you're excited about things, but gradually, the sense of loneliness sets in. At first, your mind is active and engaged.  You are on a thrill ride of creativity, and nothing is more elating than watching your words spill onto the page.  But then, inevitably, you run into a hiccup.  You try to explain your troubles to your friends or family, but no one seems to get it.  They either give you really weak, useless advice or they discourage you even more. 

It's sort of like going for an early morning run by yourself, and you are having a great time until boom you sprain your ankle. Now, finishing your run is miserable, and you need to call people to help you get home.  Because they love you, they rush to your rescue, take you home, and get you an ice pack and some Advil.  But if you say, "Hey, I keep having this problem," their responses might be mixed.

They might discourage you. "Why do you even go running, then?  It's just causing problems.  Try a different kind of exercise instead."

They might encourage you, but with dumb advice. "Try hovering above the ground slightly as you run."  They're not trying to be jerks, they just don't know how running works. 

Either way, you're no closer to solving your running problem.  The ones who discourage you have no idea how much you absolutely love running. They ones who don't understand it are sympathetic and a good shoulder to cry on, but they are pretty much useless when it comes to helping you. 

All of this, of course, is assuming you even have someone supportive enough to come pick you up when you call them.  If you're going it totally alone, walking home on your ankle is excruciating.  The next morning, your ankle will be so swollen you probably won't go running for at least a week. But whether you have friends coming to pick you up or not, that moment when you're lying alone on the ground is heartbreakingly lonely. 

It's like that with writing when the thrill of creation is gone.  You have to figure out the rest of this thing all on your own, and you feel like you have no support. Nobody gets it.

You are a lonely writer.

It tends to be worse when you're young.  You already feel alone in a lot of ways, like maybe you just don't fit in.  Being a writer makes you feel like even more of an oddball.  You're afraid of criticism, so you hide your writing away where no one can see it.

And the loneliness only grows.

That's how it was for me, at least, when I started writing at the age of fourteen.  I was never completely without support, but I always felt like nobody got it.  My parents acted like it was a phase—sort of like that time I was obsessed with Disney's animated version of Robin Hood as a really little kid.  My older sister teased me mercilessly—one time she even came to look over my shoulder while I was writing for the sole purpose of making fun of me. Many of the adults in my life helpfully reminded me that almost no one really succeeds as a writer.  You know, so don't get your hopes up.

You don't even have to be young to struggle with similar issues.  I have a friend who is in her forties whose parents still just don't get or care that she writes. There is a lonely young writer in all of us.

Which means...somebody gets it. A lot of people. But we writers tend to isolate ourselves, for fear of criticism.    

That is what inspired me to start this blog.  As an adult, I have found that there are literally hundreds of people out there who get it, because they have lived it.  If I had known that when I was younger, I could have avoided a lot of depression about my writing. I want to encourage anyone who is a lonely writer to hold on to their passion and never give up. 

With time, my family realized that it wasn't a phase.  My sister—you know, the one who mocked me?—thinks that the fact I write is awesome, and has even agreed to help me edit my novel.  My mom has read my current novel and given me very helpful feedback, and my dad has helped me along the way, too.  My grandparents, once they saw how serious I was, really started supporting me too. All because I persevered in spite of feeling discouraged.

You can too.

In retrospect, people weren't as unsupportive as I thought they were.  But in the middle of it, you don't have that perspective.  You only know what you're feeling at the moment.  I want to help you have a dose of that perspective, so the feelings aren't so overwhelming.  There are people who get it and who know how it feels.

Also, I was fortunate to have a friend who was universally supportive of me—my BFF Stacia read my first story, and kept the original copy for years.  It wouldn't surprise me if she still has it, and I sent it to her about thirteen years ago.  If I ever manage to get that story reworked and published, you better believe that her name will show up in the dedication.

I was lucky.  I was really lucky, and I still felt lonely.  But I know there are some people who aren't lucky at all, and I can only imagine how lonely they must feel.

Whether you're young or old, a little lonely or extremely lonely, I am writing this blog for you.  Because there is a lonely young writer in all of us; a lonely young writer who needs to know that there are people who get it.

So, the next time you feel like no one gets it, remember there are hundreds of people who do. 

And I am one of them.

Are you a lonely writer? What writing-related problems do you struggle with that nobody else seems to get?  What sort of things help you boost your confidence? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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  1. This really resonates with me. Last summer was very much a lonely one for my writing life, which really is a huge part of who I am. For one, no one around me understood the topic (my project at the time was a fanfiction for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), so if I wanted a beta reader then I'd have to explain the entire franchise to him or her first. That was only if I could find someone willing to read it, which ruled out all the friends I was in contact with at the time- most didn't care, and a few just hated the franchise for whatever reason. If my parents had been home, I know they would have loved to beta for me whatever the story, but they happened to be in China for most of the summer, adopting my youngest sister. My other younger sister and I were staying with grandparents. I thought that the adoption wasn't affecting me in any way, but the fact remains that I grew short-tempered and closed-off during the days, then cried myself to sleep most nights. As someone who is normally the perkiest sunbeam in a room, this was the most depressed I have ever been in my fourteen years of life. Writing wasn't the only thing I felt isolated in, but it was the outlet that my lack of a kindred spirit (thank you, Anne of Green Gables!) most showed through. The beginning of church camp that summer found me angry at the world, but unwilling to show my feelings to the strangers in my cabin. I didn't know them particularly well, even the youth leader, and I didn't want to. The first full day, though, everything changed. I met my best friend and writing partner, Anna. Recently we were talking about our lives pre-camp, and she revealed that she was also having friend difficulties before we met. It's amazing, since that camp brings youth from churches all over the Pacific Northwest, that we turned out to live in the same county. I really see God's hand in the creation of our friendship. The worst summer of my life became the summer I gained not one, but two sisters. And now that we're in contact with you, there's this sort of peace of mind I've found in the knowledge that there are other writers -and Turtles fans- out there, and that I can talk to them when I need advice or even just a little companionship.
    -Lizzy from HonorarySistersForever

    1. Thanks for sharing your story here, Lizzy. Writing can be a beautiful blessing and outlet, but it's tough when people don't get it. Always treasure the friends you have who support you. I am so glad that I have been able to give a little peace of mind to you and Anna!

  2. We are lucky enough to live in the internet age. Even if there is no one around us that we can talk to, there are thousands of writers across the world that we can reach with a few clicks. I can read your thread on a writers' forum and come visit your blog. :)

    1. Indeed! I never really used the internet much when I was younger; it's not that we didn't have it, I just didn't really use it. Granted, the internet and social networking sites have changed so much. When I was a teenager, livejournal was the way to go. Then there was myspace...

  3. I agree with the above post. Living in the internet age makes it a lot easier for people who feel alienated to find those who can relate to them. Mythic Scribes is a great community of writers and I've found others as well through Google+, Facebook, etc.

    Sometimes feeling lonely as a writer is a good feeling though. It can motivate you to work harder so that those that laugh at you or think you're wasting your time might change their minds about your passion. Luckily I have great people around me as well that have been very supportive. Only a few is enough, I find.

    1. Hooray for Mythic Scribes! You might have noticed that I link to them in my sidebar. :)

      I definitely see your point about the loneliness being motivating. It's sort of like how being hungry--really, really hungry--can actually make eating more pleasant, but being hungry for a very long time is no fun.