Thursday, February 6, 2014

Alone But Not Lonely

By Kelley Lindberg

Yesterday, I got the wind knocked out of my writing sails.

This morning, a writing friend breathed a little wind back into my sails and got my rudder pointed in the right direction again.

This is why I have writing friends.

I know writing is supposed to be a lonely profession. I know I’m supposed to sit huddled in a garret, with no heat, dim light, stale bread on a chipped plate for lunch, and fingers cramped and stiff from the cold, isolated from human contact yet somehow able to capture its essence on the page anyway.

Screw that.

I prefer my well-lit, cozy home office and a hot cup of decaf sitting on a handy little mug-warmer beside my computer. For lunch, I’m thinking nachos instead of stale bread. And I definitely prefer having a network of writing friends to lean on when I need a little support.

Yes, we writers spend time alone with our thoughts and keyboards. We must and we do. But I don’t feel isolated. When I first decided to quit my “day job” and become a full-time freelance writer, I worried about being lonely. I am a fairly social person, and I enjoyed talking to people during the day, going out to lunch with associates, and chatting in the hallways. Would I be able to handle being alone all day? Would I drive my husband crazy with pent-up dialogue the minute he walked in the house at night? Would I be looking for another “day job” within the first month?

Turns out I never felt isolated at all. There was this thing called email. When I needed a quick break from writing, I could email friends and – wait for it – they would email me back. Sometimes it was just a fast little sonar ping that said “Hey, you there?” and “Yep, I’m here.” Other times I’d get jokes, office-drama updates, or “guess what happened last night” anecdotes. A few minutes of communication like that to shake out the cobwebs and roll the knots out of my shoulder muscles, and then I was ready to jump back into my writing. Email was my electronic water-cooler. And when I needed more than that, we would meet for lunch.

But those friends weren’t always writers, and I began to crave connection with people who also wrote. So I found writing organizations with chapter meetings I could attend. And I discovered that a couple of the moms who dropped their kids at the same preschool mine attended were also writing, and we arranged to get together for coffee. And again the next week. And again the next week. More than a decade later, we’re still meeting for coffee every week, and other writers have joined us. I’ve joined organizations, gone to conferences, met more writers, and even become a mentor to some.

Now, in addition to emails, there are a plethora of electronic communication avenues like Facebook, Twitter, and blogs, where I can tap into conversations about writing anytime I want to. My traveling companions on this writing journey are all around me whenever I feel the need for that human contact.

That’s essential for me, because we cannot, simply cannot, write about the human experience without participating in the human experience. So I seek out and treasure my writing friends. There is safety in numbers, but more than that – there is sanity in numbers. Those writing companions of mine have edited me, critiqued me, bolstered me, humbled me, and strengthened me. They’ve helped my writing break through clumsy walls, assuaged my doubts, cheered me on, and picked up the pieces and handed me a bottle of glue.

So I sit here, alone at my keyboard, surrounded by supportive writing friends.

Lonely profession? Not a chance.