Hemmingway was not the only author to reflect on the loneliness of a writer’s life. Writing is a solitary act. We spend hours each day inside our own heads, listening to the rhythm of our thoughts. This can lead to an extreme sense of loneliness.
For me, though, putting words together to create stories has had the opposite effect. Writing saved me from loneliness.
I have late-stage Lyme disease. For those of you unfamiliar with the disease, it’s chronic and progressive. ‘Treatment’ is about managing the symptoms and keeping the immune system as healthy as possible. The downward spiral of this disease left me with a solitary, and often lonely, lifestyle. In the late ‘90s, I had to stop working. Over the course of that decade, I lost most of my friends. Of course, they weren’t really friends if they deserted me so easily. My illness inconvenienced them. They never stopped to consider what it did to me.
In 2002, we moved from Massachusetts to Florida. The neurological complications forced me to stop driving. So here I was, in a new city, a new state, with no friends and no way of meeting any. I handled it as I’d handled most things in my life; I wrote.
I’ve always loved playing with words. I wrote my first story in Kindergarten, and never stopped. These fictional worlds are my escape. Writing, for me, has never been a lonely experience. How could I possibly be lonely with all these voices in my head? The characters and their worlds rescued me from loneliness.
Mario Vargas Llosa said, Writing a book is a very lonely business. You are totally cut off from the rest of the world, submerged in your obsessions and memories. Back in 1936, when Mario made this statement, I’m sure it was far truer than it is today. Yes, writing is still, to some extent, a lonely business. We sit alone with our thoughts, worrying about plots and obsessing over edits. But we are no longer cut off from the rest of the world. The indie community is vibrant and the Internet connects us to places all over the world. It no longer matters that I’m sitting alone on my couch with a laptop. The touch of my mouse connects me to a thriving community of writers. We network, share ideas, and, most importantly, support one another.
The indie community also connects me directly to readers. I love that there are no boundaries separating me from the readers of the world. I’m both honored and humbled when someone takes the time to tell me he/she enjoyed one of my books.
I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know many of these people on a different level. They’ve become my friends; far better friends than those who deserted me earlier in my life.
Loneliness can eat at the soul. When we feel no connection to the world around us, life becomes unbearable. Chronic illness is often the catalyst to a lonely life. Sadly, many people find no release, no comfort in a world geared toward healthy extroverts. I count myself as lucky. My characters save me from a life of loneliness. And the indie community has given me a comfortable place where I’m accepted regardless of my limitations. For these things, I will be forever grateful.