Image: Matthew Loffhagen
When I left corporate editing to work from home as an independent editor, I thought I knew what I was getting into. I expected my work-life balance to be a challenge. I knew about the feast-or-famine nature of the freelance life. But I was so passionate about this work that I knew I could handle all that. You know what I wasn’t prepared for — what took me totally by surprise? Loneliness.
I hadn’t thought about the logistics of going from an office full of co-workers to being alone every day in my home office. It didn’t take long before I felt very isolated — and I’m an introvert! But even introverts need a community. In the years since I’ve been working from home, I’ve learned a lot about how to find that sense of community, how to handle the loneliness of my work situation. So this is a topic that’s near to my heart.Loneliness can creep up on writers, but there are ways to make it less intenseClick To Tweet
For all its soaring and thrilling moments, the life of a writer is at times desperately lonely. When you’ve poured your heart and soul into a book that isn’t getting any attention; when you’ve done everything you can to save a character or a storyline just to finally admit to yourself you have to abandon it; when it seems like all your other writer friends are finding success in getting noticed and your book has sold only a handful of copies. These are only a few of the trials an author may face. These are the dark moments, and they can feel very alienating.
But I’m here to say to you the one thing I can say to offer a glimmer a hope in those dark moments.
You are not alone. You’re not. I promise.
But it doesn’t help to tell you that when you still feel alone. So, what can you do about your feelings of loneliness?
Find a support group
Support is available to you. All you have to do is reach out for it. There are writing groups in most every major city. There are tons of online support groups. With platforms like Google Drive and Skype, it’s easier than ever for writers who aren’t in the same city to meet online. So, join an existing group. Or if you’re not ready for that, start a group with your writer friends.
There’s something magical about participating in a critique group, and a vulnerability that comes from sharing your work with others, asking them to tear it apart and help you improve it. There’s such solidarity in knowing that you’re all there to help each other grow your craft. This is the place you celebrate each other’s successes and commiserate with one another when you fail. It’s hard for loneliness to thrive in an environment like that.Writing groups enhance craft and prevent loneliness, and there’s probably one near you. Click To Tweet
Take a break
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, a writing group just doesn’t work out. There might be personality conflicts or scheduling conflicts. Sometimes a writer’s work is misunderstood, which only makes the loneliness worse. If you find yourself in any of these situations, and it’s just not working, take a break. Take a break from the group or even take a short break from writing. I’m not saying jump ship at the first sign of trouble; being part of a critique group takes commitment, but sometimes you have to know when to quit.
If that happens, try something else. What other interests can you pursue for a while? Is there something you’ve always wanted to try but you just haven’t had time for it? Been promising yourself you’ll read more? Now is the time. You’ll find your creativity refreshed. You’ll open yourself to new possibilities. And while you’re at it, do all you can to connect with people. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself in the midst of a new community, and you won’t be feeling so alone. When you do come back to your writing, you’ll have a wealth of new material to draw from, and your world will feel so much bigger.
Help someone else
Another thing I find helpful when I’m feeling alone is to try and reach out to help someone else. This can be through an organized charity or something as simple as spending more time with friends and family with more focused intention. You’re bound to find a need somewhere that you can help with. The point is, when we get the focus off ourselves, we create connection with other people, and our loneliness isn’t as acute as it was before.
Look to the future
Above all, try not to worry too much about your feelings of loneliness. They’re there, and they’re very real, and you should acknowledge them. But they won’t be there forever. Your job is to do what you can to live with them and handle them in this stage of your life. Reach out and connect with people in whatever ways feel most authentic to you right now, and in the meantime try to trust yourself.Writer loneliness is an immediate problem, but something that’s likely to change over time. Click To Tweet
Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you that this is happening to you for a reason. But I will tell you that if you can try to be present and make the most of this time, you might gain some wisdom or insight from it. This is such a deep part of the human experience: everyone faces loneliness at one time or another. For some of us, it lingers for years. Can you use this newfound insight to serve your writing? What role does loneliness play in your characters’ lives? Can you write from a place of empathy in ways you couldn’t before?
Try not to worry too much. When loneliness strikes you hard, do something about it. Reach out for help. There’s a community of people waiting for you, to show you that you’re not alone. For more on what other people can do for a writer, check out. Want To Improve Your Writing? Here Are The Six People You Need To Find, or for more specific advice, try How To Be A Successful (And Happy) Ghostwriter.
What role has loneliness played in your life as a writer? What ways have you reached out to connect with others that helps you handle feelings of loneliness? Let me know in the comments.