Writing is a lonely business. Anyone will tell you that. As a freelance copywriter by day and a screenwriter/director by night, 90% of my life consists of myself, a room, and a MacBook. Sometimes there’s a Starbucks thrown into the mix just so I can be near warm, moving bodies, but most of the time I don’t want to leave my sweatpants. And to magnify this state of affairs, all my friends and family have “normal” jobs. Teacher. Doctor. Human resources director. Administrative assistant. Computer programmer. Sales rep.
Thus, with no artist comrades or health care deprived freelancers to understand me, I’ve felt especially lonely. I’ve felt desperately, depressingly lonely. Like it was me against the world.
But it didn’t have to be that way. It doesn’t have to be that way for any writer or artist. It took me far too long to find the solution—or rather, for the solution to invite me to lunch. What was the solution?
Why Are We So Alone?
I think this loneliness is part circumstance and part brought on by the writer herself. Writing takes focus, quiet, concentration, zero interruption. I can’t tell you how many times I was in the zone when someone dared speak to me and encountered my wrath as a result—I’M MID-THOUGHT, LEAVE ME ALONE!!!!
And yet, there is an element of choosing loneliness. I would lock myself, my thoughts, my passions, my heart, away in a box because I knew that no one would understand. No one would love my story as much as I did. No one else would be able to grasp the obsession. A logline would go into the ear of a friend and out the other. A “you guys, I’m working on this new feature script!” was met with feigned, glassy-eyed comprehension and a “…that’s, um, cool,” while I knew they were most likely calculating their annual raise or planning the next paid vacation.
I do love my friends for who each of them is. But realistically, only a few of them have taken interest in my work or been supportive when I needed them to be. So I chose loneliness. I chose to keep my enthusiasm to myself because I’d conditioned myself to avoid that disappointment.
And this only made the lonely even lonelier.
Bottling it all up becomes a quiet that makes you yearn to be heard; a kind of claustrophobia that makes you want to break free and declare your vision, your progress, your dreams. A stillness that makes your heart stomp for someone who “gets it.” It makes that empty room feel emptier, and darker.
A Community that Gets It
I met up with a friend I hadn’t seen in a very long time. She responded to a Facebook post about my recent work. As we were chatting over lunch, she mentioned that she was part of a group of driven, artistic women.
T: We meet once a wee—
Me: What day!?
T: Tonight, actually. Every Wednesd—
Me: Can I come??
T: Yeah, yes, please do. You ca—
Me: Can I come tonight??
My eagerness was like a rude, sloppy thirst. I may have had to wipe some drool from my mouth as she laughed and said that I was, of course, welcome. For some dumb reason, it had never occurred to me to seek out a group of like-minded, like-hearted women.
I started going that night and joined a community of six awesome artists who have also chosen a path outside the “norm” and are supporting each other every step of the way. They get it.
Aside from being inspirational, they make me feel like I’m no longer alone. Like I can breathe again. They opened my eyes to the fact that there are others like me, with crazy ideas and sky-high dreams. People who are doing things differently. And now, once a week, instead of just me, there are seven of us in the room.
Change Your Circumstances
Dear Lonely Artist,
Your community can expand beyond those who you already happen to know.
Instead of pleading with your brother or best friend to give you feedback on your script (which can feel like jamming a square peg into a round hole, but with much more disheartening repercussions), instead of trying to CHANGE THEM, change your circumstances.
Find people, a community, who do what you do, whose goals align with yours. People who walk your path don’t have to be forced, or bribed, or begged, or reminded sixteen times. They’ll take a more natural interest and be willing to invest more because they are right there with you.
Of course, community is communal, for lack of a better word. So make sure you contribute, be a person who offers value, not someone who’s just there to take. A good community will nurture your soul, but you have to be willing to nurture it back.
Your art is important, yes, of course. Honing your craft, plugging away, having a writing schedule, all are paramount. But don’t forget to take a respite from the box, from the lonely room, to see the world outside. It’s an important part of your career to get that extra fuel, that support, that inspiration, that pick-me-up to keep you going. There are others like you, you just have to find them, find community.