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This website has been up for over a year and my decision to interview authors and to ask them to contribute posts has definitely been my best one. It's allowed me to connect with and hear the voices of so many writers and it's been an honor. Today's post is from Deborah Mendez-Blaauw, who was also gracious enough to review my novel-in-stories White Zion on her own site (link below). Welcome Deborah Mendez-Blaauw!
How Lonely is the Life of a Writer
When I arranged with Gila to produce an entry for her guest blog, back in October 2019, I did not know what to write about. After all, previous collaborations have dealt with the main issues I wanted to explore. Eventually, I was trying one line after another, trying to find a space in between the others' narrative, when the question came: 'How lonely is the life of a writer?' Afterwards, the whole text came easily. I left that first draft aside for a while, as I knew I had a few months ahead to review. Now, nearly April 2020, while many of us either have experienced or are experiencing isolation due to CoVid-19, the subject has become relevant.
If you go on social media, you will find a plethora of jokes about introverts, readers, writers, or all of the above. Mostly, they call on their 'expertise' to guide the social masses through these times of quarantine, of cabin fever. But, are writers such experts at being alone? How much of the hype is real, how much is myth?
I'm going to go out on a limb, here, and say that when most of us imagine a writer, we envision a person, alone, completely consumed by their activity. The details may change, from a quill to a computer; perhaps it's a man, perhaps a woman; different races, different ages; they may be in an organised room, or a messy environment. Irrespective, the constant in that image is the loneliness.
Writing, we all can see, is a lonely activity. The writer, we understand, writes their masterpiece alone. Then, they find an agent, get published, retreat to their writing lair, and repeat.
Writers, moreover professional ones, are required to interact. New writers must remember that their work, any work, will only come alive from being shared amongst a readership. Thus, they need to know what people are interested in, what they like to read.
Moreover, any text intended for publication has to go through beta readers, editors, and others who will help reshape the piece. These interactions will be richer if the author is willing to take all these people's feedback, rather than hold on to the 'Gollum obsession' with their creation. Precious as it might be, a story is like a child: it needs a village to bring it to full shape.
Beyond that, new authors will undoubtedly search for tips for getting published, which in turn will turn up a cornucopia of webpages, videos, magazines, and so forth. The common message? Writers need a 'platform' – nowadays, agents expect authors to already have a certain amount of readership, to have a presence in social media.
And if you plan on self-publishing, you'd better have a solid structure in place!
So, no, writing is not just about a person, alone, completely consumed by their creation. Don't get me wrong, the activity itself does not need any social support. That much is true. This is the part where the author is engaged in their calling, that passion which feeds their soul (the reason why writers' block is such a dreaded, painful situation), the message they wish to pass on, the language pouring out. However, in order to turn this passion into a 'job', writing is also about socialising, reaching out, doing market research, etc. Where doctors, for example, are expected to specialise and narrow their field, writers are expected to do the complete opposite, understanding the world at large, diversifying where they publish, expanding their readership.
Even hobby-writing, done mostly for fun yet still intended to be publicly read, is a socially active endeavour. I'd even go so far as to claim it is the by-product of social interaction. For example, there are massive fanfiction archives. These are the offspring of communities with a common interest. People across the planet start expanding on the worlds of a book/series/film; they write and share; they beta read each other; some even edit for one another. I find this particularly interesting because they bridge cultures and languages, as many non-native speakers will write in, for example, English. There are comments as they serialise their stories per chapter, to the point they sometimes will alter their initial storylines. If you want to have a taste, go into sites such as fanfiction.net, or wattpad.com, search for a favourite popular book/series, and good luck getting out of the rabbit hole.
Writing, despite the longstanding myth of writer isolation, is a social activity. It's the activity that defines us as gregariously human beyond all others: storytelling, the result of people watching, the use of language, the transfer of ideas and abstract visions, the use of symbols on paper that only gain meaning when shared.
Back to the opening question, how lonely is the life of a writer?
Not that much, it turns out!
Deborah Mendez-Blaauw grew up bilingual in a multi-cultural home, listening to her grandmother's storytelling while leaning the joy of reading from her mother. Thus, she developed a passion for both languages and literature which derived in many years (and counting!) as a language teacher, editor, and reviewer. Deborah is also a writer, but that, as they say, is a story for some other day.
To follow Deborah Mendez-Blaauw: https://www.thereadingreview.com