Over the centuries, writers have gained a reputation for being reclusive. After all, we must like the isolation if we repeatedly disappear into our offices for long stretches of time. While there certainly have been some writers who genuinely don’t like and shun people, I have found that it is much more common that the author is passionate about their stories and therefore tends to get buried in their projects. After all, novels are demanding mistresses. It takes months, if not years, of focused effort to transform an idea into a publishable manuscript.
While extended periods of solitude are necessary, and in many ways enjoyable, for creative endeavors, it can also be quite lonely and isolating. Like in any demanding profession, writers often look up from our projects and realize that life has gone on without us. Children grow up, friends grow distant as shared experiences fade into the past, and spouses or intimate partners feel snubbed. Like many other writers, I’ve had the “I don’t think I can support your writing the way you deserve,” break up talk. Multiple times. It’s heartbreaking, and yet it is completely understandable. It is entirely unreasonable to expect someone else to put their lives on hold because we are busy writing a book.
I have found that it is important to remind friends and family that writers do what we do because we are passionate, not rude. At least not on purpose. The same drive that causes me to write feverishly for five or ten hours at a time will also cause me to forget meals, appointments, and reasonable bed times. Many writers become grumpy or anxious if they go too long without working on something creative. I can go for three or four days before the itch to write starts to get to me, but I know some authors who need to write every day. Furthermore, a writer’s mind will often wander off in the middle of conversations. I’m particularly bad about this one. It’s not because I don’t care or find the topic at hand interesting, but rather because what the other person just said sparked a chain of ideas and my imagination ran with it. However, while passion is a good explanation, we can’t let it become an excuse.
Writers need a strong, understanding, and patient support structure to help us through the highs and lows of a creative career. I’ve found that it is all too easy to fall into a pattern of focus and work that results in me taking my loved ones for granted. I have learned from hard experience that we must be sure to show our friends and family that we think about and value them. Someone who understands that writing isn’t just what we do, but part of who we are, is a treasure. However, appreciating them on the inside isn’t enough. It’s our responsibility to make sure they know it.Tags: Sequence 07: Living the Writer's Life