Loneliness may be in vogue these days. In a rare interview given recently, actor Brad Pitt admitted to feeling lonely – ever since childhood it seems. If this is so, I wondered, what hope is there for the rest of us?
The loneliness of the writer, though, has its own unique qualities; its benefits and drawbacks. In her memoir, Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes (writer of Grey’s Anatomy and producer of Bridgerton) discusses the particular loneliness she experienced at the height of her career when she realised she needed to shed certain friends who’d proved unfaithful, and that she should embrace the discomfort of feeling alone. As a child she made up fantastical tales to amuse herself using the tinned cans in her parents’ pantry as characters in her stories. In later years she understood that the people in her television dramas had become part of her real, inspirational friendship-group.
Writers might like to be alone, but they do not need to feel lonely. We have stories, poems, characters and our dreams.
As a six year-old, I lived in an imaginary world of underground cities, inhabited by magical folk My brother reminds me of the tales I told as we walked to school. I can barely remember that young narrator, but I do know she wasn’t lonely. These days when I need a like-minded tribe, I can turn to my writing group. Read about my take on Elwood Writers in Maggie Frisch’s US Newsletter Working Writer, entitled Pen Pals – Friends who Write.
Every writer has her way of moving forward. The group is one thing that sustains me and keeps me company on the long, windy, writing trail. There are others – like reading a good book. And we can become friends with the latest fantastical story we are writing.
- With thanks to Alan Sillitoe and his 1959 classic ‘The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner’.