Writing Is the Loneliest Profession

Writing is the loneliest profession.

You sit in a room by yourself.

You stare at a screen that stares back.

And the scenery never changes.

You get up every morning and enter a world that doesn’t exist.

You travel to towns that don’t exist.

You spend all day talking to characters who don’t exist.

You’re frightened of dangers that don’t exist.

You fall in love with paramours who don’t exist.

You bury friends who don’t exist.

And you sometimes cry real tears.

Sure, writing is a lonely profession.

But you’re not in it alone.

You’ve never been alone.

Here are some thoughts of writers who have traveled the same isolated path where you walk every time you write a new scene on a blank screen or blank piece of paper:

We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master. Ernest Hemingway.

Writing books is the closest thing men ever come to childbearing. Norman Mailer.

Write without pay until somebody offers to pay you. If nobody offers within three years, sawing wood is what you were intended for. Mark Twain.

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. Benjamin Franklin.

The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof, shit detector. This is the writer’s radar, and all great writers have it. Ernest Hemingway.

The Road to Hell is paved with works in progress. Philip Roth.

The Road to Hell is paved with adverbs. Stephen King.

To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard. Allen Ginsberg.

Cheat your landlord if you can or must, but do not try to shortchange the Muse. It cannot be done. You can’t fake quality any more than you can fake a great meal. William S. Burroughs.

Not a wasted word. This has been a main point to my literary thinking all of my life. Hunter S. Thompson.

Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom we can neither resist nor understand. George Orwell.

I don’t care if a reader hates one of my stories as long as he finishes the book. Roald Dahl.

There’s nothing left to be said.

Lonely has a lot of company.

Mostly, they bleed words.

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  • Sara Marie Hogg

    Writng and art are closely related. Why are we willing to starve for our craft? Either of those crafts? We are driven. For some of us, right when we are getting ready to give up, we get a small gift (a compliment, a publication, and award) that spurs us onward. We are constantly at battle with “the common sense thing to do:” Forget about it.

  • There’s a whole generation of us out here struggling to be heard. Perhaps if someone had bothered to listen to us when we were children there wouldn’t be this army of scribes assaulting the book world on a daily basis to try and fill that hole that was left in our core beings. There certainly wouldn’t be this many of us if ebooks hadn’t come along. Few have the patience to go the traditional publishing route. But then there would be many more soap boxes on every corner. Great post, Caleb!!

    • If there is a soap opera running loose on some street corner, one of us scribes will find it. If a soap opera is not running loose, we will just make it up.

  • I didn’t begin writing until late in life (just how late remains to be seen) because I didn’t have the time for it. I was too busy collecting stories. I’ve always told stories, every day. Unfortunately just speaking the words out loud relieves the pressure to put them to paper. So, I’ve learn to shut up and let my fingers do the talking.

    • Your fingers tell some unique stories. Of course, they are wired to a unique mind.

  • Caleb, I think you hit the nail on the head. You write one day, you write the next, each as lonely as the day before. But that is just writing’s unique vibe. It is as inescapable as the next story.

    • We are prisoners who chose our own cell, lock ourselves in until the book is finished, come out for a breath of air, and can’t wait to lock ourselves up again.

  • David L Atkinson

    The fact is, lonely, fraught or otherwise, it just has to be done!

  • I love the solitariness of writing. That’s one of the great draws. The only “people” there are the ones I want there. How great is that.

    • And if you get tired of any of them, you have the freedom to kick them out without a guilty conscience.

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