“An artist is always alone – if he is an artist.” – Henry Miller
Writing is a lonely job, no doubt about it. And no matter how successful you might become, you’re still alone. It’s the inexorable truth of the writer’s condition: you sit at your desk, in an empty room or in the most crowded coffee shop, yet you’re alone. You just do your thing.
Of course, this poses a rather interesting question: if you spend that much time alone, how do you find stuff to write about?
I find that a lot of aspiring writers tend to obsesses about the what part of their craft, sometimes long before they even figure out the how part. I know I was like that. I wanted to find that brilliant, one of a kind idea… and I spent an awful lot of time searching for it, rummaging through my mind for something that kept running away from me.
It was there, but it wasn’t.
And I’m pretty sure when I say that no idea has ever come to me when I was purposefully searching for it. No, ideas came to me when I least expected them to, in the bus, or when talking to a friend on the phone.
The best of ideas came to me when I was as far away from a keyboard, a pen, and a paper as possible. The best ideas came to me in the middle of the night, in the form of a bizarre dream that lingered long after I’d open my eyes.
In my humble opinion, writing is not about finding something worth writing about, something no one else has ever thought of writing down, something innovative and brilliant and all that stuff. No, I believe it’s far more important to find something you care about so much, and yet you don’t entirely understand, that you have to write about it, in the hope of finding out more.
Big or small, interesting or not, the places and events and people that define who we are will always make good literature. At least.
Because, sadly, it’s not enough to be passionate about writing. We all are, otherwise we wouldn’t be spending so many hours of our lives doing it. But we need to live, to discover, to experiment.
And maybe it’s not about searching for something we care about so much that we have to write it down, but about that something finding us.
This is not a mad quest for original ideas, but just a really long road to self-discovery.
Who am I? is the most important question we can ask ourselves, and no matter the answer we might give ourselves at one point or another, we’ll never stop asking it.
And writing is just that. A way for us to discover who we are, and what our purpose is, and what are we going to do with the time we have.
Yes, writing is a lonely job, maybe the loneliest there is. It’s not spectator art, you can’t write with a crowd behind you, with people cheering and clapping like crazy.
And there’s one more thing about writing: that we can never be sure that our message, what we’re really trying to say, is ever going to reach the right people at the right time. Sometimes, some of our messages won’t reach anyone. But we never lose hope that, if we’re lucky enough, our words might reach someone exactly when they need to read them the most.
Ultimately, one of art’s many purposes is to make us feel less lonely because, in the end, we’re all utterly and inconsolably alone.