Loneliness is hard to talk about.
Whether it’s in the practice room or at the writing desk, we spend a lot of time alone. Often, I feel like I’m writing into the abyss, alone with the thoughts rattling around in my brain.
Every now and again, after organizing those thoughts onto the page, I’ll send them out into the world, hoping to find them a home. And sometimes they land, like my latest essay, “The Distance Between Here and There,” appearing in the Fall issue of Cleaver Magazine.
And then, even more rarely, someone will read my words and let me know. An email from Karen Rile, Cleaver’s Founder and Editor in Chief: “I thought you might like to see this note from a reader.”
Tricia Park’s piece hit me like a gut-punch.
As a stand alone comment, this can be ambiguous. Still, I’ll take it. Because I think that’s what the best writing does: it makes you feel something, even if it’s a punch to the gut. And by feeling things together, we are building empathy and connection.
I’m grateful to this reader because by hearing their reaction, I feel less alone. Because, let’s face it, writing, like many creative endeavors, is a pretty lonely path. And while solitude, or the state of being contentedly alone, can be a lovely feeling, loneliness is terrible.
I’ll admit it: I’m lonely a lot of the time. And that’s why I wrote this essay, to try to step away from my loneliness and look at it, head on, and try to make something out of it.
When I was a conservatory student, summers would feel less lonely, when I would be at festivals like Aspen, or Ravinia, or Taos, because it was always easier to practice there. I felt less alone practicing because I always knew that someone, somewhere, was practicing at the same time. And even on the fourth floor of Juilliard, where we jockeyed for practice rooms, made more precious by their scarcity, practicing there meant being part of a community. Somehow, practicing together feels supportive in a way that makes me feel less alone.
In my MFA program, the brilliant Matthew Goulish always made a point of designating a portion of class time to writing together. Because when we write and practice and make stuff together, we build a creatively charged space that can help us be more productive, approaching our work with less fear and more ease.
I think we often believe that we should be able to work alone, without support. We might think that this is what “real artists” do. I know I inherited this belief. But, I think the truth is…
We all need community.
Building your community
Do you feel lonely in your own writing or practicing? Writing together, practicing together, being together, can help us feel connected. And when we make stuff together, we gain clarity of thought, can better understand our values, and can become more compassionate. Which, in turn, can make us better advocates for ourselves and for others.
If you’re looking for a safe, supportive writing community, you might be interested in this course I’m teaching for Cleaver Magazine – “The Writing Lab: Playful Experiments to Unstuck Your Writing.” For six weeks, you’ll be a part of a creative group of folks, responding to gentle and fun writing prompts with the goal of making writing easier and less lonely. (Registration ends soon – on Saturday, October 2nd!)