Friday, April 25, 2014

The Writer As Recluse

Anne Lamott says that, “Being a writer guarantees that you will spend too much time alone, and that as a result, your mind will begin to warp.”  I suspect that the writer is wired to be alone.  For instance Annie Dillard took up residence on an island and wrote, “Holy The Firm”.  For two weeks Philip Yancey “holed up in a Colorado cabin” to ponder the questions raised in “Disappointment With God.”  Do we get alone to fuel our writing or does being a writer make us comfortable being alone?

In his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in Literature, Hemingway wrote, “Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.”  This is the struggle we as writers face.  Most obvious is the fact that we sit at the computer alone.  Sure my wife sits in the same room reading but I lose sight of everything but the flow of ideas in my head and the letters on the page.  Ideally we write uninterrupted and each idea is immediately set to ink.  The thoughts themselves spring best as they bubble up in quiet; at least that’s how it is with me. 

We aren't all a Steven Pressfield, leaving behind our families to live from our car with a typewriter so as to spend our days writing.  A healthy life is spent in community after all.  I’ve a wife and child I love and friends whose fellowship I enjoy.  Still one has to admit; though it took Pressfield seventeen years he’s cranked out twenty-one books including The Legend of Bagger Vance, Tides of War, The Virtues of War; A Novel of Alexander the Great and Gates of Fire.  There may be something to the ‘lonely life of the writer.’

For those like me that aren't as talented or as driven as a Pressfield or a Dillard there will be this ongoing struggle to live our lives out in fullness and develop depth to our art.  The battle for us will be to balance the beauties of normal life alongside the voice that ever calls us to write.  The skirmish for those that love and live with us will be to have more of us vs. loosing us to write.  For we write best alone but we live best in community.  I trust that somehow in that tension God will allow me to create my best pieces and share them with the world.

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