The Bearable(?) Loneliness of Writing

I’m sitting in Panera, having finally decided to force myself to sit down and write. It’s busy here–college students studying, friends chattering, nurses and medical professionals from the nearby hospital enjoying a lunch break. The busyness seems to complement the t-shirt I threw on after last night’s shift, a black background with white outlines of Castiel and Dean from Supernatural and the phrase “you are not alone.” The shirt supported a mental health charity, not that I need a reason to support Supernatural actors of course, but I love knowing that I can give to others while spoiling myself. I love that little piece of connection.

But in the midst of all the bustle, I realized something. I miss connection. I am lonely. It feels weird to say so, because I am never really alone. I don’t mean that in a metaphorical sense but a literal one. Other than a few spare hours here and there, I spend nearly all of my time away from work with my husband. Often, that time is shared with some of our six American nieces and nephews, a rough-and-tumble bunch that I love more than life itself, or spent skyping with my sister and four (five any day now) Irish nephews. It is a busy, hectic, full existence, and I love it.

However, I find myself missing my writing tribe more and more. I had a near-perfect undergraduate experience at Indiana University Southeast, then went straight into Spalding’s MFA in Writing program. I didn’t realize how much I counted on deadlines and assignments and fellow writers until I graduated and had to try to strike out on my own. And I have to realize now that I am just not as good on my own.

But I am learning. And finding my way into staying a tribe member without the attachments of coursework. I had lunch with a local writing friend a couple weeks ago, and am meeting another later today. I have an ongoing group chat with a group of fellow writers and amazing women, and they sustain me.

The biggest lesson in all of this is, as important as my tribe is, I have to learn to strike out on my own, too. I have to somehow hold myself accountable, and somehow keep writing and submitting and revising even though no one is holding me to a due date. And, I have to let go of my perfectionism and celebrate even small steps. Like writing a blog post, or drafting a chapter, or sending someone feedback. Or even just reading.

One step at a time.

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