Two Fearful Companions

I have just returned from the 60th Pacific Northwest Writers Conference. It was a particularly immersive conference for me, including several hours of one-on-one coaching, moderating, and teaching, and culminating in a two-hour workshop on Sunday. By the time I arrived home I felt as though I never wanted to talk to another writer about writing ever again. This feeling lasted about twelve hours, and now here I am back at my desk, writing about writing, and happy to do so. I love being around people – particularly writers. I find the writer’s desire, vulnerability, doubt, and conviction consistently moving. But I also must be alone for hours at a stretch or I become exhausted. Fortunately, most of my job requires me to do just that.

For many years I was confused about my need to be alone. I assumed it was a kind of defect, an anti-social shyness indicative of a guy who could hit beautiful three-pointers in his driveway, but who got lost in a game of five-on-five. Life seemed at times like a game to me, a game that could only be won in the company of others.

But to write in a way that is even remotely satisfying is to abandon the notion of games themselves. The very concept of winning and losing is incompatible with the dream of storytelling. Likewise, other people. Should I have the pleasure of sharing my stories, the dream other people called readers will make of it will be entirely their own and have virtually nothing to do with me and my dream.

This may seem like a lonely transaction, but it is just the opposite. I would never have sought the solitude of writing if it left me feeling lonely. It is there – and in writing’s quiet cousin, reading – that I have truly learned to be myself. To bring anyone else to the game is to have nothing to offer, to present some puppet conceived to amuse or impress, and then leave feeling unseen and unheard – the two companions a writer fears most.


Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion.

"A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.

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