Have you ever created something you were so head over heels excited about you couldn’t wait to share it?
A character name. A plot twist. The PERFECT title (finally!). It’s exhilarating, right? And especially when you race home to tell your mom/dad/sister/boyfriend/husband/roommate/cleaning lady/cat/live-in massage therapist/ficus tree/whoever because they’ll DEFINITELY be just as excited as you are!
Except…they’re not. In fact, they don’t really get it at all.
Hellooo, don’t you see what I’ve done here? Isn’t it brilliant? you might think. Maybe you left the exchange wondering how someone could be so cold-hearted about your art. Or maybe you just felt deflated, like you’re not a good writer after all.
Here’s the thing: If you’re going to be a true, up-to-your-elbows-in-ink writer, you’ll eventually have to cultivate a thicker skin. And you should probably expect to feel lonely, too.
“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life,” said Ernest Hemingway in his thank you speech for winning the 1954 Nobel Prize in Literature. “For he [the writer] does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, in each day.”
I think Hemingway touched on two things here. First, that writing is quite literally a stand-alone profession; that is, only one person can produce your work and still call it your own: YOU. To sit at a keyboard and type all day is solitary, though more introverted types may prefer that (*raises hand wildly*).
But I also think he meant writing is lonely in a more universal sense, too. When you spill the most genuine parts of yourself into a story, post, or poem, you can’t expect everyone to feel giddy about it. Chances are you have a few like-minded friends or mentors — maybe from classes you took in college or a local workshop you’ve been attending — who will appreciate your work and what it took to get you there. If you do, be thankful. Keep that community alive if you can.
The loneliness comes when we take our stories and poems to our loved ones and expect them to validate us by appreciating every sound, syllable, and nuance that went into our work. Your mom, cousin, best friend, or boyfriend may not set off fireworks for you. Hell, they may not even read the whole thing. And that’s okay.
And a note on developing thicker skin: One of your best creative attributes is your ability to feel so deeply. If you’re highly sensitive, don’t be ashamed about it. Stop thinking you’re a mess. I’m in love with what Taylor Duvall has to say about it in her post, Why I Don’t Want to Get Thicker Skin. Check it out. It’s validating. (Although I would like a slightly thicker skin. You know, to deal with all the rejection.)
Let’s face it: as writers, we cannot expect constant praise. It’s okay if your dearest ones don’t share your enthusiasm for every single thing you write. Support is important, but tireless enthusiasm is unreasonable. There is an audience out there for you, even if it’s not the audience you expect. Realizing this might help soothe the disappointment you feel from someone else’s indifference.
Besides, sometimes your best work will be cultivated in your loneliest days, and you will be more thankful than you ever imagined.
How do you handle loneliness or lack of support? Do you let it roll off, or are you still trying to find ways to cope? Leave a comment below or join the Ladies in Read on Pinterest to share your best writing advice and inspiration.