Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Thoughts on writing and solitude

I'm reading Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird and I've been thinking about one of her observations: that the real reward of writing is... writing.

As in, the process of writing. Not publication.

And yet I love the validation of publishing — the proof that my thoughts and words exist and at least one person believed they were worth noting. I suppose a stronger (or more self-actualized?) person could know they exist without the experience of publishing, but I like to be extra sure. The pressure to do good work, the rejection along the way, the thrill of acceptance, even the strange disappointment over saying goodbye to a story, all of it's part of a process that feels compelling to me.

Back to the writing...

I'm trying to write more. By simply writing more. ("Duh!" I hear you saying.) I'm still working on getting up early and writing stuff in my semiconscious state, before my editing tendencies kick in. Right now, though, I write in fits and starts, and my enthusiasm dictates whether I write. (I suppose that working in publishing also affects my energy level.) I'll spend hours at it one day, staying up till the wee hours of the morning, and then not write for weeks. There's a joke about how the amateur waits for inspiration and everyone else just goes to work. Well, I have an amateurish approach to writing. Must... just... work.

By the way, I wrote this post longhand while I had dinner by myself at Café Hollander. (Long story why I was alone, but don't worry, I wasn't stood up.) Dining alone is always an interesting social experiment. It wasn't busy there tonight, and I did feel uncomfortable sitting at the bar while the college couple and the 20-something waitstaff tried not to stare.

When I was in New York two years ago, I had dinner alone at a tiny Italian restaurant. The two women at the next table took pity on me and included me in their conversation. I didn't feel pity-worthy (or pathetic, or whatever the word is), but I was grateful for their kindness. It's funny how being alone is something people don't want to witness, as if it's a condition they have to alleviate.

But I digress. The good news: At least I'm writing.

PS: I know that dining alone doesn't really count as solitude. But "Thoughts on writing and dining alone" didn't have the same ring to it.


Bill Zuback said...

You weren't dining alone. You were dining with your best friends. Pen, paper, and words. Can't wait to see how this new approach opens your creative mind to new idea's.

Naomi said...

That's a nice thought. And there's a distinction between being alone and being lonely, which you just reminded me of. Thanks!

Sarah Yost said...

For a writer it always comes back to your statement "at least I'm writing." Because as much as I put it off and procrastinate and fuck around, I LIVE for this writing shit.

Naomi said...

Sarah, you are a true writer. I'm glad we'll be working together again.