The whole truth about being a writer

Being a writer is often celebrated on Medium. There are personal stories about the perks of being a writer, tales of writers’ victories, and lists of the unique qualities of writers. True, there is something very special and brilliant about being a writer, but — with all the celebrating going on — it is about time that we admit that it is not just a blessing. It is also a curse.

All writers share some essential qualities. Think of interviews with writers and publishers and consider how being a writer is portrayed in films, series, articles, songs, and the like. They all express the same idea; that is, writers have two hard-wired qualities: they do not see the world as it is and they feel deeper than other people.

It is a blessing

Essentially these qualities are a gift, a blessing. There are no words to describe what it means to go beyond the surface of things and have an intense awareness of a world deep inside, of which most people do not even realise it exists. Knowing what is very far beneath the top of the ice berg adds an extra dimension to the very essence of being. It is magic. It allows writers do discover and create their stories; it makes them special.

and a curse

But what makes us special also separates us from ‘the rest’, and it can be difficult — to say the least — to let others be part of that world deep inside.

How do you share something so deep inside you? How do you explain what you see, hear, feel to others?

The bad thing is that you struggle with this before you even realise what ‘this’ is. Before the questions about feeling deeply come other questions: why do people not understand me; why can’t I connect? There comes doubt: what is the ‘right’ way to see the world; are there people who feel, see, hear as I do; or am I all alone?

Loneliness is the curse of being a writer.

If you consider yourself to be a writer, any kind of writer, think about it: how often have you felt alone, alienated from others? Regardless of my writing skills, I have often felt imprisoned in my own soul, and I have struggled greatly with the feeling that many people do not understand who I am. If feeling deeply was a part of myself that I could have amputated, I probably would have.

How does the story begin?
Badly.
And then?
It gets worse.

(Cassandra and Jane Austen in Becoming Jane).

It seems that this loneliness is like a story: it gets worse. In truth, it gets so bad that it becomes impossible to ignore or run away from. Being a writer takes a lot of battling with feeling deeply and with a unique vantage of the world. It can be a tricky, lonely (again), and depressing process. Part of a curse is having to reverse it.

at the same time

Being a writer, in other words, is not just a blessing, let alone a happy business. It is a wonderful thing and a difficult thing at the same time. That needs to be said. What, after all, is a story without a conflict?

The fact that being a writer is also the way to reverse the curse adds to the conflict. The best way to deal with the deep feelings, different perspectives, and intense experiences that isolate you from the rest of the world is to write about them. You might even share your story and be no longer alone.

‘I write because I want to end my loneliness.’

(Jonathan Safran Foer in ‘The Rescue Artist’ in The New York Times Magazine.)

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