For me, writing is a lonely activity. It’s paradoxical to think I spend long periods in solitude, writing about made-up people and their social interactions with other made-up people. Am I missing out on experiencing interactions with real people? Or am I learning more about myself and the human condition through the writing process?
My upbringing supercharged my imagination. I was the youngest in the family, and my sisters were six and eleven years older and had grown out of my current interests. Dad worked offshore for long periods, so my imagination did a great job of keeping me occupied. I was a voracious reader, too.
I never outgrew imagining and making up stories. Turning the mundane day-to-day moments into something a little more exciting. When I reached my mid-thirties and started writing these stories, I wanted to tell others about the writing process. However, the vast majority glaze over and I know they were not in the least interested. I get it. I’m the same when parents gush about their offspring. The thing is, I am very attached to those made-up people in my head that they are very much like my “offspring” who I want to talk about.
True, I might get a few interested individuals. Many will tell me they’d write a book if they had the time. After hearing the premise of one of my stories, one or two have offered suggestions, telling me to change the main character to someone who sounds very much like the person speaking to me and set them off on a different adventure.
Searching for my tribe
There were zero writing groups nearby, so I quietly wrote alone. My husband prefers non-fiction, meaning he doesn’t quite get my predicament when I’ve realised I need to rewrite a chunk of my book because a character isn’t acting as they should be. However, I must shout out to my mum, who has listened to me talk about the writing process and has read my work.
Photography and art are two of my other passions, and I found friends (and my husband) through one of its online communities. Once again, I delved into social media and discovered the writing community.
Here I found people who understood what it’s like to plot the lives of people who exist only in your head. People who had also spent hours daydreaming about an additional part of their world-building. Annoyingly, those who have become friends and critique partners mostly live on the other side of the Atlantic. At least we have the means to video call. I cannot tell you how psyched I am after spending three hours talking to another friend with the same passion for writing.
Why write at all?
But why do I write? Why do I feel compelled to make up stories? Is it because it gives me some sense of control in a world where there is none? Or is it a moment to connect with myself?
Strip back the plot and the genre, and you’re basically left with relationships. The relationship a character has with themselves, other people, and things. Life is about relationships, and we give stories to our relationships so we can make sense of them. We tell ourselves I am who I am because of what happened to us.
Through writing, I can explore many distinct personalities travelling on their own journey. I can also see reflections on my journey. I can see people I wouldn’t usually get on with in real life and understand them better. So despite writing being a lonely practice, I benefit from understanding people better and learning something new about myself.