January 16

How do you deal with being a lonely writer?

    I always find the first few weeks of a fresh year so invigorating. New goals! New projects! New systems of organization!

    At first, my enthusiasm is enough to keep me focused, but as the weeks progress, little bits of doubt creep in…

    This project is so big, how am I supposed to even start?

    What if I've chosen the wrong way?

    Where I can I find someone I trust for guidance?

    What if there is no one to guide me?

    As my doubts fester, a small voice begins a subtle mantra, “You’re doing it all wrong, and you won’t know until years later that this entire project has been a waste of your time.” The mantra waxes and wanes. Sometimes I can ignore it, but sometimes I wonder if the vile little voice is right.

    We are trained to doubt ourselves from a very early age, even on through higher education.

    This morning, I was contemplating the notion of independence. I’m teaching my four-year-old some basic principles of independence – putting away dishes after meals, picking out and putting on clothes, brushing teeth.

    I realized that I expect that when my child is “independent” is when she will memorize the exact pattern of a behavior and replicate it without my command. She’ll be independent in the realm of clearing her place at the table when she can scrape her plate into the trash, put it in the dishwasher in the correct spot, put her fork in the right slot, etc. I’ve even been teaching her the precise order of each action.

    Then, I realized that’s also what we do in school. We expect that when children are “independent” is when they can sit quietly at their desks and work on exactly the sets of problems that we’ve taught them, preferably using the exact methods to achieve the proper solutions.

    College really isn’t even that different.

    Heck, grad school isn’t either. In Sociology, we’re given a set of proper methods, taught how to do them, and considered independent when we can replicate those methods in the “real world,” exactly the way our professors taught us. And, of course, we’ll write up the findings in the proper format of an article, containing no more than 40,000 words, with appropriately styled headings and sub-headings.

    Is it no wonder that when we finally put a foot into the real world, we have no clue whether we’re doing anything “right?” All our lives, we’ve been told precisely what to do and how to do it. When there’s no one to replicate, we’ve been trained to doubt ourselves.


    The process of learning to forge one’s own path is a staggeringly lonely one.

    I know it’s lonely for others because my clients always tell me that their favorite part of working with me is just talking about their project with someone because for so long they've been a lonely writer. They’ve lost all sense of community. Even in academia, when scholars in your discipline work right next door, so often there’s no one to talk to about this massive project that is consuming your life.

    To be a scholar, an author, or even an entrepreneur is to choose a lonely path.

    No one can tell you whether the book you’re writing is the “right” book.

    No one can tell you whether the study you’re working on will produce any results.

    No one can tell you which methods you should use and how to analyze the data properly.

    No one can tell you how to write in a way that moves the heart and changes the mind of your reader.

    No one can tell you whether the business model you’ve chosen will bring peace and fulfillment to your life.

    No one can tell you what the next move should be.

    And, to be perfectly honest, if you fail, you might be the only one who even cares. The rest of the world will continue on.

    When you look these realities straight in the face, it’s daunting, like approaching a dark system of tunnels with no flash light and a glimmer of hope for fulfillment at the end of one of those tunnels.

    How do we press on?

    I’m asking you, how do you press on?

    What do you tell yourself? Do you seek out others? How do you persuade yourself that this task is worthwhile?

    Leave a comment below. You never know who you'll inspire.




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