Donna Everhart

Writing Is A Lonely Job

While working in a corporate environment, I believe I fit quite nicely into a niche of professionals who had a passion to succeed, a plethora of talented individuals who taught me a lot.  In turn, I tried to give something back.  I worked hard, fully committed to the tasks I was assigned until they were executed successfully.  I felt valued every day for my contributions, and received recognition for a job well done.  I challenged myself by seeking out new opportunities that would help me grow and learn, eager to contribute as a team player.

If I felt unsure about something I was working on, I could always find a colleague, whether a peer or in management, to share my uncertainty and always received an opinion, observation, or suggestion, enabling me to move forward.  We worked in group settings or individually, we’d have meetings or conference calls, and we’d talk one on one, but no matter how, somewhere, I could find a support system, a way to obtain constructive input that allowed the work to be completed and completed with confidence.

That was then, this is now.

Writing is a lonely job.  This is no team effort.  There is no one to call on a daily basis and share the next steps with, no one to get a head nod from, no one to say yes, that’s absolutely right, and exactly what you should/shouldn’t do.  There will be no conference calls.  No meetings with a collective of like minded people, giving their input on what the vision is for the work to be done.  There is me – and only me for a long time.

True, I’ve made contacts in the writing/publishing world.  Yes, I have an agent, editor, critique partner, and a handful of beta readers.  There are also writer’s conferences, and writing support groups.  They work for some, and not for others.  Bottom line, there is only so much these resources can provide.  A writer must create a body of work before anyone can contribute to it and even then, what is provided/shared/given to a writer in the form of input/feedback is subjective based on the reader’s opinion.

Before a writer asks for these opinions, they have to consider it’s the best they can do.  This means after they’ve made it to a certain point (100 pages, half the book, the entire book) they have to have spent a significant amount of time on it already.  The first 100 pages I sent to my editor, then my agent and beta readers took five months.  Five long months.

Here’s why a writer has to work alone for any given length of time – whatever it takes – before receiving feedback:

  • Remember Anne Lamott’s coined phrase, the “shitty first draft?”  Who wants to read page upon page of a half baked idea, with loads of cliches, stilted dialogue, and characters you want to slap?  No one should have to read shitty first drafts except the writer. 
  • I’ve had an idea born in the middle of the night I think is genius and by the next morning I realize it’s bordering on idiotic.  Or, the chapter I wrote yesterday may be completely revamped today.  In other words, in these early stages of creating a story, everything is so dynamic, that to get an opinion now, is too early, way too early.  You’re wasting their time.
  • If/when you get a publisher, they will expect you to write a completed book first, and a pretty darn good one, then send it to an editor.  Better get used to how it works in advance.

You have to go it alone, for a long time.   A long time.  Eventually as you slog through the process, one day you will look up, and see on your calendar you’ve now been working in that cave of loneliness for months – or even years.  But, soon, you will be done.  You will feel as satisfied as you can be with with what you have.  Then, and only then, can you, should you, venture out to present your work to someone else, and see what they have to say.

Did I tell you that writing is a lonely job? 

2 thoughts on “Writing Is A Lonely Job”

  1. I relish the alone time. If it were not for my family, and envelopes with windows in them, I probably would never leave my house. I would be like William Forrester (without the fame) in FINDING FORRESTER, hole-up in my rooms above a corner of the world which has changed significantly and holds nothing of what I desire, but family. If you haven’t seen the movie, rent it. It is required watching for every writer.

    I love the reclusive aspect of being a writer. I’m so done with managing people who don’t give a shit and finished with kissing the asses of ungrateful and arrogant American consumers.

    It’s snowing this morning. I am alone in my office and I hear Dr. Phil downstairs droning on with the dogs as his audience. My second cup of coffee cools and I don’t have to leave for work until late this afternoon. A perfect day Donna, a perfect ‘lonely’ day of writing; I love it.

  2. I will definitely get the movie – I love watching anything writer related…I don’t mind it either..(although the post would sound otherwise)…it’s just a comparison of how it was then and how it is now. It is more for all writers, knowing this is how it is…a way to commiserate and understand. We get it, right?? But, if I didn’t love it too, I sure wouldn’t have lasted this long… On the other hand related to that corporate environment, I worked at home for years. Which requires discipline, and the ability to self regulate, self manage, self delegate,and Lord, let’s not leave out self medicate. (LOL!) But in all seriousness…I love the solitude and HATE when I have to leave – like right now – I have to drive 25 mins down the road to the bank and I’m procrastinating. Don’t want to l eave my little cave, but off I go.


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