Dear Stephen King- Writing Is Lonely

Dear Stephen,

Afternoon old friend. It is a bit after 4 on Sunday afternoon and I am back at the computer. It is just you, me, a cup of coffee and some Alka-Seltzer. Ok, that is not entirely accurate because I have a thousand voices inside my head and the whispers are starting to irritate the hell out of me.

Don’t finish dialing that phone- I am not crazy. I know that these voices aren’t real. They are just one more way for me to try and describe the stories that I see and hear inside my mind. I am tempted to say that I don’t know what to do about them but that isn’t true either because I am doing something.

I am writing a book. I am trying to get it out, this thing that is stuck inside but I am not sure if I am doing a proper job of it. I lack perspective. I am too close to this tale and I find myself swinging between feeling like I have the tiger by the tail and wondering if maybe instead he has clamped down on my arm.

It is kind of fitting to describe it that way. Supreme confidence and whispers of insecurity sandwiched between the knowledge that the only way to get out is to go through.

Don’t get me wrong I am not unhappy or upset. I love this. I feel like Indiana Jones except I don’t wear a Fedora or carry a bullwhip. Not that it matters, but I have both items. I like hats. Got the Fedora about 25 years or so ago and wear it upon occasion. Thing is that every time I wear it people ask if I am a rabbi.

I kind of laugh at that. I am not a rabbi but I have thought about becoming one. Been a long time since I took that seriously. Can’t say whether I will or won’t. Time will tell.

Anyway, this writing deal makes me happy. There are parts and pieces of me that are singing our song with the utmost joy and I am excited to see what happens. I don’t know where this story is going. I have my ideas but I really can’t say for certain. I suppose that this is in line with what you wrote about in your book but I am not doing it that way because you said that is how you work.

I am not you. I am me. That is a different topic and for once I won’t go off on a tangent.

The characters are going to let me know what to do and which direction to go in. All I am doing is helping them find their voice so that they can sing their song.

But I have got to tell you that sometimes this writing business is kind of lonely. Sometimes I feel like I am the proverbial outside looking in. Sometimes I feel like there are a million people outside doing their thing and then there is me locked up in a cage with nothing but them.

And by them I mean these characters. I feel like I know them. I feel like I see them. I feel like I have a pretty good idea of who they are, what they value and what they are going to do. Yet I also know that humans are anything but logical, reasonable and rational.

So even though I think that I know them I haven’t a clue if they’ll do as I say or think. They might. They might go ahead and try to find a way to turn a second chance into something special or maybe fear will prevent them from taking a risk.

I am curious and intrigued to see what happens. Anyway, I suspect that I am not the only writer to think or feel these things but I wouldn’t care if I was. I am just recording these thoughts down for posterity and because I think that one day I might find them to be interesting.

Or maybe not. Maybe it will just sound silly and I’ll nuke the entire post. Suppose we shall have to wait and see.

What do you think?

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  1. JudyDunn December 19, 2011 at 10:20 am

    Yes. Writing IS lonely. But that is just the thing I love about it. Or, perhaps I should say I love the solitude. I’d say you are in a good place if you see your characters, know what they value, what they are going to do. I wrestled with my memoir for a few years (still writing it) because I was feeling that the characters wanted to go off and do their own things, which would make it so not a memoir. I rewrote some of it as a novel, but it just didn’t feel right. I think I am just drawn to (creative) nonfiction. Thanks for giving me things to ponder. : )

    • TheJackB December 19, 2011 at 11:21 am

      @JudyDunn The solitude is often refreshing to me. When the creative juices are really flowing I never notice that I am alone. It sounds goofy, but my characters are there with me.

      It can be a lot of fun learning about their thoughts and beliefs. I don’t always know- I have to wait for them to tell me.

  2. Brandon December 10, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    Oops, guess I didn’t read close enough. Looks like you have read it.

  3. Brandon December 10, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    Jack, have you read Stephen King’s book on writing called…er…”On Writing?” Great book for budding novelists.

  4. Daniel Coffman December 6, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    I have been trying to get several books out of my head and onto paper for years now (more than I am willing to publicly admit). So many drafts started, none finished.

    A year ago, my wife decides to write a book, out of the blue. I smile and nod, then go back to fiddling with my story. Last month, she published it on Kindle (“Diana’s Dreams”

    That got me off my ass. Her book is more than good; it’s better than anything I’ve ‘fiddled around’ with. You’re right: writing is lonely work. And “On Writing” is a valuable resource, one that my wife utilized while creating her novel, especially during the editing stage.

    This is a great post, and something the budding author needs to see.

    • Jack December 6, 2011 at 11:24 pm

      I think that it is great your wife took the bull by the horns and got her book published. Doesn’t matter if it is on the Kindle or elsewhere.

      She did it. She took that next step that I am trying to take and I respect that.

      I hope it helps to motivate you. I don’t think that we ever reach a time where there are too many writers. Fact is I like seeing more of them.

  5. Kristen December 5, 2011 at 10:22 am

    Writing can be lonely and that’s why I do it in my basement. I can hear my kids and my husband so I know I’m not alone. Being near, but not too near, them keeps me sane (relatively speaking, of course).

    • Jack December 5, 2011 at 1:24 pm

      I wish that I had a basement but it is not something that you find very often in LA.

      I like writing when the family is around but sometimes the kids scream loud enough that it is almost like they are inside my office. 😉

  6. Leon Noone December 5, 2011 at 8:46 am

    G’Day Jack,
    I really must buy a copy of SKs “On Writing.” But I’ve gotta say that I’ve never found writing to be “lonely.”

    I’ve published lots and lots of stuff including a few books. I’m the first to admit I’m just a scribbler. But I’m still part of a community that includes Mark Twain, Oscar Hammerstein II and Graham Greene.

    Of course, I merely write sentences. They accumulate. If they’re cogent enough and lucid enough they end up being called books.

    There’s a lovely old song that goes
    “If they asked me, I could write a book:
    about the way you walk and listen and look…..” It’s a love song Jack. Next time you feel lonely, look it up.

    Writing should be fun.


    • Jack December 5, 2011 at 1:22 pm


      If you ever decide to come out from down under we’ll have to sit down and have a drink.

      Writing is fun for me and fulfilling. Life wouldn’t be the same without it and I agree that we are in good company.

      But there are moments when all I hear are the echoes of those who came before and that of my own tapping on the keyboard.

  7. Tracie December 4, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    I think it is lonely, too.

  8. Bruce Sallan ( December 4, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    I think the fedora is a GREAT idea!

  9. Alexandra December 4, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    It is lonely, which is why I feel “m drawn to twitter.

    A bad distraction, but now I see it’s the loneliness.

  10. injaynesworld December 4, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    Ah, yes. I know these feelings well. One of the exercises that always helped me when I was writing movies and would get stuck, was to just start dialoguing with the characters. Open up a fresh doc (or in those days, grab a fresh yellow legal pad), ask them questions and write down everything they say without judgment. Sometimes one or more will try to grab the spotlight, sometimes they’ll go off on some stupid tangent that has nothing to do with the task or scene at hand, but most of the time they’re pretty cooperative. And you’re never alone, even in your sleep. In fact, that’s when your characters are often doing most of your work.

    I’d like to say you reach a point of supreme confidence when all these doubts just disappear, but that would just be bullshit. You’re a writer. It’s just the nature of the beast.

    • Jack December 4, 2011 at 8:48 pm

      Ah, that is a great idea! I really like it. Never thought of it in that context before, but I think that it should be fun to try it.

      I hear you about the doubt. I try to maintain a place in the middle but I tend to swing from feeling very confident to hating the words.

      The joy of being a writer. 🙂

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