The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Writer

Perhaps everyone would be  in a better mood if someone added a shot of whiskey...

Perhaps everyone would be in a better mood if someone added a shot of whiskey…

Out in the old Airstream office again, starting to work on an essay. “Starting to work” means looking out of the windows for a spell, straightening a counter that’s already ruler-straight, peeking at Twitter—but with eyes wide open, so that a peek becomes a stare—and on and on.

If you’re an at-home working writer, and one for whom discipline is a comrade who sometimes leaves early for lunch, you might shy from the tyranny of the page, and look for like cronies to complain to. But it’s been years since I’ve had office mates that could tolerate hearing my sighs about bad sentence structure over the cubicle walls. Sometimes my cat comes out to the trailer to discuss subject-verb agreements, but most of the time, it’s just me.

A great privilege it is to be able to work from home, and a greater gift to be able to work with words, the dizzying whirligigs that they are. Writers need to sequester their minds in order to stew, consciously or not, over their word soups, but sometimes the kitchen seems a little quiet. The habitual patter of your mind can be a little wearing, especially when it flies off center, and you start thinking things like “Tom, when you tilt your head just so, you look a lot like Madeleine Albright.”

When the Idea Salon Is an Asylum

But when you realize that the errant voices in your head are, shockingly, less crazy than the ones on the Internet, you know that going out in that uncivil commons is no way to relax and exchange ideas in the idea salon, finger sandwiches at the ready. I have a standing policy to not read the comments pages of many postings, because their curdled sourness doesn’t offer companionship to any but the crazed.

Even more crazed than me.

But thankfully there are a few spots on the InterTubes that can offer solace—and even fine writing advice, so you can coddle yourself into thinking you are working, sort of. One of the best is WriterUnboxed, with its daily postings on craft, marketing, personal writing foibles, the publishing industry and much more, written by a splendid range of seasoned experts, newbies and specialists. Equally as helpful as the sound writing advice is the collective community of peers and writing chums, who share comments in the sandbox that are insightful and warm, but without too much mush. (Mush causes mold.)

For writers like me, living in their hollow, echoing wooden heads, a place like WriterUnboxed is a godsend. Now and then, they even let me write something there.

Combat the Loneliness of the Long-Distance Writer: Collaborate

Another way a writer, who might be out in his ’66 Airstream with screaming orange plaid upholstery for eight hours a day, might reach out and still get some writing done is by collaborating with another writer. Rick Wilson and I have been working on a novel together, based on this short story, for a couple of years, and the final chapter is just a whimsy of words away from being done.

Working with Rick has been delightful, and in the many moments when I’ve staggered in the process and lost my oxygen, he’s opened the valves on new tanks of enthusiasm. And since Rick’s a dentist, I’m going to ask for nitrous for the home stretch. I’ll post more about the book in blogs to come.

Lastly, when a writer is feeling low or lonely, there are the works of other authors to lift and educate. Books are great companions too, and have been through my life. I just finished the delightful and hilarious Where’d You Go, Bernadette. I shock myself by never having read a Toni Morrison work before, so Jazz is next.

Books themselves are quiet company, even if the upholstery is too loud.

Eleventy-Eleven-Eleven: Books by the Half-Dozen

Yeah, you're right—they were a vaudeville act in the 30s

I like to show off my smarty-pants friends now and then, and this occasion brings a half-dozen ways to do it: my estimable colleague, Joel D Canfield, is hosting a book-release party on the eleventh of November in Philadelphia. Joel (who besides making wicked pancakes) dabbles in necromancy and other dark arts, so he has scheduled his publishing party on 11-11-11, a day when normally steadfast digits and the earth itself both tilt on their axes. In order to cause numerologists to scramble to their interpretive books all the quicker, Joel has folded two other units into the numeral batter: 6/6.

Those dancing digits herald a titanic feat: he’s published six books in the last six months! And he rarely sweats! Though, as you might imagine from that kind of output, he does expound.

Four of the works are from the apocalyptic potato cellar of his own imagination, one is an immortal act of co-authorship with the stirring soul of Renaissance Man/poetic social theorist/quasi-historian/tooth-tugger Richard Wilson and one is co-authored with Change Catalyst Shanna Mann. Behold the list:

Through the Fog—An Irish Mystery

The Time is Now 11:59—Heretical Thinking for Tomorrow’s Business (with a foreword by Rick Wilson)

Getting Your Book Out of the “Someday” Box

Hits or Niches: Why Marketing is Boring, Obnoxious, & Annoying, & What You Can Do About It (with Rick Wilson)

Permission Granted: Create Something Remarkable. Start Now.

Why We Lead—Conversations on the Scarcity of Confidence and the Nature of Leadership (with Shanna Mann)

The works are available both in print form and from the aether, from the usual electronic suspects. The publishing party will be held at Cafe Nola, a New–Orleans style venue where the Bananas Foster is said to reign supreme. Along with flaming confectionary dishes, Joel will be attempting to eat full print versions of all the books. It’s unclear if famed hot-dog competitive eating champion Joey Chestnut will be vying for this literary-comestibles crown.

There’s a Facebook page trumpeting the occasion and Joel’s Someday Box page has links to buy these and his other books as well. On the whole, I’d rather be in Philadelphia that day, but I won’t be able to make it. Save me a banana, boys. (On second thought, just save me the cognac.)