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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Thursday, September 25, 2008

On solitude...

by Michelle Buonfiglio

Buongiorno, Noodlers! Talk about rejuvenating and invigorating! I couldn’t be more honored to be visiting with you as part of Writers’ Health month. I mean, nobody’s more desperately in need of writers’ health tips than I…

See, there’s this time-honored maxim in the Buonfiglio family that speaks, I believe, to the solitary nature of the writer’s life, verily, our existence as humans who write because we’re driven to. Simple and succinct, the adage affirms thusly:

Bathing is highly overrated.

Now, I don’t mean to imply that any of you work for days on end in the same attractive pair of cut-off sweats and ratty tee-shirt or, I don’t know, pajamas, thinking you could go one more day without soap and water and could make that old ball cap become your lucky writing hat if need be, so the UPS guy doesn’t think your life is quite as pathetic – and unhygienic – as it really is.

But on the off chance that you do work that way – and your internal body-image mantra has become “does this chair make my ass look fat?” -- it means you spend days on end in your home, strapped to a screen. And probably you recognize what I consider the most insidious threat to writers’ health: Solitude.

Solitude isn’t terrible, in and of itself; Our comfort with it is part of why we’re good at what we do. But with solitude comes isolation, especially in the Digital Age. Not only do we focus our energy and what seems like our very souls onto the word-processing program, we focus that same intense passion into our hours “wasted” online and time spent returning those maddening emails in which nuance is rarely understood or communicated. The worst part of the latter is never feeling satisfied we’ve garnered the information needed to feel we’re “getting right” this thing we’re spending all our time doing in isolation.

Unfortunately, the digital relationship is rather one-sided; we end up in the unhealthy position of being the givers, yet don’t feel much love in return -- and even less of that vital elixir for the writer’s soul: approbation.

There’s a lot of shame attached to a writer’s need for approval, her wanting a pat on the head for work well done, and even work not yet done. Yet there’s nothing we need more when isolated than human connection and support or, short of that, the remarkable kind of connection the Internet’s allowed us to have with friends, as proved by what’s been created here at Wet Noodle Posse.

Ah, but how do we make the connections, or even allow ourselves to reach out and ask for friendship, support and approval when we’re so full of the pride that keeps us writing toward that next milestone?

Well, you tell me: How do you reach out and get the emotional nourishment you need? How do you reach out to others or recognize when a colleague needs a “connection?”


At 8:40 AM, Blogger amy*skf said...

I pick up the phone and call someone.

No matter the e-mails or comments to my comments, sometime human voice is necessary--to actually hear a laugh instead of reading 'LOL' can be fortifying.

I'd rather not work outside the home, but maybe I am lucky in my part time job that I do work with many wonderful people but also a close friend.

At 9:14 AM, Blogger amy*skf said...

I also seem to remember when I neglected to tell a friend who writes and spends all her time on the computer that we used a cute computer guy who makes house calls, said friend almost didn't forgive me.

And really, who could blame her? Cute computer guy?: House calls?

At 9:38 AM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

I recently got a flier in my mailbox advertising Rent a Rower. For $60, you can get 4 hours of labor from a university crew-team member. If I were single, I would so have a lot of work done around my house.

More seriously, I'm with Amy on the phone thing. I call my parents. If I really want validation, I read them something. Angel Joe is good too. He just doesn't have as much time as my folks do, now that they're retired. But Joe is tremendously interested in the career aspects of writing, fully understands and appreciates the lunacy, and never seems to tire of discussing possibilities. That's where he got the nickname, folks.

At 10:10 AM, Blogger Portia Da Costa said...

Strange, I never feel alone when I'm online... My friends are just a few keystrokes away on blogs and message boards and increasingly on Twitter. :)

And it's a two way thing. I support others, they support me.

I'm not a great phone person, but I do have a few close friends who I actually meet in person from time to time... but they're writer buddies who I met online first!

At 10:32 AM, Blogger Michelle Buonfiglio said...

'morning, everyone! Thanks again for inviting me today!

I just came from taking my son to a doc's appt, and it's really cool to get to spend a little extra alone time with each kid.

Amy, I have no idea who that friend is you're talking about. But really, if she, I don't know, works in Internet and was having months of computer issues, it really would have been lovely of you to introduce her to the cute IT guy. Just sayin is all.

OMG, Esri, I just got verklempt when you were talking about AJ. Oh, I'm so envious! It's very neat, too, that you always can go to your folks.

You, Portia, are the definition of online friendship. Um, you know what I mean.

I'm very lucky that I have friends who reach out to me when there are long stretches during which they don't hear from me. They usually see that as a sign that I'm buried, and maybe in need of a lift. i love that about my friends.

At 10:32 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

I reach for the phone like Amy. But I have to admit I really like the solitude when I'm writing.

At 10:41 AM, Blogger LeeAnn said...

I love people and then there are times where I want to see no one. I work in an office full of people, my family is always home, and I go to school.

But the amazing thing is you can be surrounded by tons of people and still feel alone. That’s when I normally go online to some of my friends there because the main reason we meet is that we have things in common and they normally tend to get me a little bit better.

At 12:16 PM, Blogger Playground Monitor said...

I am blessed to be part of a group website where all of us live in the same area code and can meet in a central location with a twenty minute drive. We joke about being co-dependent, but... We lean on each other in the bad times and celebrate the joys.


At 12:52 PM, Blogger amy*skf said...

Eesri, Angel Joe--I think we all need one. And rent a rower? Sheesh, what agreat concept, maybe they have that where you live Michelle.

Portia, sometimes just reading comments from online friends keeps me grounded. Mo h, I get that too, sometimes I wish I had more alone time. And Leeann, you are so right--it's sort of quality and not quantity.

Marilyn, you guys must have a gas, I love hanging out at your place on the web.

At 1:33 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

I am NOT a phone person. I tend to leave my phone in the car...I think it's a subconscious thing.

I love writing in solitude. And my best friends are the people who are usually just like me...we get together a few times a year and it always feels like we saw one another two days ago! I love the simplicity and QUICKNESS of an email to keep my friends and family updated.

Love the word "verklempt," michelle. I looked that one up when Tim Gunn used it on Project Runway! ha!

Thanks for joining us today!

At 3:04 PM, Blogger Stacy~ said...

I agree with those who don't like the phone. It's definitely not one of my favorite things. If possible, I'd rather see them in person. But there are so many instantaneous ways of communicating (email, twitter, IM) that it's not necessary to be on the phone. It's perfect for those of us who'd almost rather go to the dentist than talk on the phone.

I also love to send cards, a small, quick reminder that I am thinking of someone and hopefully am putting a smile on their face :)

At 3:11 PM, Blogger Michelle Buonfiglio said...

WEll, theresa, in the context of my comment about Esri's AJ, one also could define verklempt as "sustaining feelings of bitterness and envy." But that's just me. :) And I'm with you on the phone thing in general, especially when I'm working. but I have caller id so I can talk to my fave friends and not goofy salespeople (just trying to make a living, i know).

Hi, Leeanne! The connection thing. That was so amazing to me when I first started a blog to go with RBTB (now all-blog). I couldn't get over how I looked forward to chatting online w/blogfriends. I didn't realize I'd needed it so badly, and I consider it a blessing.

hey, moH, see? The solitude can be cool. I mean, we probably all were readers before we were creative writers, right? And reading is fun because it's solitary. So we're comfortable with that to begin with. Now, some writers have trouble making the transition from solitary writer to being interactive w/readers. that's kind of what got me thinking about RBTB, made me feel like that was a service I could provide, the hooking up of the two groups.

Rent a rower. And it was just the other day I was encouraging Marilyn to get a poolboy! Marilyn, that's what I miss since we've moved; what you have: A group of folks who do exactly what you do, all supporting each other. That's why RWA chapters are great, too.

At 3:13 PM, Blogger Michelle Buonfiglio said...

I've gotten cards from you, Stacy, and really have appreciated them! I remember one in particular of a rather comely male...

At 4:00 PM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

Theresa: Oh, I don't like to get calls, for the most part. I only like to make them. :D Neighbor Brad, bless him, has not the slightest conception of a work day. I'm at home, therefore I must be free.

I actually love the solitude. If I ever went loony-tunes, it would probably be the agoraphobic variety.

At 7:28 PM, Blogger Santa said...

I have met some pretty amazing people on line and have been delighted to find they are equally marvelous in person.

My hours of solitude start late in the night and I cherish them. I've also learned to make the most of those hours because I never know when I'll get another stretch to write.

At 8:58 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

I'm with Portia and Santa, I've never felt without ready support and companionship since being connected to so many friends online.

Glad to have you visit, Michelle!

At 9:29 PM, Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

I have my terrific CPs. We have a conference call once a week and talk everything from plot to children behaving badly.

My CP, Erin, and I IM and / or talk on the phone every day. Our phone call is often our way of detoxing before we sit down to write. I work at Wal-Mart and she is a busy doctor's wife - THAT is a full-time job, ladies. I did it for a number of years myself.

I am never really alone because I have 3 dogs and four cats in the house and another 9 dogs in runs in the yard. Trust me, I can't even go to the bathroom or take a shower without canine and feline supervision!

I have the many friends I have met on the blogs and I talk with them almost every day online. My Golden Heart class - the Pixie Chicks - are there for each other through all kinds of things. What a great group of women!

I am a member of Beau Monde, Kiss of Death and Southern Magic and they are always available for a chat or a question.

Then I have my CP in Phoenix - Sherry Leddington. We exchange pages once a week and we have been there for each other through the loss of a beloved pet each. We finally met at Nationals in San Francisco and had a ball together.

In fact I was thrilled to meet so many of my wonderful online friends at Nationals!!

And then there are my guardian angels and mentors - The Incomparable Anna Campbell and the Divine Diane Gaston. They have held my hand and listened to me whine over each and every little step in my writer's journey. Diane, especially, has taken my late night phone calls and is just the smartest, sweetest, most giving person I know.

So, what was it you said about solitude? I guess I am alone much of the time I write, but I am never, ever lonely. And that is what makes the journey so wonderful!

At 10:59 PM, Blogger Playground Monitor said...

I'm at home, therefore I must be free.

Oh yes. And it's not just writers who face this. Anyone who works at home does. My sister is a top-notch CPA and has an attached office in her home. She has million-dollar clients and also works as comptroller for a high-dollar design firm (think doing the interior design and decorating for multi-million dollar beach homes). Yet people still think after thirty-odd years in the biz that because she's home, she must be free.

At 6:37 PM, Blogger Janice Lynn said...

Love reading everyone's posts--even though I'm late to the party. I'm with Portia. I never feel alone when I'm online. I'm so blessed to have made so many good friends in the writing industry. Many of which are here at the WNP.


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