The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Writer
Alice Munro gave as one of her reasons for retiring from writing as her desire to spend her remaining years in the company of other people. Writing is a very lonely activity.
We are social animals, so writing might be considered a sign of pathology, because writing really just consists of a conversation with imaginary friends. (Most well adjusted adults have given up their imaginary friends.) The advantage to this childishness is that you get to dominate the conversation. The disadvantage is that you really are just talking to yourself. And even when you eventually publish your efforts, you don’t know how many real people are listening to your monologue—or if they really are your friends.
The other arts are different. Their creation doesn’t require being alone in a room with imaginary friends and imaginary characters. Proust alone in his cork-lined room writing his Remembrance of Things Past (A La Recherche du Temps Perdu) is archetypal. It’s ironic that writers are often seen as extroverts. This misperception is an example of selective sampling. Writers try to make the most of their time away from their voluntary, solitary confinement to get their social fix and gather material—and that is the only time most people see them. No real extrovert could be a writer.
I expect the next edition of the DMS (the psychiatric diagnosis manual) will include “Writing Obsessive Disorder”. But if they come up with some drug to treat it, I’ll behave like those schizophrenics you see downtown talking to themselves: I won’t take my meds.