Opinion

Loneliness and an introverted
writer

Reality is the one word that Vladimir Nabokov said shouldn’t go without quotation marks, despite the fact it is something that most artists and writers have been pursuing and imitating as closely as possible.

This explains why every artist’s movement has been sprinkled with dashes of credo to return to reality. Reality, after all, is the canvas – no matter how full it has been filled – and the raw material.

An interesting noteworthy version of “reality” is aphorism, which is one of the oldest forms of literature. Aphorism is basically a collection of sayings and criticisms, just like Heraclitus’ fragments, Confucius’ musings, Aurelius’ snippets of wisdom, and Franz Kafka’s notebooks. These fragments and musings were results of observation and reflexive activities to encapsulate “reality” and “realities”.

To encapsulate reality, one needs to have a calm and critical mind. A peaceful heart is another prerequisite, which is oftentimes rather hard to attain, since the ambiance of an environment affects the overall experience.

Surely, loneliness might be the other side of efforts in encapsulating reality. A writer might look lonesome, hence be labeled a “lonely” individual. Such superficiality might be an undeniable first impression, or after a thousand appearances, yet most writers don’t feel lonely. Aloneness isn’t identical with and should not be mistaken for loneliness.

As a writer, I must work alone to produce something with substance. Even when I’m around people, my auto-pilot mode within is independent of crowdedness.

My innermost core is like an absorbent sponge: solid yet fluid, rocky yet watery – thus, perhaps “lava” is a good analogy.

Sometimes, I would excuse myself to a corner and start taking notes, or typing on a laptop or iPhone. In a crowd, I can still feel aloneness, yet never loneliness.

The former gives a stance to where my writing perspectives come from, while the latter gives a crippling feeling of hopelessness and entrapment.

Most writers are introverted by nature. And by “introverted”, it is not referring to a quiet and staring and nodding individual who doesn’t speak a word unless he or she is asked.

According to psychologist Dr. Marti Olsen Laney, an “introvert” is an individual who finds alone time as charging time. “Extrovert” individuals, however, find the company of others and being the center of attention to be empowering, thus “charging” their energy.  

Both introverts and extroverts can be quite talkative and love the company of people. The only difference is how they “recharge” their energy. Politicians Al Gore and Abraham Lincoln, actresses Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep, and TV personalities David Letterman, Barbara Walters and Dianne Sawyer are examples of talkative and people-oriented introverts, as their careers require.

Many successful writers are introverts by nature, which can be observed from their independence, being highly analytical, being highly reflective, and being studious, all of which are imperative in this solitary career.

Talking is not required in this profession, except when dealing with a publisher or a literary agent on the terms of a publishing agreement. Or when doing a reading in a nearby bookstore or book club.

For a writer, “reality” is a perceived phenomenon that has penetrated, been immersed, filtered and processed heavily within an introverted mind using a complex web of intricately weaved multidisciplinary frameworks.

Even whenever a writer writes fictional accounts, he or she bases the characters, structure, and plots of the story on reality and actuality, regardless of their vagueness. In works of fiction, “novel” itself is an ambiguous term, as it means “having no rules”. Therefore, whether reality or actuality is a prerequisite or not is irrelevant.

Vignettes or stories are brainchildren of solitary activities: analyzing, synthesizing, writing and rewriting. And they are conceived out of love for knowledge and knowledge creation, not merely within the impression of “loneliness”.

Loneliness can make a soul lost, while most writers’ souls are strong and independent. Such strength and independence making being “lost” the last resort for uncertainties and grief, which often occur in depressive people, regardless whether they are writers or not.

As a writer, I live by rules created in my mind. As a writer, I am aware of many “realities”, as Nabokov mentioned. And no one “reality” is better than other “realities”.

Yet of course, we need to adhere to one universal “reality” that would blend all “realities” into one universal virtuous grand universe of reality.

That is the one universal reality based on compassion.

It might be true that most writers have their own missions and many of them are both apologetic and narcissistic, as George Orwell once reckoned.

We all, after all, are writers of our own life stories. As a writer, I live with a mission: disseminating messages of compassion and self-reliance. I write to inspire, to ripple the calm waters, to breed new thinkers and doers.

After all, the mission of life is to have a life of mission.

A writer might look lonesome, hence be labeled a “lonely” individual.



The writer is an Indonesian-born author and columnist based in Northern California.

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