Writing is a lonely work.
This loneliness is necessary to create without interference.
When no one is around, you can listen for the sound of your own voice.
I walk about my house in wonder as I remember the days of a creaky chalet filled with people in Switzerland, balanced precariously on the side of a mountain, sustained by the giving of donors. Of awakening to the “trot, trot, trot” in London, my good friend and I throwing up the windows to see, oh just to share, what was going on in the streets below. We saw a parade. And a parade should be experienced in the communal.
I realize that what I want most is to wake up anywhere to share the day.
It is these quiet days of no one that I wonder. There is a sense of wonder sometimes, in this fact that while writing I am alone much of the time. “As I row, row, row / going so slow, slow, slow” croons Patty Griffin, heartbreakingly. “Alone and alive.”
But to write, I need the careful ear of silence. So for the next three days I wake to still air, seek palm trees whispering outside, turn my ear to listen to the chatter of my elderly Cuban neighbor, invisible behind the hedges. I sigh. I’ve had my fill.
Like an addict, I sit down at my computer, throwing words down like stones thrown at a dirt path that I must later walk on, can hurt my feet on. It can hurt—this sitting down to write.
I wonder what my friends are doing. I assume people are probably with other people, not wondering what I’m doing, assuming I’m taken care of. My newborn eyes focus back on the page. Is this page a diamond hiding under a stupid rock, or is it simply coal to be burned? Is it a miracle; can all the hard work in the world save it? Can hard work make miracles happen? And then, within the silence of my own voice, a surprising analogy:
Observation: Giving our work to others is like putting all of our eggs in one basket.
We writers are like farm kids, working before and after school in the henhouse, hoping to produce a prize-winning set of eggs. We walk in with our feed and buckets, brave angry beaks from mother hens, shovel out pungent hay. We do this for months, collecting eggs, and then one day, we have carefully gathered eggs to put into a basket to sell. Hard work has taken us this far, now for the miracle of getting the eggs to market without breaking them. Carefully packed with straw, we hand our hard work over to the reader. Yet in the back of our minds, what if:
1. The reader uses them as projectile objects, forgetting or not caring they are our precious eggs, and throws them (crack!) against real or imagined enemies.
2. The reader uses them as projectile objects, forgetting or not caring they are our eggs, just to see the yoke fly out.
3. The reader carries them along, well intentioned, but perhaps becomes distracted by a milk cart, or a milk maid, and puts the basket down, never to pick it up again. The eggs sit in the sun and rot, never fulfilling their purpose to eat or be eaten.
4. The reader possesses a limp or an inherent clumsiness, carefully going along but then tripping and falling, causing some or all of the eggs to break.
5. Or we writers carry them ourselves, never giving control of our eggs away to anybody, never risking our cherished basket of eggs to be misunderstood or abused.
I don’t wish to carry my basket of eggs alone. I need the courage to hand the basket over. The eggs are still being laid and gathered, so I hope the courage is there to hand it over when the time comes. And until then, I will write, very much “alone and alive.”
Born in Oklahoma and proud of her Midwestern roots, Erin Hobbie lives in West Palm Beach, Florida and is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from Florida Atlantic University. She enjoys compiling soundtracks for the pieces she writes, and stands on the conviction that being a nonfiction writer is like being an American Picker, you have to love scouring “the country’s junkyards, barns, and basements for hidden gems.