BY JOHN S. OSLER III
Writing can get lonely. Oftentimes, if it’s not lonely, you’re doing it wrong. A mistake I made when I was just starting out (in a relative sense, hopefully in the grand scheme of things I’m still just starting out) was that I spent too much time talking about writing and showing people my writing and thinking about writing and hardly any time at all actually writing. It’s temptingly easy to make being a writer into your identity. It’s got a sort of prestige to it, an area of creativity and self-expression where the only barrier to entry is literacy. Spending enough time alone in a room to actually write something of a decent length (never mind value), that’s harder.
But, like with most things, there’s a danger at each end of the spectrum. At first I was someone who talked up my stories without ever doing anything with them, then at some point I became someone who would write and write and write with no real end goal in sight. That’s not a bad way to learn, exactly, and I sure as hell had fun. But like I said, it gets lonely. And depressing too, building up a tower of pages only to realize that odds are no one but you will ever read most of it.
I started to get out of my shell a little bit, at first by going to the Iowa Young Writer’s Studio, then the New York Writers Institute two years later. A little at IYWS, but more so at NYWI, I realized the power writing has to connect people. It was a unique experience to get to know someone as a person and then read what they wrote. It’s like how you need two eyes set a little ways apart to get depth perception: you know how someone acts, you know how someone writes, and you feel like you know them inside and out. It helped that everyone I met at those events were excellent writers and people, but still, I wanted to get that more often. I wanted writing to be something more than what I did for an hour every night alone in my dorm, building up a stockpile of stories that might not ever exist anywhere but in my desk drawer.. That lonely dedication is necessary to build up the skills you need, but it’s still lonely.
I actually realized the solution a long time ago, but it took a year for me to have the surge
of commitment just to go ahead and do it. My blog is relatively young, just two months old at this point, and while I’m scared I’m running through ideas at an unsustainable rate, it’s still given me more or less what I wanted. It’s nice to have a platform to articulate the ideas that bounce around in my mind in lazy moments, and it’s given me a real opportunity to connect with people. I’m not a natural extravert, my voice doesn’t carry and even if it did I’m usually not good enough at coming up with something to say in the moment for it to be worth it most of the time. But I hope putting out my writing gives people the two-eyed perspective on me that I enjoyed with others, while I search out other peoples’ writing best I can so I can get the same perspective on them.
Of course, there’s a lot of navel-gazing involved, and I always wind up wondering if I’m really that interesting. But if that ever does become a problem, I’ll just have to think about other people for a little while. That doesn’t seem so bad.
JOHN S. OSLER III is a sophomore at Grinnell College. He attended both the Iowa Young Writer’s Studio and the New York Writer’s Institute. In middle school and high school he wrote over two hundred satirical articles for The Southern View. His short stories have been published in Sprout Magazine, The Phosphene Journal, Random Sample Review, Zephyrus, and The Grinnell Underground Magazine.