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The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

04 February 2010

You got to walk that lonesome valley

Like dying, becoming a writer is a journey you have to walk by yourself, and, as the old spiritual says, nobody else can do it for you.

Friends, relatives, and other writers can support you, critique you, encourage you, mentor you, advise you, nag you. They can pass your name along to agents and editors. They can praise your work to everyone who will listen. In the end, though, you alone walk the valley, book in hand, and discover whether it ends in failure or success.

It’s not only the dying and the writer who have a lonely path. So do those who watch on the sidelines. Remaining behind when a loved one dies or seeing a friend’s first book hit the bestseller list (or flop miserably) is a soul-searing reminder of how acutely alone each of us is in the world. We cannot selflessly take the other person’s place to save them pain; we cannot selfishly take their place to savor their joy. We are separated by a gulf so deep that no bond of love or hate can span it.

No wonder that a writer’s success creates such a wide range of responses. Friends may be proud, angry, ecstatic, or jealous, or take the writer’s achievement as a good or bad portent for their own future, or feel awkward about the new gap between them, or all of the above.

You’re probably wondering about now whether this meandering post has a point. Why, yes, it does. When we know how alone each of us is at some moments of our lives, doesn’t it make sense to help and encourage each other when we can? As J.K. Rowling proved, we writers are not in competition with each other for a limited number of book slots; good books create new readers eager for more good books. Any one of us, by being successful, can create opportunities for others.

Let’s be gentle on ourselves and other writers. We may each walk alone, but we’re in this together.


Sidney said...

A very good thought.

Bernita said...

Well said.

"good books create new readers eager for more good books."
A practical point not often made.

ninthmuse (roz m) said...

Well said, indeed.

Charles Gramlich said...

Good point. I think one of the reasons I chose writing is because it really did allow me to work toward a personal thing, an item that no one else would completely share. But of course we are never totally alone. And sharing feels good.

Shauna Roberts said...

Thank you, SIDNEY, BERNITA, ROZ, and CHARLES, for your comments.

Lana Gramlich said...

Great point, of course. It applies in the art world, as well. Unfortunately there's SOOOO much competition in my immediate area that it's more like dog eat dog. <:(

Heather Albano said...

Beautifully written.

Steve Malley said...

As you've probably noticed, I've been missing a fair bit lately-- typing my way down that Lonely Road myself. :)

Just wanted to stop in to say congratulations on the Saints winning the Super Bowl.

Now I also need to say thanks for one hell of an inspiring thought! I'll be back soon to catch up... :D

Scott said...


Well put.

Shauna Roberts said...

LANA, there's a dog-eat-dog mentality among many writers too, as if there's only one bone. It's sad, when we should be helping each other, not only for the benefit of our souls but also for the benefit of readers and literature and each other.

HEATHER and SCOTT, thank you.

STEVE, may your journey through the valley be filled with joys and surprises. I need to visit your blog and catch up; you always inspire me. Maybe now that I'm going to take some snow days (see my post of 12 February), I can become a regular reader again of all the great blogs I've been missing.