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  • Writer's picture Brian E Pearson

How to Beat the Lonely Writer Blues

Photo Credit: Yannick Pulver on Unsplash

I climbed the creaking steps to the second floor of the pub, where local writers were gathering, loudly, overhead. I’d never been in a room full of writers, and I was nervous. Would they see me for what I was, a wannabe? Or would they open a space and let me in?


I might have reminded myself that I’d already had two books published, one a collection of short stories, How the Light Gets In, the other a novel, Passiontide. But that was twenty years earlier, and those books were published by a religious publishing house, an imprint of the Anglican Book Centre. They had sold well, selling out the original runs of fourteen hundred copies each. But that was then, and this was different. These were real writers.


I manoeuvred my way through the crowd and was relieved to spy my friend, Bob Stallworthy, an award-winning poet, who'd agreed to meet me there. He was in conversation with someone else, so I waited nearby, ordering a Guinness when the barmaid happened by. The room was dimly lit, but even in the dark I could make out that the writers looked more or less normal, a few eccentrics perhaps, but otherwise pretty much ... like me.


I sat down at a table with Bob and a writer friend of his, Paulo da Costa. Paulo had just returned from his native Portugal where he had introduced his young son to male relatives who seemed more interested in football than in someone who wrote for a living. He found himself feeling protective of his son, that he not be influenced by the macho culture of his forebears. He said he was writing about that experience. I said I’d love to read it. We agreed to be in touch again.


When we reconnected, a few weeks later, I offered appreciative comments about the pieces in progress that he shared with me. Then I offered him one of my own to read. We were exchanging emails, not talking personally, so I couldn’t see his face when he wrote me back to suggest that I might want to take a writing course. I was devastated, though I don’t think he was being unkind. Still, dusting myself off and sucking it up, I did what he said, enrolling in the Author Development Program at Calgary’s Alexandra Writers’ Centre.


I wasn’t eager to speak with Paulo again. The next time I saw him, four years later, across the room at a literary awards event, I’d completed a memoir, a novel, and a collection of personal essays. All were still looking for a publisher. The writing course I’d taken had paid off and I felt proud of what I’d accomplished. But it didn’t seem enough to offer to Paulo, as evidence. Perhaps when I had something published. But neither did I feel like a poser. In the interim, something had happened. I'd become a writer.


One of the great hurdles to following our dream, any dream, is believing that we have the right to do so. Two things will help convince us that we do: one is to work at our craft until we feel we're getting somewhere; the other is to hang out with others who are doing precisely the same thing. Honing and homies, that’s what it takes.


For this episode of The Mystic Cave, I invited the members of my writing group, the UnderStory Collective, to talk about our experience as writers. We met during that course I took, the Author Development Program, and we’ve stayed in touch ever since, sharing our successes and frustrations, encouraging one another, and passing along useful resources we’ve discovered along the way. I’m not sure I’d be calling myself a writer today without them.


Writing, whatever the genre—memoir, fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction—is a solitary activity. But it needn't be haunted by the demons of self-doubt. So please, join me in the Cave for a meeting of the UnderStory Collective ... and take encouragement in your writing. You, my friend, are not alone.


To listen to our conversation just click on the Play button below. For writing resources to help you develop your writerly craft as well as your writerly company, click the Information button (i) that will take you to the show notes.

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Apr 23

Brian, I still have my copies of your first two books. I have loaned them to numerous people with the proviso that they MUST be returned. Don't sell yourself short, Brian. You have always had the soul of a writer - both prose and poetry. Best wishes always, Kathie Stevenson

 Brian E Pearson
Brian E Pearson
Apr 23
Replying to

Thank you so much, Kathie, for your encouraging words! I'm proud of those books. But the publishing industry has been less than impressed, so I became less than impressed myself! How we let others define our reality! Plus ... 1400 books in Canada is a pretty good seller, whoever the publisher is, so there's that too. Always lovely to hear from you. Thanks again!

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