Posted by: abrach1 | August 25, 2012

The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Writer

My son was an accomplished long distance runner who had the honour of competing for his country. Unfortunately he broke his foot in Royal Marine Commando training, bringing a premature end to two promising careers.

He often spoke about the loneliness of the long distance runner. How there is only the athlete and his pain for company.

Writers can’t compete with the physical discomfort, but we all know about the loneliness. Whether we write from a study, a bedroom, library or Grand Central Station, in our minds we are utterly alone. Whether words flow like music from a maestro, or have to be quarried from the granite recesses of our brains, writing can be an intensely lonely business. We lock ourselves away in solitary confinement for months on end. We scratch and scribble, plagued with doubts, never knowing whether any of it will ever see the light of day.

All we have for company are our imaginary friends. Those children of our minds that we create, nurture and develop. We are like Gods of our own little worlds, and like capricious gods we hurt and maim our creations. We test them to the limits of human endurance, and when it suits our needs, we kill them. “…Like flies to wanton boys,” as Shakespeare observed.

I swear, sometimes I have been in tears over what I have put my guys through. They may only be splinters of our personality, or composites of people we have met, but after a while they become real; they take on a life of their own. So much so that in my novel “The Last Sunset”, one of the principle characters had developed to the point where he simply would not act in the way I wanted him to act. In the end I had to take the story in a direction I had never intended, simply to accommodate this character.

I am sure this is something all writers experience. Some, like Steven King, have taken the phenomenon to the next level, and have written novels in which the characters have literally come to life to take revenge on their creator.

So why do we do it? Why do we put ourselves and our creations through such mental anguish? Fame and fortune? Nah, so unlikely they’re not worth thinking about. The stubborn determination to see a job through? Partly. I think what keeps us going is a quest for recognition, not just for ourselves but for our creations. We simply want these imaginary offspring, who came to life somewhere along the way, to take their place in the literary world.

Like many of you, I am sure. I have the great good fortune to have an incredibly supportive wife. She’s my number one critic and my number one fan. She will stop anything she’s doing to read over my latest scribblings – What’s that dear?

Sorry, almost anything.

Pardon me?

Okay. Some things.

As for our son. Every time we hear of the latest casualty amongst the coalition forces in Afghanistan we grieve for their parents, and then thank God for that broken foot.



  1. Great post! I’m a long distance runner AND a writer, so I know the loneliness of the road and behind my keyboard. Ironically, my characters are never far away in either case. I think I create the most interesting scenes during a long run and have to hurry to scribble them down even before hitting the shower.
    Tragic for your son about his foot but, yes, he lives to continue his future. All the best!

    • Hi Jim, thank you for your comments. I would imagine pounding the streets would be just about the worst time to be creative. I think you must have a photographic memory.

  2. Good post here…my new daughter-in-law runs half marathons and plans to run one in each state….somehow she’s convinced a bunch of us to do the mini marathon (I’m walking it) that precedes the Indy 500….I don’t plan to be lonely on that walk♫♪ Write on

    • Hi Laurie, thank you for your comments. Good luck on your mini marathon; even walking it will be quite a feat. As for your daughter in law; I’m sure you must be very proud; she sounds like an extraordinary person.

  3. Great post! I’m no runner, but I am a writer and I know that lonliness you speak of. But my characters keep me company no matter where I go so that’s a solace 🙂
    My daughter was in the Nat’l guard and when running to pass the physical test, her knee went out on her. She was really bummed about it – her group was called to be deployed to Iraq and she was deemed nondeployable – she hated it, but I was relieved. Is that bad of me? If so, sorry, but I can’t help it
    Love your blog!

  4. Hi Susan; thanks for following my blog. I have done likewise with yours. I look forward to commenting on your topics..
    I know exactly how you feel about your daughter’s injury; disappointed for her, but as a parent, hugely relieved that it keeps her out of the front line..
    I’m sure, like me, you feel distraught for those parents every time you hear of casualties amongst the coalition forces in Afghanistan; and then a mixture of relief and guilt that we won’t ever have to experience that.

  5. I’m fortunate also that my sons aren’t in the services. the sad thing once all the soldiers leave Afghanistan it will go back the way it was, and all the blood spent, and all the youth wasted will have been for nothing.

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