The Existential Life of the Lonely Writer

Paul Kavanagh’s recent blog about the use of the word existentialism got me thinking about this utterance and how, more than any other profession, a writer must be an existentialist in order to simply survive while he or she still claims to call one’s self a writer.

Let’s face facts. There is never going to be an Indian, American, or British Idol television show for writers. You and your work will sit together in a room until it comes out onto the page, you rearrange this puzzle of quartz, diamond, and granite until it all makes perfect sense, and then you click Save while at the same time saying a short prayer. You then send your work out into the ether where this world mostly full of walls, labyrinths, hurdles, and sometimes tight Himalayan trails, tries to whack you down until you are this bloody mess, left there questioning yourself, your sanity, and your choice of professions.

And this is where being an existentialist comes into play. You never give up. Some of you may stop writing. Some of you may put everything you have into that day job you were hoping not to have to keep for too much longer. You may even stop telling other people that you’re a writer like you did to everyone who would listen while in the fortitude of your all-knowing youth. But somewhere deep down inside of you are these haunting words still waiting to bubble over – lives, hopes, dreams, and losses, all chronicled deep within your arteries, your veins, and in the ventricles of your corporeal body.

Ah, that’s right, you are solely responsible, just like old Søren Kierkegaard maintained, for giving your own life meaning; and above all to live life that is not only passionate, but also sincere (most people like to forget about this last part). You never give up. No one else is responsible for this. And no obstacle, distraction, loss, despair, angst, dead end, punch to the gut, kick to the head, death knell to your soul, nor the absurdity of this world, the alienation of its daily pages, nor the boredom of staying alive while nothing is working out for you, is an excuse to keep yourself down.

The truth is that if you want to be a writer, and you want to be a writer your entire life, you have to put aside any thought of fame, fortune, or riches and instead stay true to yourself and write who you are, what you are, and within the framework that you build for yourself as the writer you want to be. If there is publication you have to let that happen on its own. It is a benefit, but not a right when you are a writer. And now the world is much smaller; and where publication used to be mostly within the ranks of your own country, the Internet has created a publishing community that is worldwide. There are more venues out there. One day the current system of publishing will be replaced by something we cannot fathom at this moment in time. That will begin to happen soon though. It already has begun actually. But until that time you must continue to work upon those tight Himalayan trails and through those labyrinths and by those dark ponds where this darkness awaits for you every day.

Existentialism — Who knew it could be such a beautiful word to swim in?

Jéanpaul Ferro


Jéanpaul Ferro’s ‘Jazz‘ is out now, priced £6.99 / $10.99.

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