The Loneliness of the Long Distance Writer

My paternal grandmother lived in a fairly remote cottage in Tullymore in Co Armagh. She died before I was born, so I never had the chance to meet her. She was by all accounts a bit of a character.

At one stage in her later years, she broke her leg and was housebound. Having been predeceased by her husband, she was home alone, no-one called that often. So to break the loneliness she started writing a letter to herself everyday so the postman would call on his rounds and she would have someone to talk to.

I can empathise with her. One of the downsides of working as a freelance is that very occasionally, and usually when I am cloistered away working on something, I find myself sometimes spending an entire day talking to no-one other than my young daughters and Joanna, our Polish babysitter. The girls potter about the place and occasionally come in to brief me on some drama concerning Peppa the Pig, or perhaps the hens that live in our back garden. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy talking to them and to Joanna. Her English is a hell of a lot better than my Polish; in fact my two-year-old daughter Treasa has now started speaking Polish too.

That is the loneliness of the long distance writer. When I worked at UU I spent a few years as my only departmental representative on a particular campus and was happy in my own company with my colleagues and my boss in particular an hour away if they were needed (and they were!).

I miss the casual conversations with people you might run into at the coffee shop, when posting a letter, when to-ing and fro-ing, to and from meetings, home, other offices etc etc. I don’t miss all the nonsense though, not one little bit.

The last week I have been working for a partner in the US and another here in Ireland, conscious of two time zones. It is interesting the perception when you are working for others. The work must be done, but your own time is the malleable, flexible factor. To do it late at night, early in the morning, whenever. Snatch an hour here and there. It is essentially a solitary pursuit, one that is highly satisfying, and rewarding. I do occasionally miss the opportunity to bounce things off others in person.

And the loneliness? Well, I suppose at least I haven’t resorted to emailing myself. Not  yet anyway.