For the past year my life has been all about the fulfillment of two roles – mother to a baby and writer of a manuscript. Both of these roles are big, meaty, rewarding hats to wear. Both of these roles also have a tendency towards loneliness. Looking after a baby full time is a relentless, exhausting task that can mean large bouts of time spent in the house, ensuring the latest nap goes well, the latest nappy is changed, the latest meal is served.
It is also an indescribably wonderful experience filled with joy I didn’t even know existed. The first time he turns to me with a little book in his hand, plonks himself down on my lap and patiently waits for me to read to him. Seeing that exuberant smile when he takes his first walk along the pavement whilst clinging on to my hand.
Then there is the writing. Also a dichotomy of agony and bliss. Long hours spent writing, writing, writing, working out that scene, going back to the earlier chapters and re-writing the whole thing. In my mind, all the time, thinking, creating. Then that moment where I know, I just know, the scene is there. My heart is on the page, and it is bleeding. I’ve made myself weep and laugh or gasp, and finally, it just works.
Both can be paths that are tread very much alone for large periods of time. So last week when I completed the edit of my manuscript and sent it along to my agent, I was suddenly able to stick my head out of the mist and the first thing I felt like doing was – not being alone! Communicating – with someone, about something, anything! Especially if that communication wasn’t about nappies or plot lines.
I am a user of technology with the best of them. I’m writing this very piece on a blog, on the internet for instance. However, I quickly realised, and this has been brewing for a good while, that my digital communications are just not providing the full connection that I need. In fact, at its worst moments, technological communication is making me feel more lonely.
I go to what’s app. Now, what’s app is very useful, don’t get me wrong. But it is no replacement for real, live communication. Those groups exist to ‘bring people together’, but do they? Really? Or do they replace actual face to face meetings between actual human beings? Maybe not always, but they can. It is so much easier to glance at one’s phone, type off a quick reply on what’s app and tick off the “I’ve communicated to those people” box. But. Did I see that person’s face? See their expression? Hear the tone of their voice? Pick up on their emotions? Did they see any of that from me?
No. They didn’t. And I think that can be where the loneliness breeds. In an age of technology designed to connect us, loneliness is still all around us, it’s everywhere. It can be the same with Facebook. Two thousand friends, hundreds of likes, but did I really get to know the truth of anyone’s life today? The triumphs and the struggles that really matter?
As usual, my approach is a radically moderate one – somewhere in between, some kind of balance, a bit of ying, a bit of yang. I use social media with the best of them – it allows me to reach thousands of people across the world, it is part of my work too, but at the same time I will be making sure I continue to see people, and have a good chin wag, possibly with a cup of tea, as often as I am able.