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Exercises in Loneliness – I: Directors and Writers

The first post in the series titled Exercises in Loneliness that gave the start to a book under the same name compares the directos’ and the writer’s views


Exercises in Loneliness – 1

I remember speaking to one film director who deplored the fact that he had to write an article about his film. In his words, he’d be happy to talk about it for as long as he could, but writing was weighing him down. As the person who, instead of a silver spoon, was probably born with a pen, I obviously asked what he didn’t like about writing. His answer was that writing was ‘a lonely experience’.exercises-in-loneliness

Of course, as I’m writing this at an ungodly hour I have to admit that, physically, writing is the lonely experience. But mentally it can be quite stimulating and even scandalous, if one considers the works of Marquis de Sade, some of which he wrote in prison, and some – in asylum.

Back in 2006 being alone felt exhilarating. I craved independence, and I had got my hands full. Not that I didn’t want to share work or success, but I was determined to succeed alone, first and foremost. Unconsciously, perhaps, I was drawing inspiration from the famous New York, New York song, paraphrasing it as «if I can make it on my own, I can make it with someone else».

As I was to find out, we can all do things on our own but they often take awfully more time than if we did them in a company of like-minded people. Having gradually revisited my attitude to loneliness, I nonetheless kept my opinion of writing. It is not a lonely experience, for when I write I imagine the whole world that I inhabit both as an actor and a creator. My company is my characters, and even when I compose an academic essay or an article about a community leisure centre I am still surrounded by facts, figures and personalities. This is a thrilling experience, although I realise it may be more interesting, complex and fulfilling to operate a set of living people than the world that only exists in your head and maybe used to exist for real a good few centuries ago.

The longer you are alone, however, and the more you cherish your solitary state, the more you become insensitive to the outer world. Such scenario is not inevitable but loneliness becomes a habit, it blinds you, and it might take a bigger or lesser catastrophe to shake you out of this routine. You turn into Tony Camonte from Scarface, obsessed with power your solitude grants you and fully oblivious to the woes of others.

Other posts in the series Exercises in Loneliness.

2 thoughts on “Exercises in Loneliness – I: Directors and Writers”

  1. Dear Julia, after reading this short paragraph it seems to me, that the act of writing could be characterised as an experience of temporary disconnectedness. This seems to make writing almost unbearable for the filmmaker you are mentioning as the opposite example. This director may have quite intentionally decided to chose an aesthetics which emanates from a mainly communicative and collective working process. Comparing the media and their reception (text and film) one could also add, that the film intends to create a physical union of the work and the public in time and space (at least in the traditional, though nowadays nearly antiquated concept of the cinema), whereas reading is a “lonely” act almost as well as writing is. Furthermore, direct interaction between the writer and the reader is barely possible without the intermediation of other texts, which means, that it produces even more temporary disconnectedness on both sides. 🙂 There is some similarity between film and the even more radical concept of community in the theatre, which is most possibly going back to its relation to cultic contexts. But the writer, historically cut off from the collectivity of an oral tradition, remains to be (sometimes painfully) excluded from this kind of epiphany of the creative act in a dialogical structure of production/reception. Instead, he/she is thrown back to closing the threatening gap of posteriority. Why not transcending these limitations in the all-and-everywhere-presence of the internet? – Oh, yes, you did it… Merry Christmas, Andreas

  2. Dear Andreas, Thank you so much for the comment – this collection of essays on the subject of loneliness is still in progress, and as you will certainly agree, loneliness is of many faces, and not all of them are sad faces. The director didn’t expand on this, and I couldn’t ask him more questions about this ‘lonely experience’. However, I know a hairdresser who is an expert in his subject and is a great speaker. The question was about how he could contribute more articles on hair care and styling to his company’s blog. His problem was: ‘I’d rather show it, but writing it… unless I record myself and then transcribe it’.I heard this practically a month ago, in 2008. I spoke to the director in 2005, but doubtless we both see an interesting similarity between what was said by two apparently dissimilar professionals. I think this ‘creative’ loneliness is a very rich subject of research, and this research will inevitably include explorations of psychological nature of any particular creative individual. A few things need to be taken into account: first, how we deal with words; second, how we deal with people; third, what kind of personality we possess. I mention personality for a reason because writers have almost certainly emanated from the ancient poets and religious chiefs, back to whom we can also trace theatre and cinema directors. As poets and druids (e.g.) are known for their public performances (be that a performance of a song or of a religious act), so all the professions we’d mentioned share this ‘public’ quotidient. In the end, even though writer is not usually creating his work publicly (unlike a director), he/she then makes it public and therefore accepts, insofar as he/she accepts his/her authorship, the responsibility for the text. Indeed, he/she is not always present to discuss the text or extrapolate on his/her ideas of what writers are, why they write, etc., but I feel that this is primarily down to the actual existence of such opinion, the desire to put it forward, and the ability to defend it. So, both writers and directors share publicity. As far as the director in question is concerned, he mentioned in his interview that he came to cinema via his father, also a director: he used to spend his summer holidays with his father’s crew, and thus he came to see what a great creative act this was: to do something with a group of people. I think, however, he could have had personal reasons for preferring an experience of working with many voices to the ‘lonely experience’ of writing on his own. That again begs the question about one’s psychology and personality. How come a person may find it easier to operate their mind and imagination in a group of people but stumble when it comes to operating the same on his/her own? Furthermore, writing involves a fair share of ‘directing’ one’s own mind, knowledge and imagination. Again, why is this less easier to do in comparison to telling a crowd of people where they need to go, or how they should speak? I also mentioned the way we deal with words. A word is a strange substance. It’s a sign that exists insofar as it is strictly applied to something. At the same time, we can say that something exists only as long as it is named by its proper word. Yet how rational is our dealing with words? Do we call something by its name because we KNOW that it IS the name of the thing, or because we’d been TOLD to call this thing by THIS name? The rational quotidient is different in both cases. Secondly, a text is a rhetorical exercise, it aims at engaging, persuading and pleasing a reader (the same goes for the film) – this means that, although it may be created rationally, it is expected to produce certain irrational effects. Or to put it differently: even though a text is created with the mental effort, its aim is to touch our emotions and sensibilities. OK, some may say that emotions can, too, be rational, but nevertheless it is more than just the mind that the text seeks to touch. This means, however, that a director who doesn’t like writing is potentially more intuitive (sensual) and less articulate (logical) than even he/she may realise. I.e. writing as a way of dealing with words involves a fair bit of logic, the strong awareness of the power of a word, and that ultimate ability to direct one’s mind and imagination, sometimes forcing it to stay on the subject, etc. I think I’m very much like Manuel Alvarez Bravo in this, in that I feel that creative people often ‘guess’ about certain things, but they still need to obtain a degree of strong knowledge which they then can operate “intuitively”, i.e. without humming to themselves the memorised rules. You would agree that no writer could write without having read first – and it’s not just books by other authors, but books about everything in the world. If a writer doesn’t know a world, he/she very simply has nothing to write about. But when he knows “enough” yet still doesn’t like the ‘lonely experience’ of writing, this suggests that it’s not just ‘loneliness’ of writing that he feels uncomfortable about. “Why not transcending these limitations in the all-and-everywhere-presence of the internet? – Oh, yes, you did it…”In a way, this is true. Back in 2006, I felt lonely as a person: I was away from my home country, my father-in-law who loved me to bits had died, and my marriage wasn’t working (and collapsed altogether by the end of 2006). I also felt lonely as a creative person: the radio programme wasn’t allowing me to do everything I wanted; I had tons of texts which very few people had ever read yet; and so the Internet did indeed become the place where I could find both personal and creative fulfilment. OK, it’s by no means ideal, but it was better than anything before then. But by the time I started writing this blog and publishing my creative work here, I have had experience both in loneliness (=writing) and in dialogue (=journalism and some amateur directing at school and the Uni). I.e. I have had experience on both sides of the fence, to put it this way. To this day, I am more of a ‘director’, although certainly a very refined one. :-))) Once again, thanks a lot for the comment, I’d love to continue this discussion. Merry Christmas to you, too.

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