We write in isolation. That is the way of the world in our heads. The bone prison may be a highly populated environment but, make no mistake, we’re alone on an island in there.

This is not a lament. Not a “poor me.” Not a sadness, not nearly. Writing is a solitary pursuit. Writing that by group consensus is, I suspect, never going to reader-worthy. If the solo, silent room is our lot, I’d guess that most of us prefer it that way. But that isolation brings a complication:

We need someone to talk to. That person is us. And we are too close to ourselves.

Internal distance is our friend. But it is a mean and stubborn pal. The person we need, the friend off whom we can bounce the day-to-day intricacies of the work—it’s us. The truth is, we simply can’t/shouldn’t expect our flesh-and-blood friends to stay patient enough, involved enough, to pay attention as we tease the idea through to its conclusion. It’s a tough ask.

As we write to put our voices out into the silence, we speak to work out a lot of ideas. Something in the mechanics of verbalization helps us order our thoughts in ways that writing them cannot do. But.

Bouncing an outrageous possibility off the handball court of our own personal silences is not the same thing as trying the idea out on somebody else. I don’t have a clue why that is. When we toss off the idea outside the court of conversation, the sound of the bounce is all that comes back to us.

I’m facing that strangeness now. I’ve come upon an idea that will send the work soaring off to a startling new place. A real “whoa” moment. But it isn’t a sure thing. Friend-in-the-head likes it one day, hates it the next. And the idea is so bound to the story-complete that sharing it, talking it through, would test the patience of even the most saintly-tolerant friend. Which means that writing it through is the only path open to me. Which means that I may be about to waste hours and pages in an experiment that is destined to fail.

One is tempted to create a alter ego—a manifesting of the willing Other, the ever-ready listener, the wise and patient counsel. And yet, having a split personality has issues all its own. And when it comes to issues, this writer already has a full dance card.

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