A Little Empathy

A Little Empathy

One of my many character flaws is that I lack empathy. I won’t even talk about sympathy, which I possess even less of. But empathy – that is a sharing of pain, grief, hell, even happiness and joy. Empathy, to my way of thinking, does not embody victimhood (on the negative side), and on the positive side tends to recognize that wonderful moments rarely happen in a vacuum – that there are others who help along the way. So believing, it would seem that empathy for those who are suffering as well as for those who are not should be a fairly straightforward proposition. You’d think. Right?

And yet time and time again I have seen in myself a general lack of understanding for those writers who can’t find the time or the energy to write. When I’m not writing myself, I usually attribute my lack of production to laziness. With a houseful of people, including a toddler, as well as a full-time job, I could still produce. Therefore, if you weren’t producing, you obviously didn’t want to bad enough. And that was on you.

Now before you think I’m totally cold-hearted, I did make allowances for surgeries, divorces, death, and catastrophic flooding.  See how generous I am!

Fast forward. About a month and half ago I lost my job due to downsizing. Yay! More time for writing. And yet that has not proven to be the case. Why? Because damnit, looking for a job is emotionally draining – at least for me. When my life is humming along, it’s typically only a matter of squeezing in some time to write. Now I have time, but the well is dry.

Oh, the ideas are there. This is not about writer’s block. No, this is about pulling emotions out of your core and putting it on the page. You know – writing. And writing is all about emotion, but filling out applications every day, signing up on the job boards, wading through the TONS of emails this generates, not to mention filing for unemployment benefits, which means filling out tedious government forms – well, I find it takes a toll. After several hours each day trying to convince strangers that I’d be an asset to their organization, my emotional well is as dry and lifeless as the Sahara.

There is redemption to this tale. While I might not have started out being empathetic to the plight of other writers, I did come to that place once I found myself similarly encumbered. So perhaps my arrival to this place of grace did not come about in the noblest of ways, but come about it did. Better by way of commonality than not at all. Smooches y’all!

Lorinda Peake

Lorinda Peake wrote her first ditty when she was ten on an English seashore while visiting her British grandmother. From then on, her family either acted in or were treated to plays, skits, or commercial spoofs. In school, she wrote poetry, fables and short stories.

Years later, she tossed down a particularly bad novel and thought, “I could do at least that well.” She’s been pursuing the elusive published novel ever since. Recently, she joined a group of fellow writers who decided to cajole, bully, encourage, and sometimes baby each other along towards the publishing goal by setting real and measurable writing objectives with “motivational” consequences for non-attainment.

Lorinda loves a good romance – all the more if it is wrapped in a great fantasy setting. She lives on the Texas Gulf Coast with her husband of 34 years.

4 thoughts on “A Little Empathy

  1. I think you are more empathetic than you give yourself credit for – you have plenty of empathy and sympathy for those you love. The rest is the details. Being unemployed is an emotional drain and so is all that ‘other crap’ – don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s okay to pause when life makes other demands. We ALL know you (all of us) will write again. We are like nicotine addicts – we takes pauses, but you can’t say you’ve quite until you’ve got 5 years sobriety. Or something like that. Oddly, my advice to you and to Dawn is the same – you’ll get through it. Let me know if I can do anything to help – the counselors couch is empty.

  2. Looking for a new job is itself a full-time job! So no worries on that account. No one here is going to toss stones your direction.

    That said, there’s also a difference between not writing because we’re emotionally and physically hammered, and not writing because we can’t tear ourselves away from Facebook or video games or HGN or any of the many, many ways we can find to distract ourselves… I’ve noticed that Facebook, which I secretly loathe, is fascinating on those days I don’t want to write. And you’re right: That’s on me.

    My challenge is not assuming that I know why someone else isn’t writing. My spiritual practice keeps reminding me there are only facts — Mary Sue isn’t writing — and anything else I add on to that statement is a story I’ve made up. I want to add on things like, “because she’s overworked right now,” or “because she doesn’t really want to write.” Either story might be true, but both stories are irrelevant because I don’t know.

    You’ll no doubt use your experience of emotions during this time to inform and deepen your characters. Live your life, Lorinda, enjoy your grandson, and good luck with your job search! When all that goodness hits the page, we’ll be here to read it.

    (Just don’t take too long. I want to see what happens next!)

  3. Perhaps its not a LACK of empathy but a total absorption in your own world — which is not the same thing as being self-centered. Before you lost your job, your life had an order, all the stuff in the middle of the day — you know, that earning a living nonsense — you did on autopilot. You took care of business, but doing so no longer took copious amounts of mental and emotional energy because it was habit. Kind of like repetitive driving. Sometimes, you look up and you’ve covered dozens of miles with no real memory of doing it because it no longer takes the lion share of your focus.

    Well, now the stuff in the middle of your day isn’t old hat and it’s taking the lion share of your focus, leaving your well dry. Take heart, soon enough, you’ll have another job and soon after that, you’ll be back to getting through that portion of your day on auto pilot.

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