Writing is a lonely business. That’s what they say. Well, it’s what Ernest Hemingway said anyway. He proclaimed that “writing, at its best, is a lonely life.”

But is it true?

For me, writing is a way of connecting, of reaching out, of using my voice. Writing is a way of becoming visible. It can feel like shouting from the rooftops, like a rallying cry. It can express anger, pain, or delight. It can be an opportunity to make a point, clearly and concisely, without interruption. It is a way of telling stories – real or imagined – and taking the reader on a journey of my own making. It can creatively weave theory into something more tangible. It can bring academic argument to life. It can have an agenda and be trying to change hearts and minds. It can feel like a form of activism.

But is the process of writing a lonely one? Hmmm.

John Green, bestselling author of The Fault in our Stars, famously said “Writing is something you do alone. It’s a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.” Maybe that’s true. Well, not the bit about introverts and eye contact. Not necessarily anyway. But maybe it is something that you do alone, and maybe it is about telling a story.

Stories are told for a purpose. To entertain. To educate. To spark curiosity and interest. To persuade. Stories have a flow and a pace and rhythm. They have a beginning, middle and end. Stories have, well, a story.

They also have a listener. A reader. A viewer. Stories need to be heard. They are caught in the middle of the relationship between the storyteller and the audience. They are dynamic. They are alive.

And this is where we come back to loneliness.

When I was a university academic, I had very little connection with any sense of audience. Who was reading my work? Was anyone reading it? What did they think? Did they agree with what I was saying? Were they persuaded by my arguments, my research, my data? Was anyone out there at all? I was driven by a deep-seated desire to change the world but was anyone in the world paying attention?

The climate of academia is a competitive one. People write. People read. People critique and argue and pull things apart. Academic papers are scrutinised and scored and given a star rating. Academics strive to be ‘world changing’ and yet are pushed to write in a style that is inaccessible to all but a few. The irony.

The process of writing, as an academic, could feel lonely. It could also feel pointless. I left my university position because I had lost confidence in the system and, by default, I had lost sight of the value of what I was doing.

But I know that writing is valuable. Words are powerful and writing can change the world. Especially writing by people who are activists, changemakers, campaigners and practitioners.

Writing is powerful when it has an audience. Writing by changemakers needs to have an audience. This is where the change happens.

And this is the antidote to loneliness.

Writing is a solitary business. But it can also be connecting and purposeful and motivating. Connecting with others, building solidarity with others, and encouraging others are powerful ways to combat loneliness.

Write On, Changemakers.

This doesn’t have to feel lonely.