Catching up


My apologies. I’ve been out of touch for weeks. First, there was the maddening illness, and then (more significantly) came revisions to a book proposal I was working on. Book proposals are strange creatures: you have to imagine an entire book which is not yet written, and then convince an editor that this not-yet-written book is worth her time.

Happy news! Editor liked the not-yet-written idea. This means that my next book is sold, and will be published at the beginning of 2014. (Note: this is for Canada only. US and UK rights have to be sold separately.) The book is really a follow up to Lonely. It will look at what we can do in *response* to loneliness. This is something that I didn’t spend much time on when writing Lonely. This was for two main reasons: 1. There wasn’t a lot of work available on the subject, and 2. My interests were really elsewhere. But now that Lonely is behind me, I feel like I have some unfinished business. I need to know what a person can do, on their own, to answer the loneliness in his or her life.

For this, I’m going to need volunteers. With Lonely, I worked with a core group of about 20 people, but I think my approach this time around will be more diffuse. I want to talk to various people about various things. So please keep your eye on this website. Some topics might interest you quite a lot, and you might feel like sharing your thoughts. I’ll be posting calls for volunteers on this page, and also on my seriously defunct Twitter stream.

Thanks for the notes and messages about my health. I’m all better now, and am looking forward to connecting with some of you in the months to come.



This entry was posted on Sunday, February 26th, 2012 at 4:03 pm and is filed under the category First Time Writer Stuff.

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26 Responses to “Catching up”

  1. Congratulations Emily, on both health and writing accounts. It will be enlightening to have some real, personal experiences (I hope!) to compare with the responses in your book.

  2. HMargaret said:

    Glad to hear you are feeling better Emily. Look forward to reading more on your blog about the new book.

  3. yolan.... said:

    Phew ….. I’m glad that you’re well! I was wondering if you were OK … and CONGRATULATIONS on the “sale” of your book proposal ……. that’s great news too. I’m sure that the US and UK will be easy now that you have Canada “under your belt”.

    Look forward to reading it ……. but 2 years is a really long time….!!!!

  4. Inspired said:

    Hi Emily,

    I am 28 years old woman passing through some very very difficult period of my life…. I am constantly struggling to feel
    better, and each time that I feel lonely, i would go online and look for things to relieve me of my pain … And by accident I found…

    I did not have much time to read about you, but it seems that these feelings are there since very very early….

    Me too, and I always ended up with lots of problems… so far no of them have killed me yet :-) I can say that I’m strong…

    I wish you all the best for your book :-) If you need some input as you said, I would be willing to help…. in fact it will help myself :-) … Sometimes you need just one little thing to feel better…
    Your site has just done that…. I constantly do that, move from 1 extreme feeling of despair to another extreme feeling of hope….

    Take Care of your health, your emotions, your feelings, your life!

  5. A New Yawker said:

    Two years !!!! Well, now I have something to live for.

  6. Congratulations, Emily! And glad you’re feeling better, too.

    I’m excited to see your questions to us in the coming months – I’ve been trying some now ways of getting involved with others and they’ve been really positive. I’d love to share to hear what others have tried, too!

  7. Li'l girl blue said:

    Hi Emily,

    I’m a mature-aged psychology student who has suffered from what I thought was only (pffft, “only”) depression for an embarrassingly long (and tragically ongoing!) chunk of my life.

    Conceivably all of it.

    Two days ago thanks to the weird wandering magic of the internet, I stumbled upon a podcast in which you talked about your book, and experienced the most cliched lightbulb moment imaginable. Loneliness is so stigmatised that I couldn’t even admit it to myself, and was instead maintaining this odd cast-iron-no-social-needs facade while gradually isolating myself into oblivion. Knowing that I was dangerously withdrawn, I was having terrible difficulty coping with the awareness that forcing myself into a social setting was actually physically distressing, and that solitude had the irresistable lure of predictability and was infinitely preferable to the ol’ surrounded-by-people-yet-utterly-alone.

    I possess functional social skills (when they’re not crippled by loneliness) and yet I find myself socially offline. Part of me KNEW it wasn’t just depression. Depression has its own distinct tone – this was something related, but experientially different.

    I’d be really keen to participate in your research in some way, out of both professional and personal interest! I live in Australia though…is that problematic!?

    I look forward to the arrival of your book, which I ordered immediately. Please keep up the wonderful work you have been doing – it has certainly shaken the solitary snowglobe of my world, and offered me some kind of new hope and direction in assembling a meaningful life.

    Thanks and respect.


  8. Heather said:

    Emily, this is good news! I’ll try to keep an eye on the blog. Have been cogitating endlessly over a phrase I ran across: Gregory Maguire wrote (in The Letter Q, an anthology of queer writers sending letters to their younger selves) advising himself against the “narcissism of loneliness,” a notion that hit me like a slap with an open palm. In fact I got so huffy about it–Narcissist? MOI?–that now I think he may have a point! Hard to tell, though.

  9. Hi Emily, congratulations on having acquired a publisher for your follow up book to ‘Lonely’!! I’d really like to participate when the time comes for you to seek responses from people about various questions/ideas you will pose — presumably on your blog. I’m also interested in finding out a little more about how you went about doing this for ‘Lonely’ as I would like to do the same thing. I heard your interview on ABC (Australia) radio on 14 Nov last year, and was intrigued by how you went about collecting stories and responses from people. At the momen I’m working on a writing project, tentatively called “Celebrating the Feminine”, and mainly concerned with the ways women respond to change in their lives, and exploring notions of agency and the feminine identity. I have approached various people I know who have experienced great challenges in their lives and who have overcome them in very interesting ways, but when it comes to discussing their experiences with me (to include in the book) they ‘fly away’ at great speed. There seems to be a fear about confidentiality, as well as the fear of the emotional ‘flood’ that might ensue when they recall particularly cathartic experiences (even tho’ I am more interested in the strategies they undertook, than the actual stories — but I guess they know that at least part of the story must be explained). I wondered whether you’ve come across any literature/research that talks about such ‘silences’, or could link me up with something in your blog where you talk about your experience for ‘Lonely’ in engaging with respondents. Many thanks, Agnes.

  10. Dear Emily,

    I was just thinking of you tonight and thought “I wonder if Emily is now recovered from her illness?”

    Glad you have returned to your page here on the blog. There is nothing worse than recovering from a very nasty flu or pneumonia. Even after the symptoms are pretty well gone, there you are feeling just weak, worn out and it takes weeks to really get your energy back.

    As others have said, “Welcome back and congratulations on the new book deal.”

    Emily, you know one of the great things about your blog are the comments. Some of them, I do identify with a lot and others make me want to write to the person and make them realize that they are not, not ever alone!

    To: A NewYawker – there are so many more reasons to value your life even if it is just going out and looking for some spring flowers beginning to show their flowers again. I send my blessings to you from the other coast, on the West Coast.

    To: Inspired – At 28, sometimes life can just seem just so awful. Sometimes it is but believe truly that it’s not forever. I hope that you will return to Emily’s blog site and comment again. I feel like everyone who comments here is not only explaining themselves but also allowing others to know that they really are not alone. I will pray that in time your life will begin to bring gifts to your days.

    I will also be very happy and willing to write and give you some of my own input about this topic of ‘What to do about Loneliness’ which is more often not due to any fault of our own.

    One little suggestion for anyone who would like to explore what to do with others doing activities that you enjoy. Explore the website as it’s an endless list of various interest groups in cities all over the world. I am currently taking Conversational French classes, held at a Starbucks, weekly for 10 weeks. Just a suggestion.

    Bon soir, mais amis! Bonne journée!

  11. @ Agnes: You might have more luck connecting with people you don’t know, rather than with acquaintances. You need to ensure confidentiality and stick with your promises 100%. The Internet is a great way to connect with people … websites, online message boards, etc. Good luck!

  12. Yes, I will do that, then, Emily. That’s very helpful advice, thank you very much!!

  13. Hi Emily
    Pleased that you are all OK and another book is in the pipeline.
    Keep up the good work and look after yourself.

    kind regards, Doug – Australia

  14. Hilary said:

    Hi Emily

    Congratulations on getting the go-ahead for your next book.

    This whole “lonely” thing is not something that non-lonely people can possibly relate to. After struggling with it myself for a lifetime I am no closer to fathoming it out. All I know is that it appears to be down to a sense of not connecting to others in the way that “regular” people do. I don’t think the answer is in any formula or particular effort on anyone’s part to eradicate it. I’ve tried every idea in the book and still have come up short of a solution. I’ve come to accept that I am the way I am, and would be more than happy to discuss these acceptances with you for your new book if that is what you are asking from your volunteers.

    All I know is that we are not unfriendly people or anti -social people or selfish people or unlovable people, or even so weird that nobody would want to be our friend. ( All labels I have had dumped on me at times in my long life, and foolishly believed, but not anymore.)There is something different about us, but that difference is our uniqueness.

    Thank you Emily for bringing this subject out into the open so that we can discuss it and learn from one another.

  15. Hilary,
    I so agree with your comments. Who knows whether there are certain personality traits that lead to this ‘loneliness’ life that many of us who comment here have as a daily existence.

    I agree with your thoughts that mostly we are not an anti-social individual. In my case definitely not, as if I meet others, even strangers, I am outgoing and interactive as anyone else in a group.

    Yesterday, for example, I was horrified to watch an older man with a white cane walk across a fairly busy street on a red light. As he approached where I was standing, (and I had yelled across the road for him not to cross, but he didn’t hear me) I introduced myself and said that he had crossed on a red traffic light. I suggested that maybe he could wait for someone before crossing and then he’d know the light was green. He appreciated my suggestion and said he wasn’t in the area often and was looking for a barber shop.

    I offered to help him find it and asked another lady walking by where it was located. It was a block away and so for that one block walk, this older man and I had a very nice talk. It turned out he had lived where my parents had lived and even had a summer home near where my dad had lived for many years. I introduced him when we reached the barber shop and said goodbye.

    To reinforce your comments, I doubt the majority of the population would feel comfortable doing such a kind act and yet I didn’t hesitate. So, I agree, lonely doesn’t equate with anti-social at all.

    Over many years, I’ve volunteered for various organizations, joined a few clubs, attended both colleges and universities – some for up to nearly 3 years, worked in one hospital unit for over 15 years, but really it didn’t add to my social life except to fill those hours engaged in activities. My home was always that lonely place, I really think, and it’s the same today.

    The other day, I was thinking that since i ended my 4 years of caregiving my dad when he died 3 years ago, I’ve only had 7 individuals spend any time in my home. I have a nice home which is perfectly acceptable and normal as homes go.

    Sometimes it just ends up being that others are busy with their families, their careers and their own activities.

    Being older, retired and without any family at all in the country where I live, without children, and friends who’ve moved out of the big city, my social interactions are mainly by emails.

    But it is not the same as interpersonal warmth, a friendly hug, empathy or exchanging jokes. That is a huge loss in a life but being an only child, I was almost programmed for being lonely as many of my childhood memories are of being on my own.

    Even socializing has changed. Folks most often don’t call on the phone, but text or email. No one writes letters for a recipient to read over and over with that personal touch of handwriting. Emails just don’t have that connection from the other person as a letter does.

    So, I feel that the extent now of isolation is even greater than it was 10 years ago.

    Even mentioning it to others, it really doesn’t seem to give them pause to think about my solitary life in a big city. For so many folks now, if it’s not about them, it’s not worth thinking about. So, even though I mention that phone calls would be great, nothing changes and my phone is silent.

    I’m sure it’s the same for many who read these comments.

    As I have said before, we are individually very strong folks. We cope with something that is difficult indeed. I am grateful for Emily’s courage in writing her book and creating this place for comments. It’s definitely helpful and I find other’s comments very informative. I always find more to think about too.


  16. I totally agree with your comments Hilary.
    Being lonely is like somehow having a pane of glass that separates me from other people. It is not that I especially enjoy being lonely and I want friendships, it just does not seem to come naturally. Of course I think a lot of lonely people are naturally introverted which means that their social skills are not highly developed in the area of developing relationships easily.
    All introverts need time on their own and time to reflect on the vagaries of life but they also crave to be part of life and not to be lonely.
    I look at other people and wonder how they all connect up so easily and form friendships. It hs always puzzled me but at least we know we are not alone in our situations.

  17. Glad you’re back and better!
    I was wondering – and hoping – that you might write about solutions.
    I just wrote a book for Kindle about the things that helped me get over my loneliness and I have to say that one of the biggest things was reading your book because for the first time I could really believe that this wasn’t a problem that was unique to me and that was a huge eye-opener. Just knowing that made the most enormous amount of difference. I can’t wait for your new book!

  18. The New Yawker said:

    Emily, I come back to this blog (the ONLY blog I follow) about every two weeks – when I need it. And it always brings tears to my eyes and amazement to my senses to realize that others experience this “pane of glass”. And it props me up. Thanks muchly.

    Emily, if there’s heaven, you’re going there. Have you seen Albert Brooks’ “Defending Your Life” ?

  19. Hilary said:

    Thanks Doug for responding to my comments. I feel less lonely already although I see that you live in Australia and I live in Canada, so we’re not going to meet! ( I’m not hitting on you as I’m married, and no, that didn’t take away my feeling of isolation. )

    Yes, you are correct in mentioning that many people in our category are natural introverts, but we still want connection on our own terms, don’t we? Why can’t we achieve that? Is it that in order to be connected, we have to sell ourselves so completely that there is nothing left of us afterwards?

    I like company when I want company, but I can’t stand being dragged around from one social event to another, from one stupid small talk party to another, and being told that this is good for me. I know what is good for me, and it isn’t that!

    I don’t like solution based books either. I see that Emily is still trying to find what works, and she’s written a book on the subject!

    I wrote a book for my family to help them understand what makes me tick, and they still haven’t got it. I’m almost at the end of rewriting it for hopeful publication, but it isn’t a I’ve got it all together book and if you do this or that you will get it together too, kind of book. (That’s probably why it will never get published in my lifetime.) I’ve come to realize how unique I am. There’s no-one like me in the entire world. I live inside my skin and gaze out at the world with my unique pair of eyes. I see things that no-one else sees, in a way that no-one else does. Once in a while I will share these things with another traveller on my pathway of life, but mostly I tread it alone.

    Is that always a bad thing? I don’t think so. I am not prepared to sacrifice my uniqueness for shallow conversation and useless activities. Mind you, this revelation and acceptance did not come easily or instantly. No, it came via much pain and confusion, but it did come, and that’s the important thing.

    Take each day for what it gives, and love yourself. Be kind to all you meet (Plato’s advice) and I wish you well.

  20. To Jenp: yes, I can relate what you’re saying about discovering that you’re not alone in ‘feeling alone’, and how Emily’s book has been a great comfort in this respect.

    To Doug: And what you’re saying, too, Doug, about personality being a factor in the experience of ‘feeling alone’ I can relate to. Although I hesitate to categorise myself or anyone else in any way, those of us whose predominant mode is reflective, contemplative, and introspective, and a bit cautious socially, do find it harder to open up to people until we feel ‘safe’ with them, or feel that we can relate to them in the ways that matter to us.

    Having high principles that we stand by in the way we live our lives, or values that may be a little different from the main populace, can also make some of us be more discriminating in terms of choosing friends, or finding groups to join where we feel we can ‘fit in’. So a sense of belonging is probably what is often missing. I guess this is why a lot of people throw themselves into their work, where they do feel they can contribute in ways that are meaningful and fulfilling to them — writing being one of those wonderful pursuits!!

    At this point in my life I have been single for about the same length of time that I was married (21 yrs for each period) and kind of loneliness I experienced when I had a partner was much more devastating than anything I’ve felt while living by myself — the sense of powerlessness was profound. As a single person I have a lot more freedom to choose ways of shifting out of this state. And as time has gone on, I have learned to act more quickly at the first signs of the feeling emerging, and have tried to be more proactive in making sure I have ‘things going on’ at weekends or long holiday periods.

    Yes, I can’t wait for your next book, too, Emily!!

  21. Jessica said:

    Fantastic and congrats on the sale of your book! Look forward to hearing (and participating in??) more, as the story progresses!

  22. Forsythia said:

    Just found this website by chance….and am finding that many of the comments on here ring true with me. Doug’s comments about living life through ‘a pane of glass’ are particularly insightful, as it is the exact same metaphor that I have used all my life. I have often looked at other people and wondered how they connect so easily, and so well to others; it just looks like magic to me! I also, am not weird, or strange, or even unusual. I have functioning social skills, am deemed ‘jolly’ by work colleagues, and, over the years, have had friends. But I don’t ever seem to fully engage. I am a reasonably bright, fairly well-educated, moderately creative, mature woman, with a couple of great (almost) grown kids, and a failed marriage behind me. I left the marriage because I felt lonely there. I thought that marriage was the one place that someone should be on the inside of the glass, not on the outside, should be a soulmate and a partner. The pain of coming to terms with the fact that he wasn’t these things, was too great to bear, and I had to walk away to be truly alone… Does that make sense to anyone? I’d like to take part in this study. I feel I have finally found a group of like minds…

  23. HMargaret said:

    Forsythia, your comments are excellent and moved me a lot. I often feel as if I am living life through a “pane of glass”. I’m single, in my fifties, and to be honest have very few friends. I am well liked at work, but at the end of the day everybody goes home to their friends and families. I have an education, but due to a poor economy when I graduated ended up in office adminsitration positions. Since my fellow co-workers often had considerably less education, I always had to be cautious about what I said, mentioning books that read etc. I would still socialize but to be honest I didn’t have much in common with most of them. I haven’t had the luck to live in neighbourhoods where I could meet people – most of the women in my age group were married/attached, raising families and/or had careers. I purchased a condominium a few years ago and had great hopes when I moved in -finally I might be able to meet some people. Due my working evening shifts at my job, and the cultural make up of the residents, it’s been a failure. I’ve even tried the local church – the volunteer program seems geared to those who have time in the evening or daytime. However, I still remain positive that maybe my situation will change.

  24. Hilary said:


    You must be strong if you walked out of your marriage for those reasons.

    I’ve been married for forty six years. My children are all grown and I, too, find myself alone, even though my husband is still with me. When we were young, I believed he was my soul mate. I believed he was that other half of me that for some reason was missing from my troubled life. I clung onto him when I ought to have been seeking myself. I didn’t even know who I was, let alone promise this unknown person to another person in a lifetime marriage commitment. When I reached my fifties, I gradually discovered the real me, and began the process of being true to myself. It’s hard for my husband, and my kids, because they don’t understand that I was actually living a lie as I struggled through the machinations of raising my family and doing my best to be a wife.

    I admire the stand you’ve taken in order to save yourself, but for me, I think it would simply be too painful to leave. Mind you, it’s painful at times to stay, not being understood, and not being able to share my deepest feelings and feel supported. Like you said, you have finally found a group of like minds, so let’s help each other.

  25. Lynne said:

    Hi, Emily. I have just read a newspaper magazine from last year and was lucky enough to come across & read your article “This Life” which inspired me to look up your website and your book. The comments I read from other’s, seem to be describing my life and personality. I am so moved to learn that it isn’t just me who feels so lonely, especially at a time where, due to redundancy, I have no real friendships to rely on as backup when needed. Like Forysthia, I too, had lots of work colleages who always thought me to be the reliable, happy and outgoing one, I’m not sure how I even gave that impression. I have been inspired when reading everyone’s comments and thoughts, and particularly your article on volunteer work, as that is an area I was considering. Thank you, I look forward to reading more.

  26. Hi Emily

    Thank you for voicing my thoughts for me. I look forward to reading more from you also.

    I found the Meetup groups on and am really excited about the board games group near me, the cycling and walking and fitness group, I may also pick up flamenco guitar and salsa in the park, and am applying for a community garden plot with new friends.

    We have come full circle, when social networking facilitates getting together again to pursue our common interests together, like the washing circle at the village well.

    Happy 2013

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