*Non-Movie Star Ennui: The Lonely Life of the Writer

Young woman in summer dress sitting on old sofa drinking teaI’m suffering from a serious case of ennui, which is the French word for boredom and the result of having retired from my “real job” about seven years ago. It should make me feel better knowing the French have given it such an elegant name, but it doesn’t. Honestly, I awoke the other morning and even before I opened my eyes I was embroiled in an argument with myself as to whether it was Tuesday or Wednesday. I finally rolled over and grabbed my cell phone to settle it. Things could’ve gotten ugly, really ugly.

The reality hit me as I watched this movie called SOMEWHERE, written and directed by Sophia Coppola. It starts out with a guy driving a black Ferrari around a boring track in the dessert. The scene goes on for what feels like an interminable amount of time. Around and around … around and around. The car shifting up, the car shifting down, the car shifting up, the car shifting down. Up and down, around and around, I nearly lost my mind. I don’t think there were more than a few lines of dialogue for the first twenty-five minutes. Frustrated, I jumped online and looked up the movie on Wikipedia to decide whether to stick with it or not.

The synopsis said it was about something called ‘movie star ennui.’ The kind of stuff that gets people like Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, and Brittany Spears in trouble. Too much money, too much time on their hands, too much time to think … drink … do drugs… or maybe … not think at all.

Soon after I retired, Jane Pauley said I had to reinvent myself. So I decided to be a writer. It sort of came to me in a dream, I know that sounds hokey, but it really did. All told, I’ve written nearly six novels, pretty productive, but here’s the problem. I spend all day in a fantasy world sitting with my computer on my lap. It keeps my mind active, but my body? Not so much. If I didn’t hit the gym every morning I’d be a total recluse. Not to mention my ass would be the size of… well, let’s not go there.

The young author of Divergent was on TV the other day and when the interviewer asked if she ever imagined she’d be living the glamorous life of a best-selling author as she toiled away on her first novel she replied: “Well, while I was toiling away on the first book, I was in my parents house in rubber ducky pajamas and…”

Well there you go. Since I became a writer I’ve spent countless days in a nightshirt with no makeup. I manage to brush my teeth, shower and wash my hair, so at least I’m clean. You need to really know me to understand how ridiculous that sounds. Before I became a writer, I could count the number of days I didn’t bother to make myself presentable on two hands and I probably had the flu for most of them. I do it for myself, not for anyone in particular. When I delivered my first son, I arrived at the hospital at four o’clock in the morning with my makeup perfect and my hair to match. The nurses called me ‘the one with the makeup.’ Luckily my son was born in under an hour and I didn’t have to break a sweat, makeup and hair intact. I’m not bragging, although I do thank my lucky stars I had one of those faster-than-a-speeding-bullet deliveries. Of course I was in transition by the time I got to the hospital, but hell, I had no idea. I kept thinking: if the first hour is this bad, I’m definitely going to be a crying, blithering baby myself before I deliver this kid. Instead it was … first contraction at 3:30, baby in my arms by 5. Spectacular arrival, Jared. Thanks a bunch!

I have no right to be bored. Well, I have a right, I guess, and many people might envy my state of ennui. It’s not like I haven’t looked for new things to do. I joined a hiking club, worked at the local aquarium, took a big consulting job for a while, teach the occasional college class, did a few stints on Match.com and eHarmony. After the most recent hurricane crisis I even thought about joining the Red Cross and going abroad to help the needy. But you have to spend nearly $5000 to volunteer overseas and I decided I wasn’t that bored. I’ve looked for opportunities to volunteer in my community but I live in a resort community and there aren’t that many needy people around.

I did a little traveling, but quickly comprehended it’s not where you go, but who you’re traveling with that matters. So I realize now that it’s not things to do I need, it’s people to do things with. Two of my friends still work full time so they don’t have much time to hang out, and one of them is in serious financial distress so even when she is free she can’t afford to do anything. I would pay her way, but that just makes her feel bad. And my other friends, ones I’ve known for twenty or thirty years, aren’t around much. Two go to Florida for the winter months and happen to still be married, so that’s trouble right there. My other friend, who’s divorced like me and lives about twenty minutes away, requires a blast of C4 to get her out of the house. And don’t get me started on the number of people I know who’ve keeled over in the past seven years. Makes you want to give more meaning to the years you have left.

Don’t get me wrong, I love writing. And I’d have totally lost my mind if I hadn’t found this wonderful world of fantasy.  It’s just that it doesn’t exactly get you out of the house. I have a ton of new writer friends, but I’ve never met most of them in person. I share some of my most intimate feelings with them and yet I wouldn’t recognize their voices if they were standing right in front of me. It’s pretty sad if your best friends are “virtual” friends. Me and Manti Te’o!

You probably think I wrote this so I could give you some tips on how to overcome the lonely life of the writer. Well, I got nothing here. My only escape seems to be to relocate. I have a lot of family in another state and moving to a city where life is more stimulating seems to be my only solution.

Well, gotta run… not really, but it is time for dinner. Another problem. I love to cook, but cooking for one just annoys me. The work, the cleanup, and I eat too much, and then I’m stuck with the leftovers for a few days and I get sick of eating the same thing. Cooking for one is really, really hard. And don’t even get me started about sitting at the table by yourself. And, oh yeah, I’ll take some wine with my whine, thank you very much…make it a French wine.

*Adapted from my personal essay entitled “Non-Movie Star Ennui”

Up Next From Caryn: Writing the Perfect Pitch



Author: Caryn McGill

Caryn is a former high school science teacher, school district administrator and adjunct college professor.

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