Left alone for too long

Does turning on lamps *turn on lamps*? IMAGE: Gordon Wrigley, Flickr CC
Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

For the past couple months I’ve been writing a book. Writing a book is something you do alone. Nobody really wants to talk to you about your book. They just want to break the awkward silence that comes from sitting next to an author.

People want to hear that you’re almost done. They want to know when they can buy it (the book). Or, more accurately, when they can check it out from the library. Or, even more accurately, when they can pick up the book, turn it over, flip through the pages, and gently set it back down.

No, authors work alone.

Some people can’t stand being alone but it’s always come easy to me. A little too easy. Too many miles on the road and I start reading every sign I see in funny voices. A few miles more and that’s how I talk to the gas station clerk at the next pit stop. A few days away and I come back bleary eyed like a miner that’s been trapped underground for 42 days.

Sitting at a desk in my house I get a little edgy. Talking to my coffee cup. I start thinking about the things around me, ascribing human characteristics to inanimate objects.

For instance, what do lamps want? I mean, if you were a lamp would you be glad when people turned you on, or when people turned you off? I suppose each would provide its own fleeting form of relief.

What if turning on lamps, “turns on lamps.” If that’s the case, then how frustrating is it for lamps that we keep them on opposite sides of the room. Lamps can’t take cold showers. It’s deadly.

As long as we’re in the bathroom, consider this. Do toilets enjoy their work? I don’t think I could live with myself if they didn’t. So I have to imagine they do. And if toilets like being toilets then toilets must, on some level, need to be toilets. And that means that at some point toilets will not be denied. Only our base biological functions prevent us from finding out what happens if we do.

It only gets worse from there. When you spend too much time by yourself you start making decisions about what to wear based on whether you plan to leave the house or not. But after a few more weeks you no longer care. By the end of if you start hearing things like, “I’m sorry, sir, Dollar General has a dress code.”

You gotta stay active, too. We see tigers pacing their cages at the zoo. Have we considered that they might just be trying to get their hourly FitBit steps. I’ve worn a rut in the living room carpet.

Sometimes it’s good to be alone. You can recharge, learn a few things about yourself. But you’ve got to talk to people, too. Otherwise you end up listening to your brain. In the old cartoons people would see an angel and a devil on their shoulders. They would argue the morality of some important decision, such as whether or not to violently dismember a cartoon mouse.

When I’m by myself too long I don’t have an angel and devil telling me what to do. I have just one voice. It’s not an evil voice or a particularly virtuous one. It’s just a impulsive, largely misinformed voice.

Kind of like a having a satellite dish installer giving you advice on everything. Sometimes he makes sense. And he certainly knows about satellite dishes. But his instincts aren’t perfect. I think he’s high but I can’t prove it.

Fortunately my wife and kids come home each night to provide me emergency doses of reality. Before long the book will be done and I’ll go back to normal. Whatever that means.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and is the creator of the Great Northern Radio Show which aired for eight years on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.


  1. I understand. I hope reintegration goes well. The book will be great.

    Remember your battery may not recharge as optimally as it did before you entered the cave. Exiting the cave can be treacherous. Good to be aware of potential poor battery performance. Give the battery time to regain optimal charging capabilities. You don’t want to be out there in the light with a dead battery and no shelter for retreat. The solar powered types will not understand. So it is important for all us recharging types to support each other.

    We have to approach our external realities with full intention and awareness. I recently entered a scenario without adjusting my charger or battery. Charger was sketchy. Battery could not reach proper functioning. Potential for spiral was apparent. Thankfully caught myself. Created intention. Now consciously working to adjust battery and charger. The awareness is integral.

    Hope all goes well. . .

  2. David Kannas says

    I’m always about a year behind in reading these delightful stories about this and that. This story is one of my favorites. You see, I’m a writer of no note. One published novel and many articles, I suppose, qualify me as a writer. To assure solitude, I write in our RV. A big part of the novel was written while I camped at a state park in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. The first signing event following publication was at a book store near that camp. It was December when there should have been crowds of skiers there. There was no snow that year, only bruising cold. The signing was attended by the store owner, my wife, and me. Even that event was in near solitude. So, yes I understand the solitude thing. But I guess I have the advantage of having Finnish heritage. Finns love their solitude, after all.

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