Reading Notebook #24: Our Life at the Office Is (In Fact) Important

Solitude by Anthony Storr

From Solitude by Anthony Storr:

Human beings need a sense of being part of a larger community than that constituted by the family. The modern assumption that intimate relationships are essential to personal fulfillment tends to make us neglect the significance of relationships which are not so intimate. …

The fact that a man is part of a hierarchy, and that he has a particular job to carry out, gives his life significance. It also provides a frame of reference through which he perceives his relation with others. In the course of daily life, we habitually encounter many people with whom we are not intimate, but who nevertheless contribute to our sense of self. …

Relationships of this kind play a more important role in the lives of most of us than is generally recognized. When people retire from work in offices or institutions, they miss the familiar figures who used to provide recognition and affirmation. It is generally accepted that most human beings want to be loved. The wish to be recognized and acknowledged is at least as important. …

People who have a special need to be recognized, perhaps because their parents accorded them little recognition in childhood, are attracted to office life for this reason. …

Intimate attachments are a hub around which a person’s life revolves, not necessarily the hub.

Posted in Friendship, Life Philosophy, Love, Reading, Work-Life.

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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Fascinating and germane to a long chat today with a life-long missionary. Significance trumps “success”. The one reverberates outward the other too often disintegrates inward. He was beginning an auto-bio and wondered how that differs from a memoir. He doesn’t want a “successful” book, but wants it to linger on lives. Where do I go to catch for him important differences in memoirs and auto-biographies?

kat magendie
kat magendie

Some of this applies to the author’s/writer’s life – the need for ‘recognition and attention’ – but alternatively, the author/writer is often alone, encased.

It is facinating.


I wonder if Americans are particularly lax in honoring these secondary relationships with ritual &/or other ways to extend continuity? Years ago, I went all the way through graduate school with the same 14 people, studying, having lunch together, etc. It’s amazing to me how quickly we scattered, never to keep touch again in any way. Same thing with several workplaces. And yet these people still show up in my dreams from time to time. What a curious void between the two scenarios, a void into which plenty of retired people, for instance, fall. Defining these relationships *as* actual relationships,… Read more »