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The Not So Solitary Writer

April 14, 2009

Dale is unable to post today, so long-time reader Benjamin will be filling in the void. THANK YOU BENJAMIN!

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The beginning of Brenton’s post on writers online got me thinking of how I’m different to most writers. I hate my alone time.

The romantic idea of writers being so dedicated to their craft that they shun everyone around them, and lock themselves in a room for months does not appeal to me in the slightest.

I get bored if I’m alone for long stretches of time. The silence of me, and only me, occupying my house on rare nights freaks me out and I’m forced to put music, to do anything to make noise. No, the solitary writer’s life is not for me.

So does this mean I’m doomed as a writer? I sure hope not. Do you have to shut yourself away from the world in order to fulfill that dream of writing a novel? I actually don’t think you have to.

I like to interact with people through forums, blogs and even speaking to people in real life. Sure, in order to get the words down it’s best not to be talking or whatever, but if I pause at the end of a paragraph, sip my herbal tea like the vain aesthetically minded person I am, I like to look up and see someone there so I can go, “I just wrote 1,000 words,” or “That part was really cool.”

I guess this isn’t possible all the time so maybe I need to start talking to myself – and answering back.

Does anyone else not like the idea of the solitary writer’s life?

Benjamin is a Marxist horror writer from Melbourne, Australia. He lives with his partner, Margo, who should be commended for not getting sick of him. You can read more from Benjamin at http://benjaminsolah.com/blog

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5 Comments
  1. April 14, 2009 7:28 am

    Personally, when I am ‘on’ as a writer, I can write when I’m alone or when I’m in a group or when I’m sitting in a cramped train car with broken air conditioning in the middle of summer. When I am in that special writing place in my mind, I can accomplish great things no matter what’s going on around me.

    But when I am not ‘on’ as a writer, I will often do much better when I am writing with others who are also writing. Music helps, sometimes, but other times it is nothing more than a distraction. When I’m struggling to find that special writing place, being around general noise or distraction makes it worse, as I tend to get distracted or lost.

    I enjoy NaNoWriMo and Script Frenzy for the group effort involved, comparing word counts, comparing worst or best scenes, etc. I don’t know if it is the competition or the comiseration or the general increase in creativity, but being with others for that specific event is truly helpful, at least to me.

    In the end, I need a blend. I can’t stomach the typical ‘solitary writer’ mentality, simply because for my writing and my writing style (mediocre as they may be), I need to be around people at least some of the time. But there are days where the only way that I’ll accomplish anything at all is to get myself locked up in a little room with nothing but me and my writing tools of the day, be they notebook and pen or a computer with wifi turned off. Some days, it just won’t happen any other way.

  2. April 14, 2009 8:43 am

    I am with you Rob – I am not one nor the other. The image of the pained and tortured soul of an artist is self indulgent and a little boring I am afraid.

    I carry small note books about – student exercise books and many scraps of paper stuffed into my purse with notes on them have formulated my next story or article. As a mum – you snatch the time to write where you can.

    I do however enjoy my time alone – at night – when everyone is asleep – to collect my thoughts – and allow characters to voice their opinions on where the plot may be going (or getting lost – as the case may be)

    I particularly enjoy writing – either on the end of a skype call – or when she has her computer set up beside mine – with Jodi – as we do as you say Benjamin – look up and read out a particularly cool paragraph or share a milestone. I might add that there have been many chapters of Captain Juan written with the aid of a bottle or red wine whilst hanging out at my parents farm house in the mountains.

  3. April 14, 2009 5:56 pm

    Sometimes I like to lock myself away and work, but I still need social time. This is why I will often work in coffee shops; there are people nearby but I don’t have to interact with them right then.

    Also, I think every writer needs and deserves a community of fellow writers. That’s one of the most important reason to take classes. When I teach – especially when I teach online – I try to foster community.

  4. April 15, 2009 3:38 am

    I’m a balance (ha – there’s that word again … between the two. Like Annie I love the quiet of night (and also morning) to write, but that has only come about since I became a mother.

    I have a theory about where people source their inspiration and their interaction with the outside world … and why some writers can happily exist on their own working and why others need the interaction and stimulation of others.

    I’ve been meaning to put it all down – so I think I have my post for next week.

    Great to see an article from you Benjamin!

  5. April 15, 2009 6:15 pm

    Alison, I’ve been meaning to do the coffee shop thing.

    And thanks Jodi! Look forward to your post.

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