Joy Ann Ribar is the author of the Deep Lakes Cozy Mystery series. You can find out more about her on her website www.joyribar.com, or by clicking here, read her last post here, and find her books here.
In 2020, my commuter husband John started working remotely, which turned into a permanent situation, since his job as a software engineer could be accomplished via home and a lot of Zoom meetings. Sound familiar?
We loved the savings in time and money because my hubby cut his commute from over an hour to just a dozen steps upward to the office: My writing space.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe in sharing, and John and I are close friends as well as spouses. There’s something fun about the ability to share a thought or piece of news in real time during the day. And it’s sweet when John brings me an extra cup of coffee or tasty nibbles on his break. The music he listens to while he writes program code isn’t necessarily my favorite, nor is it beneficial to my day to eavesdrop on his three-hour video chat meetings from my perch four feet away…
It only took a few weeks before I moved my computer and other writing paraphernalia downstairs to the dining room. This move prompted me to muse upon why writing is such an isolating profession.
When I was a teacher, a group of us attended a workshop about cooperative learning in the classroom. As an icebreaker, we answered questions on a website called Kingdomality. The end result produced a label for each person, representing a suitable role each would play in a medieval kingdom, based on our individual answers to personality questions.
Collectively, we were white knights, black knights, shepherds, prime ministers, merchants, scientists, builders, minstrels, etc. My role was The Discoverer, with a goal of going where no one else has ever gone before (kind of like Star Trek, I guess). My favorite part of the description is this: Regardless of the number of available natural problems to be solved, it is not unusual for you to continually challenge yourself with new situations or obstacles that you have created.
Yes, I’ve often said I’m my own worst enemy. Creating obstacles and new situations is a defining characteristic of an author, right? The applicable point here is, however, that I’m not convinced writing has to be done in isolation. My memories of Kingdomality, that cooperative learning workshop, and leading students in clustered projects and discussions reminded me that there is a time and place for joining forces, sharing ideas and skills, and creating something that one individual could not create alone.
I’m not going to wring my hands and discuss the cloistered side of our profession, because all writers know we must spend a certain amount of time in solitude to produce our art. Instead, I want to offer a few suggestions to make writing a little less lonely:
- Join a writing group of any kind. Whether you meet in person or online, formally or informally, read or critique each other’s pieces, it’s all good. Misery loves company and so does victory. We need people to lean on and celebrate with.
- Consider writing in a public space, maybe a library, but I’m thinking of places where there is hubbub. Why? Writers need fodder, and public conversations and activities provide it. When I sit and listen and observe others, I’m soaking in appearances, modes of movement and poses, speech patterns and anecdotes. I become a creative thief. Sometimes, this is just what we need to refresh our craft.
- Take a class or workshop. Writers learn from each other, so a writing class can help us fine tune our work or remind us of the reason we’re doing this. Or, take a class that isn’t about writing at all, and see how it can refuel your imagination. I’m going to take a course on oenology.
- Less can often be more. To be a good writer, you don’t have to spend every waking moment in your writing cave, surrounded by quiet. Spending time away from writing is often exactly what I need to find my passion and artistry again and restore some balance to my world.
What ideas can you offer to make writing a less lonely occupation?