Before this years NanoWriMo, a lot of people told me that they were planning to lock themselves away for most of the month in order to avoid distractions and start writing alone. They thought it was the only way for them to get the words down on the page. If they didn’t do this they would never reach the word count they were aiming for. However, isolated writing is difficult to achieve and could be counter-productive to your writing. So, before you start locking your loved ones out of your home office, consider if it the right technique for you.
It may be controversial, but I think that trying to isolate yourself from the outside world could, in the long run, harm your writing.
For most, writing alone is a myth
A lot of writers lock themselves in a room to remove distractions. They will tell those around them that they are not to be disturbed and sit in a room with a laptop and start to write away. At least, that’s the dream.
Most will have their cell phone with them. It might be on silent, it might be turned off, but it will still be there. Others will have an internet browser open in the background. Is it really for research? And some (and I never understand this) will have the TV on in the background.
It’s clear to me that writing alone – totally alone – doesn’t exist anymore…
Do any of the above sound familiar? When I spoke to people about this blog post, some argued that they achieve isolation every day. So I tested them with a text message during the time they had told me they do most of their writing. Quick as a flash, a reply came back. I won’t name anyone, but I will make them feel better by letting them know that they are definitely not alone.
The extreme option: a cabin in the woods
There are some options for true isolation, or course. Head off for a writing retreat, or hire a cabin away from civilisation in the mountains. For most writers though, those options are out of reach as they are either prohibitively expensive or potentially damaging to important relationships. While they represent total and complete isolation, they are also temporary measures. You can’t live your entire live on a writing retreat, or in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. How will you email your story to anyone?
Embrace your lack of isolation
The public writer
I’m writing this blog post in a coffee shop. Tragic and clichéd I know, but nevertheless I find the atmosphere conducive to getting a lot of blog words down in a short space of time. When the post is finished, I will crack on with my Nanowrimo story. I’m doing this because at home there are a number of other distractions that will get in the way.
The great thing about being so un-isolated is that, if I take a break from the screen for 5 minutes, I can observe the world around me, and wonder if it will fit into my story. I think that’s one of the greatest benefits to working in a public place. It more than makes up for the ‘douche in the corner’ image so many people have of public writers.
The writers group
You don’t need to go abroad, or to a cabin in the Welsh mountains, to meet like-minded people with writing on their mind. There’s tips elsewhere on this blog about writing in a new area, so start to search your area for writers groups where you can exchange stories and ideas. IF there isn’t one, start one yourself. definitely apply to those who want to get a community established in their local area.
Writers groups are fantastic places to get encouragement and meet people with similar stories to you. Are you struggling to meet that word count? Someone will be able to emphasise and give you some tips on how to break through. If you have a plot problem then writers groups will be able to brainstorm and come up with ideas to work around that block for you.
The images on this page come from pexels.