“I would get a lot of writing done if I lived in isolation in a cave under a swamp.” Claire Cameron.
Last time I wrote about a concept I called EARS; Encouragement, Accountability, Readers and Support. This was aimed at post first draft or continuous chapter by chapter support through writing buddies, author networks and blogging prompts.
The post writing experience can dominate some minds prone to over thinking. Is my work good enough? Will people like reading it? Can I really publish this? All these things require evidencing. That needs external feedback unless you are a confident by nature.
Sadly not everyone has that ability. It’s the purpose that the Insecure Writers Support Group exists. Contributors are asked to share their thoughts and experience to new authors and those struggling with how to progress.
Here I am considering the other toss of the coin. Creativity and isolation during the writing process itself. The bit before EARS takes precedence.
Creativity and isolation are well documented to be linked. This is not quite the same as loneliness and mental health where isolation is part of the withdrawal process. That can be a very debilitating experience that fuels the MH and social anxiety. I could do posts aplenty on this particular subject.
Isolation by choice in order to focus the mind and empty it of extraneous stimulation is an essential part of inner focus. Plenty of studies have shown a link between social isolation and creativity. I’ve linked a few articles that take this further.
It’s not quite the same as loneliness, but can generate a similar feeling. Anyone that has spent hours immersed in fiction and lived the lives of the characters can, for want of a better word, zone out. Recovery takes time and can be a unique experience for each writer. It’s part of the process and nobody should think it’s wrong or abnormal.
Using Solitude in Writing
Anyone that has read Stephen King’s book “On Writing” will know from the quote in the featured image that he writes behind closed doors. Many writers have almost superstitious methods to disconnect from the busy world we now live in. Such things as turning off phones and message notifications, finding a dedicated space to work in, de-cluttering the desk before starting, background mood music and so on. To me we are all different in this aspect.
Others I know are equally at home with tablets in coffee shops, parks and other public spaces. The merits of hogging a coffee shop table are open for debate. I think it’s fine, until I’m actually in need of one to partake in a much-needed caffeine boost. I can feel both sides of that point glaring at each other right now.
There is no doubt brainstorming in collaboration with others has its merits. With writing this falls upon writing buddies, alpha or beta readers. However, many of these types of social feedback require something on which to draw. For an author this is the period of solitude and cognitive dreaming that goes on when a storyteller begins applying their trade.
Arguably, in the mental right space, it’s quite a crowd if you consider the characters are their as reality replacements. Zone out becomes the right term there because reality fades into imagination.
How many of you find characters directing you, pointing out that what you are trying to write is what you want them to do rather than what they would actually do?
I consider myself more a biographer of events. I’m entering their world, not the other way round. Of course this suits a pantser, someone who writes and sees what happens. A strong advocate of getting the essence of a tale down and fleshing it out afterwards.
The solitude paradox. Alone and not alone. Writing behind closed doors requires no interruptions, no stops for a quick internet search, no distractions. If that pot of pencils needs sharpening do it before hand. Let nothing enter your workspace until the writing time is over.
It all sounds rather easy, which it is if writing is actually your career. Authors prescribing isolation idylls might do so because the book deal demands increased productivity. Those of us with busy lives and young children, a job or a billion other things going on might not have the same luxury.
Or, we might just use those things to procrastinate. There are no rules saying a writer must live in a blacked out room for six hours a day. The important issue here requires mindfulness. A look at the rush of modern life and a step back to identify when writing can occur, and when it coincides with the isolation necessary to create well.
Did you know the examples of isolation creativity and empowered imagination to drive both art and science is quite large?
Einstein, Newton and Maxwell all worked their genius outside social intercourse. Science research is often done in isolation trolling archives and papers in vast academic libraries. This is where ideas form, ready to present later. The equivalent of working behind closed doors in the writing context.
Louise Josephine Bourgeois, sculptress, painter and print maker once wrote: “After the tremendous effort you put in here, solitude, even prolonged solitude, can only be of very great benefit. Your work may well be more arduous than it was in the studio, but it will also be more personal.
For authors I’ve already quoted Stephen King. The content of “On Writing” is a must read for any aspiring writer.
Of course most of us write when time allows, but never underestimate the sound of silence when writing. It isn’t, after all, lonely on the inside.
Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!