Sunday, January 26, 2014

Writing Solitude

Sometimes it seems the writing life is one of solitude. While there are times (notably during write-ins for NaNoWriMo) when I can pound away at the keyboard surrounded by people, noise, and activity, my deepest dives into productive writing occur in solitude.

Maybe that's why I like to write at night. The dark outside reinforces my sense of being alone with the words I am trying to capture on the page or screen.

The solitude of the writing life can be tough on relationships. Not only because we send our significant others, children, friends, and acquaintances outside our writing "caves," closing office or bedroom doors against interruptions, but also because we tend to live in the worlds we're creating. Some part of our minds remains in the stories and with the characters in these fictional universes - and our fellow humans can't follow us there, at least not until we're willing to share some pages or talk about the plots or characters.

Then there are the moments when I emerge from my cave or fictional universe craving what I call "adult conversation." My paid work also involves being alone, working from home (most of the time) and interacting primarily with a screen. When my significant other gets off swing shift, he's spent eight hours surrounded by hundreds of people in a crowded student union dining hall. I've spent that time in my head. It's no surprise we sometimes navigate a bit of turbulence until our rhythms re-synch. Like my tendency to mix up point of view in a story scene (ask my patient editor), our reconnections can feel jumpy and confusing before his winding down and my winding up meet somewhere in the middle.

As January comes to a cold and somewhat dreary end here in my town, I continue to feel the need that kicked off the new year - the need to create more room in my life for the things and people I love. Finding space where the solitude necessary for writing and the bumpy joy of connection with other people can coexist presents an ongoing challenge. I'd love to hear from other authors about how you've done it - or how you wish you could.

Elizabeth Fountain blogs at Point No Point. Her novel An Alien's Guide to World Domination describes how people can do the impossible, as long as they have each other and a good dog. Her second book, a magical romance about the power of "once upon a time," will be published in June of 2014.


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

My husband and I are only children. That helps us respect our solitudes.

We talk about our real or fictional lives at meals, lunch included, now that he's retired. By batting the plot around my in-home scientist, this artist gets all kinds of good ideas.

Allison Knight said...

It's not easy, not when you are both retired. Fortunately, my husband has his interested, as well as helping with my writing, and we spend evenings together, no matter what.

Liz Fountain said...

Time together is important - making sure its part of the routine (meals, evenings, conversations) sounds lovely.


Novel Novelist said...

You are very fortunate. My pup, Lily the Terrorist, doesn't care if I want to write. She wants to play or find something to shred that will get my attention. It's like having a three year old loose and unsupervised in the house! When she sleeps, I can write, otherwise it's a war of wills.

Big Mike said...

Agree. It's why I get up at 4 or 5 AM and do my business before my wife wakes up.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Liz Fountain said...

Good luck with that war of wills, Gary - I never seemed to win one with the dogs and cats in my life!
BM, that's awful early, but I guess it's the same as me staying up late to work in the dark hours. Thanks!