Alone time for writers

A couple of weeks ago, Julia informed me she is becoming more like me, preferring to spend more time alone. This didn’t strike me as odd, given how she is a writer. All writers need a certain amount of alone time in order to be writers. It’s not as if we just come up with our ideas while shopping at the mall, going out to dinner, or attending a party. Now, that’s not to say we don’t find all of those activities useful from a writing standpoint. I often come up with new secondary characters after spending some time people-watching. (Or people-listening.) But rarely if ever have I solved a plotting problem or crafted the perfect sentence while out and about. Those things, and most things writing, require time alone to think. A lot of time. I realize some writers prove exceptions. There are those who can sit at Starbucks, or, even more amazingly, the airport or train depot, typing madly away on their laptops or iPads, oblivious to the noise and crowds surrounding them. I have no idea how they do it. I tried it a couple of times, just out of curiously, but never got more than a paragraph or two written.


Writing is, by its basic nature, a solitary profession. Inventing plots and the characters to carry out those plots requires extreme concentration. I can work on those things while doing gardening and cleaning the house, but not while I’m attending to my animals or hanging out with my husband. The latter two require me to remain alert and present in the real world, while the former allow me to drift off into a make-believe world without having to worry about appearing as if I have drifted off into a make-believe world. (That’s a confusing sentence, I know, but other writers will understand exactly what I mean.)


Knowing we need alone time and actually getting that time can be quite challenging. It’s difficult to explain to family members who pop into our office while we’re at work to “see how we’re doing,” that we were in fact doing great until their untimely interruption. People who aren’t writers don’t understand the level of concentration it takes to write on a daily basis. And children understand it even less. You certainly don’t want your kids to get the idea your writing is more important than they are. You don’t want the love of your life to think that either, of course. So be patient. Try not to get angry, even if you’re unable to get back into the groove after their well-meaning interruption. Remember: they aren’t writers, so they know not what they do.


A note to our regular readers: I would like to take this opportunity to apologize for my lack of posts these past few months. I have some valid reasons, but none that really excuse a three month absence. I will do my best to make up for it over the coming summer. Meanwhile, happy writing!