The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Writer

PD_James_CologneAsked for her 10 top tips on writing, British crime writer PD James talked about the ‘necessary loneliness’ that many writers endure. But how does that work in practice?

“I’ve never felt lonely as a writer, not really, but I know people do.”

PD James


In the Mode
If you’re in it for the long haul, as opposed to just ‘having a little go’ at writing, it’s easier to get into a routine, and this is a useful discipline to learn. Such routines might involve having a specific place to write, being free of interruptions or demands on your time, and knowing you have a certain amount of time to escape into your own world.

All By Myself
Many writers speak about the need to be alone while writing, but most don’t equate this to being lonely. However, one of the things I’ve noticed in my own writing routine, is that spending so much time on my own, it’s easy to block out everything that isn’t vital to the ‘world’ I’m involved in.  Sometimes I’ll decide not to do something (go out, clean the car, spend time with friends) in order to preserve my uninterrupted status and write late into the night. Like anything else in life, variety is the key and ignoring everything that’s going on around us is probably not a great idea. Note to self: get a life.

My Virtual World
One of the things I love about my writing life is making contact with other writers. Since this is generally something that happens in cyber space rather than in the real world, I sometimes wonder if having so many writery friends online is just a way for each of us to pat ourselves on the back and say ‘you’re doing fine’. And of course there’s nothing wrong with that, but I think it’s important we don’t isolate ourselves completely, retreating into our make-believe worlds where everything revolves around us and what we do.

Being a writer is great – but it’s important to stay in touch with reality.

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