Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day - Independent Writer

I suppose it would be appropriate on this Day of Independence to post about the independent and solitary job of a writer. I call it a job because though we don't necessarily have a boss staring down our necks, and we don't work 9 - 5 (sometimes the hours break down to a whole lot more than eight hours per day), we are in this for the love of the craft, and we're also in it to make money. Though unlike most jobs, writing requires a lot of isolation and focus, uninterrupted and yes, independent.

With writers, it's usually a desktop, laptop, pen and pad, iPad, or whatever form we use to plug away at transferring ideas, thoughts, and character journeys into words on a page. Some writers can focus while at a park, in a coffee shop, a restaurant, poolside, at the beach (as in this photo - wouldn't that be heaven?) or in the den of their home with family all around, though most require complete and total isolation, away from it all, just to focus on what the characters are doing, saying, becoming, getting into, getting out of, feeling, screwing up, living through, and/or dying from.

Writing can be a very lonely profession. If you close the door and block out the world, including the phone and those who you love who are on the other side of that door (who chances are know not to knock unless the house is on fire or they're bringing in a glass of wine), or even if you live alone, you run the risk of being reclusive simply from the demands of your work in progress.

Shutting down to write and going into your writer cave takes great discipline. It's not easy to disconnect and shut out your world for the world of your characters, or for the work of your non-fiction mission.

Being independent, writing alone, which means working alone (unless you have a writing partner), unlike a job where you at least have coworkers to chat with and interact with and meet with and lunch with, is not for the faint at heart. I love the freedom of it all, though a lot of people I know say they could never do it. It all comes along with the writing territory though. It's just you and those computer keys, or you and that pen.

Eventually it pays off, and we can run off and hang out and go to the movies and shop and travel and chat on the phone for hours, but at times the rigors of writing do not allow for much socialization. And it's important that those people in your life understand those aspects that spell "I need alone time" and have patience. We come out of our writing cave eventually, though we should also remember that everything should be given the necessary attention in moderation. We need to know when to put writing on the back burner and step away from book nurturing to nurture those who we love, and to nurture self-love!

As reclusive as it can be, it's all part of the balancing act of the independent writer. A job where every day is an opportunity to write, holiday or not, weekend or not, hump day or not. Independence factor - sometimes rough, the results - priceless!

Happy 4th of July - Independence Day!


Charles Gramlich said...

I'm fortunate in that I don't mind the isolation. I grew up in the country with no kids close enough to play with, and no kindergarten in those days. I got used to being alone and I tend to like it.

Liane Spicer said...

Happy Independence Day!

Although I can be as social as the next person when the occasion calls for it, I'm a recluse at heart so shutting out the world to write is no ordeal.

KeVin K. said...

I started out writing at the kitchen table form 3-6AM, before my family awoke and I had to go to work. When my job situation changed and I had time during daylight to write, I discovered I could not write at home. I could see too many things around the house that needed doing.

I wrote at Port City Java, a coffee house not far from the hospital where my wife worked. I wore a baseball cap pulled low to block out everything but screen, notebook, and keyboard and a set of headphones that looked like (and worked like) a prop from a WWII movie. This gave me a private office with coffee, a sense of being connected -- if only peripherally -- to a community, and the company of people who didn't care enough to interrupt me.

There were other writers and writer wannabes who came and went. The wannabes talked writing and their projects, goals, and artistic values while their laptops hibernated. I countered non-productive conviviality by staring blankly as though I couldn't hear them through my cheap headphones and lacked the wit to take them off. Dropped from their radar fairly quickly.

One writer completed an epic fantasy about... Actually, I don't remember. A UNCW professor worked on a scholarly text about dance as cultural communication. A computer geek made an ungodly amount of money writing software how-to for dummies. I wrote two novels and a dozen short stories. The money was not ungodly.

These days I am able to write from home because a desk picked up at a curbside has turned our son's former bedroom into my home office. It's also the family storeroom, so stacked boxes and a rack of winter clothes make it soundproof. I can shut the house and its demands out and the family knows that when I'm in here I'm working.

But I absolutely must spend part of each day with my family.
And every week or so I put in a shift at the coffee house.

Jewel Amethyst said...

I am not reclusive yet. I write around everyone's schedule. Not a good way to write. But I can write at the playground with screaming kids around.

Marissa Monteilh said...

Charles, Liane - I, too, enjoy the solitude and reclusiveness at times as well - now that my kids are grown, it's welcomed peace, quiet, writing!

KeVin, it's great when folks know you're working and allow you your isolation when that door is closed, though as you said, still sharing a part of each day w/the cherished fam. Glad you're still getting in a shift or two at the coffe house.

Jewel, wish I could write around other's schedules - it's like I need to wake up knowing I have long blocks of time just for me to just escape. I envy you for being able to write around screaming kids!! Such focus =)