Tackling Loneliness as a Writer

It’s no secret that writing can be a lonely careelonelyr. For those of us with day jobs, it takes away from our social lives on nights and weekends. For those who write full-time, many a day (and/or night!) is spent tapping away at the computer. Many may insist that loneliness comes part-and-parcel with writing and that it’s simply something we have to get used to for the love of the profession, but I disagree: even as a writer, there are ways to tackle loneliness.

Why might you want to do this? Sure, some of the greatest writers in history were loners who benefited from the copious amounts of alone time spent with their work. Many were, and are, notorious for getting up at the wee hours of the morning, writing through lunch, and returning to their solitary writing desk after the kids are cared for, only to join their partner in bed well after he or she has fallen asleep. Still others go to the extreme of stealing away to the woods to write in peace (we’re looking at you, J.D. Salinger). But if these tactics don’t work for you—and my guess is that for many people, they don’t—that’s okay.

Humans are pack animals. If you need human interaction, it doesn’t make you a bad writer. In fact, it can make you a better one! One of the best ways to create living, breathing characters is by interacting with and observing real people, so shutting yourself out from the world can actually do more harm than good to your craft. On top of that, loneliness can contribute to a number of awful mental disorders that are common amongst writers and creative types, such as depression and anxiety; for some, this can even lead to alcoholism and drug abuse. And while greats such as Hemingway may have glamorized this life, it’s not one you want. It’s not one that will make you a better writer.

So once you’re decided that you’d rather not shut the world out to work, what can you do? Here are 3 ways to combat loneliness as a writer and keep your spirits high while you tackle that work in progress:

  1. Write in public. It can be hard to tune out the world and hone in on your work with the clatter of café cups and the wailing of an ambulance in the distance (can you tell I live in New York City?), but if you can perfect that art, writing in public can greatly keep you from feeling too secluded when working. If you need something quieter, try a library or a park. Find a spot that works well for you and stick with it for a while—not only will you be surrounded by people, you’ll likely forge your own writing space that will allow you to work even more efficiently!
  2. Join a writing group. Whether you’re in the early stage of exploring your voice or writing your third bestseller, it’s always helpful to have a small group of beta readers to work with. Find two or three people who are around the same stage as you in their writing career and meet regularly to discuss each other’s work. This will give you the opportunity to both work on your craft and satisfy your social needs all at once, leaving neither to be sacrificed for the other.
  3. Get active on Twitter. When nothing other than a dark writing cave will do, consider introducing Twitter to your writing day. This shouldn’t become a distraction, of course, but using the social media platform to meet and network with other writers and industry professionals can have a number of benefits beyond socializing. To take it a step further, join us or any other participating writers for some word sprints, or host your own! The reason we’re such word sprinting fanatics to begin with is that they’re so productive and fun.

Does writing make you lonely? How do you combat loneliness when writing? Let us know!

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8 thoughts on “Tackling Loneliness as a Writer

  1. What a great post! I was only discussing this with someone last night! We’ve also just published a similar post ‘How to Work from Home (and Stay Motivated)’ which touches on some of the challenges of working as a writer from home.

    I definitely feel like you need to ‘tackle the loneliness’ as you say, in order to remain a happy writer. Check out our take on this here if you like: http://www.writersedit.com/resources-for-writers/how-to-work-from-home/

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this! It’s comforting to know we’re all in the same boat :)

  2. Because I work full time in a busy office, I treasure my alone time for my writing. But if that were to change, I think I’d love the idea of writing at the local coffee shop. Some good suggestions – thank you.

    • So glad you found these helpful, Kate! Yeah, I work in an office too, so sometimes I need to shut the world out to write. But I really enjoy a change of scenery sometimes–going straight from the office to home can start to feel kind of isolating/redundant.

      One thing I particularly enjoy doing is writing at my boyfriend’s house; I can lock myself in his room to write, and since he’s a creative type as well, he’ll work in the living room and give me my space. It gives me the companionship of knowing someone else is in the other room while still having a quiet, new environment to work. This can work with any kind of friend/relative/special someone who understands the creative process! ;)

  3. The best thing I ever did for my writing was to join a writers group. I would have given up a long time ago without that support. That sense of community was one of the reasons why I started a mini-conference series for writers which is centered around building creative communities so writers don’t have to feel so alone. Thanks for this wonderful article!
    If anyone is interested in meeting lots of fellow writers and starting a writers group, join me at the next conference in NYC on Saturday, Sept. 20 https://writerworkconference.eventbrite.com

  4. I am currently in college as well as working thirty hours a week, and I am up and moving about 17 hours a day before I return home. It is indeed very lonely, and I find myself yearning to be with the pack! Luckily, I manage to do my writing during my late night work hours – after my studies of course! This allows me to have free time on the weekends with friends and family! I do thoroughly agree with the point on writing in public! Nothing defeats the buzz of conversation in a small coffee shop while sipping on some good ol’ caffeine. Wonderful post :)

    • Ah, I’m sorry to hear that, Jacob. I remember the balancing act of school/work/social life/writing all too well, and unfortunately, my writing suffered for it. I hope you’re getting enough sleep with that schedule! But it sounds like you have a great system worked out!

      It’s important to set that time aside for family/friends. Good job, and thanks so much for reading/commenting! :D

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